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July 23, 2014

Platypedia, the Fisherman’s Friend

Filed under: Platypedia — by @ 4:24 am

Cicadas that belong to the genus Platypedia are a fisherman’s friend. They emerge in large numbers near streams and stimulate fish feeding frenzies. May to June seem to be the best time to witness these “hatches”.

Platypedia are unique in that they lack the organs called tymbals, which most cicadas use to make their song. Platypedia create their sound by rapidly moving their wings. Some describe the sound as cracking or popping, but the correct term is crepitation. Many species of cicadas communicate using their wings as well as tymbals, but Platypedia only use their wings.

Platypedia putnami, aka Putnam’s Cicada, is the best known of the Platypedia genus. They are black with orange highlights. The can be found in most states and provinces from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, from Arizona, north to British Columbia.

Platypedia look similar to Okanagana, but there are key differences: 1) Platypedia have more slender abdomens, probably due to the lack of tymbals and no need to resonate a song, 2) Platypedia tend to have a marking in the middle of the pronotum (the area behind their eyes), 3) Platypedia are hairier, and of course 4) Platypedia do not sing, they snap, crackle and pop.

Watch these videos to see and hear these unique cicadas:

Additional reading:

Davis, W.T. Two ways of song communication among our North American cicadas. J. New York Entomol. Soc. 1943, 51, 185–190. Get it on the North American Cicada Site.

Sanborn, A and Phillips, P Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico Diversity 2013, 5, 166-239. Get it here (PDF).

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