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November 29, 2015

The Large Neotibicen

Filed under: Identify,Neotibicen,Tibicen — Dan @ 6:45 pm

One way to simplify the identification of Neotibicen is to categorize them into large and small Neotibicen. The physically larger Neotibicen are closely genetically related 1, as well as being physically larger. breaks this group into three categories: “the auletes group” (N. auletes, N. resh, N. resonans, N. figuratus), “the pronotalis group” (N. dealbatus, N. pronotalis, N. cultriformis) and “the dorsatus group” (N. dorsatus, N. tremulus)2.

Tibicens of the Eastern USA
Large Neotibicen cicadas are arranged along the top row in this photo by cicada researcher Kathy Hill. Note the “T.” in their names stands for the older genus name “Tibicen”.

Let’s compare them based on their visual and audio characteristics.

4 Cicadas Compared
Photo credits l to r: Paul Krombholz, me (from Bill Reynolds’ collection), Paul Krombholz, Joe Green.

Click the names of the cicadas to listen to their songs, find their geographic range, and to see more images and video.

Cicada Sounds Like Looks Like Notes
Neotibicen auletes (Germar, 1834)
aka Northern Dusk Singing Cicada
N. resh, N. resonans, N. figuratus Largest Neotibicen; olive to tan, brown, black & white pruinosity. No distinct markings. Sings at dusk.
Neotibicen resh (Haldeman, 1852)
aka Resh Cicada
N. auletes, N. resonans, N. figuratus Smaller green Neotibicen Distinctive resh (ר) markings on mesontum. Its call is like a sped-up, shorter version of N. auletes’ call.
Neotibicen resonans (Walker, 1850)
aka Southern Resonant/Great Pine Barrens Cicada
N. auletes, N. resh, N. figuratus N. figuratus Brown, black & white pruinosity distinctively present within curves of the cruciform elevation Its call is like a bland version of the N. resh call.
Neotibicen figuratus (Walker, 1858)
aka Fall Southeastern Dusk-singing Cicada
N. auletes, N. resh, N. resonans N. resonans Brown, black & with pruinosity. Its call has more character than N. figuratus, but is not as sonically impressive as N. auletes.

3 more cicadas
Photo credits l to r: Roy Troutman, me (from Bill Reynolds’ collection), Bill Lesar.

Cicada Sounds Like Looks Like Notes
Neotibicen dealbatus (Davis, 1915) N. pronotalis walkeri, N. pronotalis pronotalis Orange form looks like N. dorsatus & tremulus, but “stripes” on abdomen of dealbatus are unique. Primarily either orange/rust or pea green, brown, black with heavy pruninosity which forms distinct markings on dorsal side of body. Dorsal side has two black stripes framed by three areas of pruinosity.
Neotibicen pronotalis pronotalis Davis, 1938 N. dealbatus, N. pronotalis walkeri N. pronotalis walkeri Tan or pea green, brown, black, and sometimes white pruinose. Wing color matches dominant color of body. Often features a black marking on pronotum3.
Neotibicen pronotalis walkeri Metcalf, 1955
aka Walker’s Cicada
N. dealbatus, N. pronotalis pronotalis N. pronotalis pronotalis Tan or pea green, brown, black, and sometimes white pruinose. Wing color matches dominant color of body. Typically lacks a black marking on its pronotum.
Neotibicen cultriformis (Davis, 1915)
aka Grand Western Flood Plain Cicada
Orange/rust, black & pruinosity on head & body. Wings are green! Found only in Arizona and New Mexico.
Neotibicen dorsatus (Say, 1825)
aka Bush Cicada or Grand Western or Giant Grassland Cicada
N. tremulus N. tremulus, the Orange form of N. dealbatus (although tremulus lacks pruinose “stripes”) Rust/orange, black & white pruinosity, which forms distinct markings, such as a line of white dots down the dorsal side of the abdomen.
Neotibicen tremulus Cole, 2008
aka Bush Cicada
N. dorsatus N. dorsatus, the Orange form of N. dealbatus (although tremulus lacks pruinose “stripes”). Rust/orange, black & white pruinosity, which forms distinct markings, such as a line of white dots down the dorsal side of the abdomen. The pitch of the tremulus’ call is different than dorsatus, which is one way to tell them apart.

I will update this page over time to clarify & improve the information. I hope it helps.

1 Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae) by Kathy B. R. Hill, David C. Marshall, Maxwell S. Moulds & Chris Simon. 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251. Link to PDF.

2 Species Neotibicen auletes

3 Cicadas of the United States and Canada
East of the 100th Meridian

November 23, 2015

Identifying Neotibicen

Filed under: Identify,Neotibicen,Tibicen — Dan @ 8:12 pm

Identifying cicadas can be quite challenging, especially cicadas belonging to the Neotibicen genus. Different Neotibicen species often look and sound alike, and it takes a lot of practice before one gets good at identifying them. I only know 5 or 6 people in the world that I would trust to tell a Neotibicen winnemanna from a Neotibicen pruinosus, for example, because their songs and visual appearance are so similar.

In this article, I will first point out various sources where to you learn about the different Neotibicen species. Then I will discuss basic terminogy used when describing cicadas. Last, I will discuss some challenges with identifying them. Subsequent articles will discuss the specific species and subspecies.


The best sources for identifying Neotibicen, IMHO, are:

  • Insect Singers for audio recordings of cicada songs.
  • The work of Bill Reynolds and others on, for example, the Info page for N. pruinosus. BugGuide is particularly useful for getting a cicada identified — you upload a photo, and they identify it. You can also try to figure it out yourself by browsing their catalog of images.
  • The recent paper Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae) by Kathy B. R. Hill, David C. Marshall, Maxwell S. Moulds & Chris Simon. 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251. (link to the paper). This paper is useful for understanding the morphology of Neotibicen as well as how the various species are genetically related.
  • Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico by Allen F. Sanborn and Polly K. Phillips. (Download PDF). This document is particularly useful for locations.
  • The Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae) of N. America North of Mexico by Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath. (the book is available here)

You can also use this website as a resource. The Cicada Species of North America and USA & Canada Cicada Search are useful.


  • Eyes: Neotibicen have 5 eyes, but for the purposes of identification, the two big, composite eyes are most important.
  • Mask: a mask, in terms of cicadas, is a dark band between their eyes. Not all cicadas have this, but when they do, it can be useful for identification. Mask
  • Pronotum: the dorsal surface of the first segment of the thorax. The word means “before back” in Greek.
  • Pronotal Collar or simply Collar: a collar-like band that separates the head and thorax.
  • Mesonotum: a shield-shaped structure that covers the dorsal side of the second segment of the thorax. The name means “middle shield” in Greek. This is where the arches or “M” appears on the cicada.
  • Cruciform Elevation: a cross-shaped structure found on the dorsal side at the end of the thorax
  • Pruinose: a white, waxy substance found on the bodies of many cicadas. Pruinosity refers to the degree to which the cicada’s body features pruinose.
  • Costal Margin & Wing Shape in general: The costal margin is the outer edge of the cicada’s forewing. The shape of the wing can help you diagnose the species. Wing Bend
  • Abdomen: The third, last and final portion of the cicada’s body (1st: head, 2nd: thorax, 3rd: abdomen).
  • Dorsal: The top side of the cicada.
  • Ventral: The bottom side of the cicada — where the legs are.
  • Teneral: Teneral means soft, and in the case of cicadas, it refers to the adult cicada when it has recently molted and is still soft/unsclerotized.
  • Song: Neotibicen males sing using their tybmals, which are drum-like organs located in their abdomen.

Cicada Anatomy

Those are the resources and terminology — now on to the challenges.

Rules are not absolute

Sometimes a diagnostic characteristic is fool-proof for the majority of identifications, but in some cases it fails.

Example: N. lyricen typically have black collars, but not 100% of the time. You might find a lyricen with a green collar, and think it is a N. linnei.


Neotibicen like canicularis, linnei, pruinosus, robinsonianus & winnemanna, are closely related, and cicada researchers have found evidence that they hybridize, based on hybrid songs or mixed characteristics.

See Bill Reynolds’ information on hybrids on BugGuide.

Live vs. Dead

Dead specimens lose color over time. Eyes lose color. Vibrant greens become dull. Dull greens become yellow or brown. Keep that in mind.

Eye Colors Fade

Teneral vs Adult

When cicadas molt, and their bodies as still soft, they are often lighter in color and the markings on their skin are not clearly defined.

2 hours of change

Some previous articles about identifying teneral Neotibicen:


Photograph the same cicada in direct sunlight, indoors with a flash, or without a flash under florescent lighting, and it might appear different each time.

The eyes, in particular, look different under different lighting conditions.

Name changes

The names of all plants and animals change over time, for several reasons. An old book or paper about Neotibicen might feature names that have completely changed. Neotibicen tibicen tibicen, for example, was called Tibicen chloromera not long ago.

See major changes to the Tibicen genera for information about the recent change from Tibicen to Neotibicen. I haven’t had to the time to update all the Tibicens to Neotibicens on this website — some day I will.

And in case you wanted to know:

How to tell if a Neotibicen is a male or female.


The next article will discuss the Larger Neotibicen species.

October 25, 2015

Catching Cicadas in North Carolina

Filed under: Bill Reynolds,Neotibicen — Tags: , , , — Dan @ 12:51 pm

This past summer I had the opportunity to meet cicada expert Bill Reynolds. Bill manages the Arthropod Zoo at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The arthropod zoo in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

Bill’s specialty is Neotibicen (formerly Tibicen) cicadas. Neotibicen are a genera of broad-headed, medium-sized, well-cammouflaged cicadas that belong to the tribe Cryptotympanini.

I met Bill at the museum and allowed me to view his massive collection of Neotibicen — box after box of cicadas, all carefully pinned and labeled. See a small portion of Bill’s collection.

Neotibicen pronotalis: Neotibicen pronotalis

Later we went for lunch, and listened for N. winnemanna hybrids in the neighborhood surrounding the museum. Close to the entrance of the museum, we heard a cicada that started with the call of the N. winnemanna and ended with the call of N. linnei — likely a hybrid. Around the museum neighborhood we heard other cicadas that sounded like a N. winnemanna but not quite. Very interesting.

Personally, my methods of catching cicadas are: 1) waiting until dark and grabbing them when they are still nymphs or eclosing, 2) grabbing them by hand on a tree or in flight, or 3) waiting for them to die, and collecting them from the ground. Bill introduced me to two new methods: 1) netting cicadas, and 2) finding cicadas under lights in parking lots.

I own a net (purchased from BioQuip) but I haven’t practiced using it. Bill Reynolds is a master of spotting and netting cicadas. He uses a net with 3 or 4 extension poles, which I belive gives him a 20′ reach. Bill is a cicada netting ninja. In a small, roadside patch of trees he caught three N. winnemanna in a matter of minutes.

Here is a video of that grove of N. winnemanna patronized trees. (Listen, don’t watch. The video camera work is erratic and you won’t see any live cicadas):

Here is a N. winnemanna Bill caught with a net:

N. winnemanna

Finding cicadas under parking lot lights require you to cruise shopping mall parking lots on hot summer nights. Wait until midnight, and slowly drive behind malls looking for cicadas clinging to walls or resting on the ground. It is simple as that.

Here is a N. lyricen engelhardti found by Bill.

Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti

Whenever catching cicadas you should be respectful of private property, don’t cause a disturbance, and be mindful of local laws.

September 3, 2015

Big and Small: Neotibicen exuvia

Filed under: Neotibicen — Dan @ 5:34 am

A photo of a Neotibicen auletes compared to a smaller Neotibicen exuvia (I believe it is an N. canicularis based on the time of year and location (mid-New Jersey)).

August 16, 2015

Color variations in Neotibicen tibicen tibicen

Filed under: Neotibicen,Tibicen — Dan @ 8:25 am

Color variations in chloromera
The cicada on the Left was found in Middletown NJ, and the cicada on the Right in Metuchen, NJ. Middletown is closer to the ocean than Metuchen is, but both share a similar elevation and vegetation.

It is interesting to note the color variation found in Neotibicen tibicen tibicen aka chloromera aka Swamp Cicada aka Hunch-Back cicada.

In some areas the dorsal side of N. tibicen tibicen can be almost all black, while in other locations their pronotums & mesonotums feature vibrant greens & rusty browns — you can even make out the “M” on the mesonotum.

There may have been cross breeding between the Southern Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen australis), at some point in time, providing some Neotibicen tibicen tibicen with more colorful appearance. Read Intergrade zones with australis on BudGuide for more information on that possibility.

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