Nymphs, generally speaking, emerge soon after sunset. When I look for nymphs, I wait until sunset and start looking around tree roots and on tree trunks. Sometimes it takes hours, but usually, I find one (or many).
Adult cicadas are easiest to find on hot, humid nights in well-lit areas like parking lots and the sides of buildings. You will find them clinging to illuminated walls and crawling on sidewalks. They end up on the ground, often because they fly into the wall and stun themselves. On a hot humid night — 85F or above — I’ll find an excuse (usually frozen desserts) to check the walls of the local supermarket for cicadas.
Cicadas, like many insects, are attracted to (or confused by) lights. There are many theories as to why insects are attracted to lights, and the reasons why probably vary by species. My guess (and this is just a guess) is that cicadas can’t tell day from night, or daylight (sun) from artificial lights, and so they think they’re using light to navigate away from a dark area (a tree trunk, dense brush), and then get very confused because they never seem to get anywhere once they reach the source of the light. I wish I could ask a cicada why.
Prime nighttime cicada location: a well-lit building and macadam parking lot:
Cicadas can damage their skin and innards by fling into and bouncing off walls:
A Neotibicen tibicen clinging to a cinderblock wall:
A Megatibicen auletes crawling on an illuminated sidewalk:
If you go looking for cicadas at night, make sure you have permission to be where you plan to look. Don’t trespass, and have respect for other people’s property.
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Sometimes the best cicada locations are just a short distance from your home. This summer I came across a grove of pine trees that had two species of Neotibicen: Neotibicen linnei (Linne’s Cicada) and Neotibicen canicularis (Dog-Day Cicada). Neotibicen linnei and Neotibicen canicularis look very similar when they’re adults (appearances vary by location), so it helpful to compare the two species.
This image compares Neotibicen linnei and canicularis when they’ve recently molted (teneral). Note that the N. linnei is yellow and green, while the N. canicularis is a pink/salmon color.
This image compares these cicadas approximately 24 hours after molting. Note that they’ve achieved their adult coloring, which is very similar, but you can see vestiges of the pink on the N. canicularis.
This last image compares the wing shape of N. linnei (foreground) and N. canicularis (background). Both cicadas are standing on the same piece of white paper. The wings of the N. linnei have a sharper bend — see how the tip of the wing is lifted far off the surface of the paper, while the wing of the N. canicularis almost sits on the paper. Also note that the N. linnei is a more vibrant green, and the N. canicularis is more of a drab/olive green.
Read this journal article, to learn how closely these cicadas are related genetically:
HILL, KATHY B. R., DAVID C. MARSHALL, MAXWELL S. MOULDS, & CHRIS SIMON. “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).” Zootaxa [Online], 3985.2 (2015): 219–251. Web. 20 Sep. 2017
One of my favorite things to do during the summer is look for cicadas during my lunch break.
Here’s a Linne’s Cicada I grabbed off a tree. It was not happy, as you might imagine, so went straight into a very loud alarm squawk.
There are many cicadas in the eastern U.S. that look like Linne’s Cicada but some clues that it is a Linne’s are the green collar, a bend in the coastal margin of the wing, dark coloration down the center of its abdomen, and only two white pruinose spots on its dorsal side.
More posts to come this week.
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