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September 17, 2016

What is Megatibicen?!

Update (9/20): I guessed the species correctly: all the Large Flute Players.

Update (9/24): I neglected to note that there’s another paper out there by Young June Lee called Description of three new genera, Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen, of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) and a key to their species. Link to it here. This manuscript goes beyond one new genera, and instead introduces three: Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen. Lee’s paper differs from Sanborn & Heath in that the large Neotibicen are spit into Megatibicen and Ameritibicen in Young’s document, but they’re all Megatibicen in Sanborn & Heath’s paper.

Megatibicen

Last night I had a rough night’s sleep. I tossed and turned all night long. I remember looking at the clock and seeing 4am, and thinking “tomorrow is ruined”. Sometime during the night I dreamt of finding thousands of molted Neotibicen exuvia clinging to shrubbery — a rare if not impossible sight in real life.

When I woke I checked my email and found a communication from David Marshall. David is well known and respected in the cicada world for many things including describing the 7th species of Magicicada with John Cooley (link to document), as well as being part of the team who defined the Neotibicen and Hadoa genera (link to paper)1.

David wrote to let me know that Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath had published a new paper titled: Megatibicen n. gen., a new North American cicada genus (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae: Cryptotympanini), 2016, Zootaxa Vol 4168, No 3.(link).

So, what is MEGATIBICEN? Assumptions after the abstract.

Here is the abstract:

The genus Tibicen has had a confusing history (see summary in Boulard and Puissant 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014; Sanborn 2014). Boulard and his colleague (Boulard 1984; 1988; 1997; 2001; 2003; Boulard and Puissant 2013; 2014; 2015) have argued for the suppression of Tibicen and the taxa derivatived from it in favor of Lyristes Horváth. Boulard’s argument for suppression was first described in Melville and Sims (1984) who presented the case for suppression to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature with further comments made by Hamilton (1985), Boulard (1985), and Lauterer (1985). A lack of action resulted in additional comments being published in 2014 again supporting the retention (Sanborn 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014) or the suppression (Boulard and Puissant 2014) of Tibicen.

My guess, without reading the document, is that Megatibicen includes the larger North America Neotibicen species, including the “auletes group” (N. auletes, N. resh, N. figuratus, N. resonans), the “pronotalis group” (N. pronotalis, N. dealbatus, N. cultriformis) and the “dorsatus group” (N. dorsatus, N. tremulus), or a mix of these. N. auletes is the largest cicada in North America. “Mega” is the Greek word for “very large” or “great”. Word is that Kathy Hill and David Marshall also planned on describing a Megatibicen genus at one point, as well.

Whenever cicada names change it causes feelings of bemusement, discontentment and discomfort amongst some cicada researches and fans. I know I don’t like it because I have to update the names of cicadas in 100’s of places on this website ;). Some folks simply disagree with the folks writing the paper. Some people prefer former names because they sound nicer (e.g. N. chloromerus vs N. tibicen tibicen). Some people simply do not like change.

Related: Here’s my article on when Neotibicen & Hadoa were established from Tibicen.

1 Hill, et al. 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) 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251.

September 15, 2016

Last cicada hunt of the year

Filed under: Neocicada — Dan @ 7:31 pm

Once September rolls around in New Jersey (USA) temperatures start to drop, as do the cicadas. Labor Day weekend is a three day last hurrah for the summer. Folks have barbecues, take one last trip to the beach, or one last fishing trip to the lake. It’s one last chance to have some fun before the kids go back to school, the weather gets too cold to wear shorts, and hurricanes start ripping up the coastline. This past Labor Day weekend I found myself at Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville, NJ. You might have guessed that this park marks the location where founding father General George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River. I think of it was a place to find Neotibicen linnei and Neotibicen winnemanna in the same location.

Some video of their calls:

N. linnei and N. winnemanna belong to the “Green Group” of Neotibicen cicadas. All the cicadas in this group look very similar, and you have to tell them apart by their song or key morphological differences. Even with sound files of their songs to reference, photos and notes, telling them apart can be vexing and bemusing. In some cases species mate and form hybrids which make it even more difficult to tell them apart.

Some images:

A is likely an N. linnei, and C is likely an N. winnemanna. See B, if you’re curious.
wings of Linne and Scissor Grinder

Probably an N. linnei although it lacks the wing bend. More black than beige, although that isn’t always a sure indicator of species.
washington crossing Neotibicen linnei

Definitely an N. winnemanna because of all the beige on its abdomen. Yes, its head is missing,
washington crossing Neotibicen winnemanna 2

After wandering the park for a few hours I was rewarded with a few dead specimens. One with eggs still stuck to its ovipositor, which was neat to see. I also recorded their calls — unfortunately no hybrids in the mix.

Part of the fun of traveling to see cicadas is visiting the place where the cicadas live. Washington Crossing State Park is far from the industry and urban decay New Jersey is known for. If you like scenic rivers, pastoral landscapes, American history, farmers markets, and antique stores, this area is for you. For me, it’s a nice place to observe cicadas. The park features many acres of deciduous and evergreen trees, perfect for cicadas. You can also walk the bridge to the Pennsylvania side of the river, where you’ll find more N. winnemanna than N. linnei.

Cicadas will be done mating before the end of September (actual date differs by location), and start dropping from the trees before the leaves being to change color. Go out this weekend and look and listen for the last cicadas of the year.

September 7, 2016

Linne’s Cicada in Cape May County, NJ

Filed under: Elias Bonaros,Neotibicen — Tags: — Dan @ 8:15 pm

Here’s some footage of a Neotibicen linnei in Woodbine, Cape May County, NJ.

Elias almost caught it.

This footage was a byproduct of our cicada hunt for a different cicada, Neotibicen latifasciatus.

August 31, 2016

An early start to Australia’s cicada season

Filed under: Australia,Cystosoma,Nathan Emery — Dan @ 5:56 am

Cicada researcher and photographer Nathan Emery found his first Bladder Cicada (Cystosoma saundersii) for the year. See this iNaturalist page. It is still winter there, so this is particular interesting.

A Bladder cicada looks like this (Cystosoma saundersii):

Bladder Cicada
Photo by David Emery.

Read more about this cicada on Dr. Pop’s website.

August 29, 2016

Neotibicen latifasciatus – the South Jersey Shore Screamer

Filed under: Elias Bonaros,Neocicada — Tags: — Dan @ 9:05 pm

This is a Neotibicen latifasciatus (Davis, 1915) commonly known as the Coastal Scissor Grinder, locally known as a Yodeling Cedar Sucker in Florida and Beach Banshee in North Carolina 3:

2 male Neotibicen latifasciatus - variations
Dorsal view of two latifasciatus males.

The holotype — a single type specimen on which the description of a new species is based — for the cicada Neotibicen latifasciatus was gathered from Cold Spring, Cape May County1. I feel that N. latifasciatus needs a common name indicative of Cape May, New Jersey. Here are my ideas:

  1. Cape May Crooner
  2. Cape May Crier
  3. Cape May Car Alarm
  4. Shore Shrieker
  5. Woodbine Warbler
  6. South Jersey Shore Screamer

The last one is my favorite (changed it to South ;))

N. latifasciatus is a cicada found along the east coast of the United States, and is known for its preference for cedar trees. It can be found in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia2, Florida and points in between3. Its affinity for cedar trees (plus its distinct call) makes it relatively easy to locate and capture — if you’re willing to get a little messy climbing through the thick & sticky branches of a cedar tree. A thin mist of sap from the cedar seems to coat the wings of these cicadas, and it’s worth mentioning that their wings are often torn and ragged, probably resulting from the thick cedar foliage.

When William T. Davis first described N. latifasciatus in 19154, he described it as a variety of Cicada pruinosa (now Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus). This is understandable, since they sound very much alike, and look alike except for the the white bands on the sides of the latifasciatus, some other minor morphological differences, and habitats. pruinosus, latifasciatus, winnemanna, linnei, canicularis, and robinsonianus are collectively known as the Green [Neo]tibicen Species3 or simply “the Green Group”.They’re called Green because much of their heads, collars, pronotums and mesonotums are green in color.

On Saturday, August 20th, 2016, I met Elias Bonaros and Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira in Middle Township, Cape May County to search for latifasciatus. I arrived before they did and located a relatively quiet road lined with cedar trees, filled with screaming latifasciatus. From the outside cedars resemble twisting green fire; on the inside they’re a mess of tightly-packed, dirty branches — perfect for an insect to hide. The road and trees were surrounded by briny marshland, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. Other than cicadas, there were an abundance of annoying greenhead flies (Tabanus nigrovittatus), and not annoying at all katydids. The temperature was in the mid 80s, the air was humid, the sun was brutal, and the flies thought I was delicious. In the 5 hours we spent photographing and gathering specimens, I drank a gallon of water. Elias handled cicada procurement duties, and Annette and I recorded the cicadas’ song and habitat.

Here’s a video summary of our adventure:

After a satisfying lunch, I went looking for other locations and found a very different but prime in-land location with taller cedar (Red and White varieties) in Woodbine Borough. There we found many exuvia, which we did not find at the other location, and heard not only latifasciatus, but also N. linnei, N. tibicen tibicen, N. canicularis, and N. auletes. Around 9pm, and almost 12 hours of cicada field-work, I called it quits. Elias and Annette stuck around and were able to observe molting latifasciatus.

The ventral side a male Neotibicen latifasciatus:
Neotibicen latifasciatus abdomen
This cicada was captured using the “clap” method of netting cicadas. This method involves two people using two nets, surrounding the cicada so it can’t find an escape path.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how delightful the people of Cape May County are. All the folks we encountered were pleasantly curious or encouraging about our cicada research activities. They also have “Custard” shops instead of Ice Cream shops.

Also check out Annette’s YouTube channel for video of the latifasciatus habitat and song.

1 Sanborn AF, Phillips PK. 2013. Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico. Diversity 2013, 5, 166-239.

2 Sanborn AF, Heath MS. 2012. The Cicadas (Hemipetera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae) of North America North of Mexico. Entomological Society of America. 45.

3 BugGuide Species Neotibicen latifasciatus page.

4 Davis WT. 1915a. Notes on some cicadas from the eastern and central United States with a description of a new variety of Cicada pruinosa. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 23: 1–10. (see the North American Cicadas page)

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