Cicada Mania

Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.

Buy a Cicada T-shirt, Mug, or Hat!

July 12, 2015

30 Things Cicadas Do

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle — Dan @ 11:59 am

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “what do cicadas do“? This question is similar to the question “what is the purpose of cicadas” — the answers to both questions help people understand why these fascinating, unusual creatures exist at all.

The simplest reduction of their life cycle is:
1) They hatch from an egg.
2) They burrow underground where they will drink from plant roots for most of their lives.
3) They leave the underground, and become adults.
4) The males make sounds that attract females.
5) Males & females court & mate.
6) Females lay fertilized eggs in the branches of plants, and the cycle continues.
7) They die.

The specifics of a cicada’s life cycle varies from species to species, but here is a more detailed view of what cicadas do:

From egg to 1st instar nymph:
1) Cicada nymphs hatch from eggs.

Cicada egg nests

2) Nymphs feed on plant fluids which they accesses thanks to the egg-nest groove made by their mothers.

3) They leave the groove, and drift to the ground. Their decent to the ground doesn’t hurt them because they weigh so little.

4) Once on the ground, they dig into the soil until they find small rootlets, from which they will feed.

Once Underground:
5) Underground, they will tunnel/dig
6) and establish a cell
7) from where they’ll comfortably feed. Cicadas feed on the xylem sap of plants. With the help of bacteria they transform the water, minerals and amino acids found in tree fluids to the tissues of their own bodies.
8) They pee, in fact they seem to use excess plant fluid to moisten soil to help mold the walls of their cells.
9) Throughout their life underground they will move from root to root… as plant root systems change with the seasons, when roots die off, or perhaps to avoid predators.
10) Underground, a cicada may (depending on the species) go through four instars, molting three times (see an image of the four instars).

Preparing to emerge:
11) Cicadas will build a tunnel to the surface of the ground, in preparation for their emergence.

12) Cicadas often take that a step further an build a chimney/turret above ground. This often happens in shady areas or when the ground is muddy.

Once above ground:

13) They emerge from their tunnels
14) Cicadas run as fast as they can…
15) And find a surface perpendicular to the ground, hold tight, and begin to molt…
16) During the molting process (ecdysis), cicadas perform many acrobatic moves to separate themselves from their nymphal skin, including pulling their old trachea from their bodies.
A Brood XIV Magicicada straggler, emerged 4 years late.
17) Once outside their nymphal skin, they will inflate their wings
18) … and expand various parts of their bodies, like their heads.
19) They will change color.
20) Once their bodies are hard enough (sclerotization counts as a thing they do)…
21) They will either seek shelter, perhaps by crawling up higher along a tree trunk…
22) or if your are a Magicicada, you might stick around in the hopes that a predator will eat you.

Mating and Reproduction:

23a) If you are a Male cicada, you are going to sing… unless you belong to a species that cannot sing, in which case, you’ll move your wings in a way that will produce a sounds.
There are many types of songs: a) distress calls, b) calls to establish territory, c) calls to attract females, d) including choruses of many cicadas, and e) courting calls
23b) Female cicadas, and some male cicadas, move their wings to make sounds, also in an effort to attract and engage a mate.
24) Most cicadas (aside from Magicicada during the early days of their adult lives) will try avoid being eaten by predators.
25) They’ll fly, of course.
26) Cicadas, like Magicicada, will establish chorusing centers, which are places where the male cicadas sing together and females come to meet them.
27) Male and female cicadas will court
28) and mate
29) the female cicada will lay her eggs in grooves (ovipositing) she etches into a suitable plant stem, and we’re back to step 1.

30) The last thing cicadas do, of course, is die, and return the nutrients found in their bodies to the soil, where they will be broken down and absorbed by the plants they fed upon.

Some things cicada do not do:

Here are some things cicadas do not do:

1) They don’t seek shelter during the fall months (i.e. they don’t try to live inside your house), unlike Ladybugs or Stinkbugs.
2) They don’t sting or otherwise pass venom onto people.
3) They don’t chew plant leaves, like caterpillars or grasshoppers.
4) They don’t dump garbage in the ocean.

July 10, 2015

Major Changes to the Tibicen genera

Sometimes you wake up and the whole world is different. See this cicada:

A female teneral Tibicen tibicen tibicen (chloromera) cicada
photo by me.

… when I went to sleep she was a Tibicen tibicen tibicen, but now I know she is a Neotibicen tibicen tibicen. 10 years ago, she was a Tibicen chloromera. 130 years ago, she was Cicada tibicen. Cicada names change as researchers discover their differences.

Two new papers have split the Tibicen (or Lyristes) genera into many genera: Tibicen (European Tibicen), Auritibicen (Tibicen of Asia/Japan), Neotibicen (mostly eastern North American Tibicen), and Hadoa (Tibicen of the western United States).

The first paper is Description of a new genus, Auritibicen gen. nov., of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) with redescriptions of Auritibicen pekinensis (Haupt, 1924) comb. nov. and Auritibicen slocumi (Chen, 1943) comb. nov. from China and a key to the species of Auritibicen by Young June Lee, 2015, Zootaxa 3980 (2): 241–254. This paper establishes the new genera Auritibicen, and the members of the Tibicen/Lyristes genera fall into that genera. Here is a link. So, Tibicen flammatus aka Lyristes flammatus of Japan, for example, becomes Auritibicen flammatus.

Tibicen flammatus aka Lyristes flammatus
Auritibicen flammatus photo by Osamu Hikino.

The second paper is 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. This paper establishes the Neotibicen (Hill and Moulds), and Hadoa (Moulds) genera. This paper also sought to establish the Subsolanus genera for the Asian Tibicen/Lyristes species but the previously mentioned paper by Young June Lee has precedence because it was published first. Link to paper.

To recap, European Tibicen/Lyristes are Tibicen

Adult Tibicen/Lyristes plebejus
Tibicen plebejus photo by Iván Jesus Torresano García.

… Asian Tibicen/Lyristes are now Auritibicen. Mostly-eastern North American Tibicen are now Neotibicen, and Western North American Tibicen are now Hadoa. Note that, the catagorization is not due to location, but to genetic and physiological evaluation (read the papers).

Needless to say this website and others have a lot of name changing to do, but in the mean time, here’s where the North American species fall out:

Neotibicen
Tibicen auletes Neotibicen auletes
Tibicen auriferus Neotibicen auriferus
Tibicen canicularis Neotibicen canicularis
Tibicen cultriformis Neotibicen cultriformis
Tibicen davisi davisi Neotibicen davisi davisi
Tibicen davisi harnedi Neotibicen davisi harnedi
Tibicen dealbatus Neotibicen dealbatus
Tibicen dorsatus Neotibicen dorsatus
Tibicen figuratus Neotibicen figuratus
Tibicen latifasciatus Neotibicen latifasciatus
Tibicen linnei Neotibicen linnei
Tibicen lyricen engelhardti Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti
Tibicen lyricen lyricen Neotibicen lyricen lyricen
Tibicen lyricen virescens Neotibicen lyricen virescens
Tibicen pronotalis pronotalis Neotibicen pronotalis pronotalis
Tibicen pronotalis walkeri Neotibicen pronotalis walkeri
Tibicen pruinosus fulvus Neotibicen pruinosus fulvus
Tibicen pruinosus pruinosus Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus
Tibicen resh Neotibicen resh
Tibicen resonans Neotibicen resonans
Tibicen robinsonianus Neotibicen robinsonianus
Tibicen similaris Neotibicen similaris
Tibicen superbus Neotibicen superbus
Tibicen tibicen australis Neotibicen tibicen australis
Tibicen tibicen tibicen Neotibicen tibicen tibicen
Tibicen tremulus Neotibicen tremulus
Tibicen winnemannus Neotibicen winnemannus
Hadoa
Tibicen bifidus Hadoa bifida
Tibicen chiricahua Hadoa chiricahua
Tibicen duryi Hadoa duryi
Tibicen inauditus Hadoa inaudita
Tibicen longioperculus Hadoa longiopercula
Tibicen neomexicensis Hadoa neomexicensis
Tibicen parallelus Hadoa parallela
Tibicen simplex Hadoa simplex
Tibicen texanus Hadoa texana
Tibicen townsendii Hadoa townsendii

You can see some of those species here by their old names. :)

July 6, 2015

Where do Cicadas Live?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 5:32 pm

Once they become adults, cicadas live on and around plants similar to their host plants, often the very same tree where they were born. Depending on the species of cicada, this could be a tree, or perhaps a grass (sugar cane, which some cicadas use as hosts, are giant grasses).

When they are nymphs, which they are during the first stages or instars of their life, they live underground amongst the root systems of the plants they derive nourishment from. While they are there, they dig tunnels and build cells (their living quarters) where they can feed from the rootlets of plants in comfort.

July 5, 2015

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 7:17 pm

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants? Assuming they actually will, there are several solutions.

  1. You can wrap netting, or insect exclusion screens, around small trees or individual tree limbs to keep the cicadas off them. You can get this netting from stores that sell landscaping supplies.
  2. You can spray them off with a hose.
  3. You can manually pick them off with your hand.
  4. You can use insect barrier tape or a sticky solution like “Tanglefoot Pest Barrier”. Not my favorite idea, because it will probably pull their tarsal claws off.
  5. See Green Methods for more ideas.

Here is an example of netting being used to contain cicadas, except in this case the cicadas are being kept next to the tree branch and not away from it:

As you might imagine, if the netting can keep them inside, it will also keep then outside.

We recommend that you don’t bother with pesticides for a number of reasons.

  1. New cicadas will continually fly onto your trees from neighbor’s yards, making pesticides futile.
  2. Your pets could become poisoned from ingesting too many treated cicadas.
  3. Collateral damage — you end up killing other insects like honey bees and butterflies.

What are Broods?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 6:29 pm

It is important to note that when we talk about cicada broods, we are talking about the 17 & 13 year periodical Magicicada cicadas. We are not talking about Tibicen or other species.

All Broods

There are 12 groups of Magicicadas with 17 year life cycles, and 3 groups of Magicicadas with 13 year life cycles. Each of these groups emerge in a specific series of years, rarely overlapping (17 & 13 year groups co-emerge every 221 years, for example). Each of these groups emerge in the same geographic area their parents emerged. These groups, each assigned a specific Roman numeral, are called broods.

Gene Kritsky’s book, Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle, documents the history of the recognition and naming of the broods. The first person to document that different groups of periodical cicadas emerged in different years was Nathaniel Potter in 1839. Benjamin D. Walsh and Charles V. Riley devised the system for numbering the different broods in 1868, and then C. L. Marlatt sorted the 17 year broods out from the 13 year broods, giving us the system we have today.

Visit our Broods page which features a grid of the Brood names, their life span, when & where they’ll emerge next and links to maps.


What Might Cause Cicadas to go Extinct?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 9:48 am

You might ask, “why were their once cicadas in my area, but now there are none?” There are a number of reasons why cicadas might die off in a particular area, or go totally extinct.

1) Destruction of host trees by a blight or destructive insect infestation. Tibicen bermudiana went extinct in the 1950s in Bermuda because of a cedar tree blight. Emerald Ash Borer insects are currently devastating Ash trees in North America. Ash trees are a favorite tree of Magicicada cassini, in particular.

2) Destruction of host trees by humans. Consider that every time a forrest is removed to make room for another neighborhood, factory, strip mall or highway, the cicadas that inhabited those areas died. Each time the human race expands, the cicadas must decline. The paper The Distribution of Brood Ten of the Periodical Cicadas in New Jersey in 1970 by John B. Schmitt documents the reduction of cicada populations in New Jersey, the nations most populous state. Also, the entire Brood XI went extinct in Connecticut as of 1954.

3) Extreme weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding can destroy cicada habitat. While there are cases where cicadas were able to survive some pretty horrific weather, if trees are destroyed, or grasses that are hosts to young cicada nymphs are destroyed, or if flood water sits too long, the cicadas are doomed.

4) Pesticides. It should be obvious that pesticides will kill cicadas.

Can pets or other animals sense cicadas below ground?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 8:51 am

Can pets, including dogs and cats, or other animals sense cicadas below ground? Yes they can. Animals have a better sense of hearing than humans, and they are able to sense the subtle sounds of cicadas tunneling underground.

You might discover animals, including your pet dog, digging up your lawn in advance of a periodical cicada emergence. That is because they can sense the cicadas preparing for the day they will emerge.

Did Someone Offer a Reward for White or Blue-eyed Cicadas?

Filed under: Eye Color,FAQs,Magicicada,Roy Troutman — Dan @ 7:58 am

Is it true that someone has offered a reward for a white or blue-eyed Magicicada cicadas?

This was false and an urban legend until in 2008 when Roy Troutman began to offer rewards for living blue-eyed cicadas for scientific research. All cicadas were released, unharmed.

Important: Roy is no longer offering the reward as he has obtained the cicadas needed for his research. So, don’t bug him, unless you want to tell him that his photos and video are awesome.

White or Blue-eyed Magicicadas cicadas are extremely rare, so finding them can be difficult. I usually find one per emergence, and that is after looking at thousands of cicadas.

Speaking of Roy and White-eyed cicadas, here is a video Roy took of a White-eyed cicada:

And here’s a white and orange-eyed cicada taken by Roy:

Upclose on Marble eyed 17 year cicada

Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery?

Filed under: Behavior,FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 7:41 am

Cicadas on Man Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery? Yes! Cicadas, particularly Magicicada periodical cicadas, are attracted to lawnmowers, weed-wackers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, power drills, etc. If it is loud and vibrates, cicadas will be attracted to it. Why? Most likely because they think your tool is a particularly impressive periodical cicada chorusing center, so males want to join in with the chorus and females want to mate with the particularly impressive males.

So, next time you’ve got the old angle grinder out, don’t be surprised if a cicada lands on your shoulder.


When is a locust not a locust? When the locust is a cicada.

Filed under: FAQs,Identify,Magicicada — Dan @ 6:26 am

Are Cicadas Locusts? The short answer is NO. However, in the U.S.A. we’ve been calling cicadas “locusts” for hundreds of years.

People have seen referring to cicadas, particularly Periodical cicadas, as both flies and “locusts” since the 1600’s, when colonists first documented them.

Gene Kritsky's The Plague and the Puzzle

Gene Kritsky’s book Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle provides a chronology and historical texts of people referring to cicadas as “locusts”. Consider this quote from Pehr Kalm from 1756:

By the Engishmen here they are called Locusts and by the Swedes living here they have gotten the name Grasshoppers. In Latin they could be called Cicada.

It makes some sense that Englishmen would call cicadas Locusts, and Swedes would call them Grasshoppers, because there was only one species of cicada in both England and Sweden. This cicada, Cicadetta montana montana, call is so high-pitched you need electronic assistance to hear it, so most people were not aware of its existence. So, when Englishmen and women encountered cicadas they likely thought “there are a lot of them, they’re big, I’m afraid they’re going to eat my carrots — these must be LOCUSTS”!

Cicadas are indeed not Locusts, Grasshoppers or Flies.


Take a look that the illustration of a true locust below. You’ll notice the true locusts have HUGE rear legs for hopping, long antennae, and relatively long bodies. True locusts chew the plants they consume, while Magicicadas suck fluids from trees.

Locust:

Locust

17-year cicada:

17-year cicada

For more instances of cicadas being confused with other types of insects, read the article These are not cicada insects!

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »