Photos of a molting or molted Neotibicen by Gerry Bunker from 2005.
March 7, 2020
Two Teneral Neotibicen photos by Roy Troutman. Teneral means soft. These cicadas have recently molted so their bodies are soft. The photos were taken in 2004, probably in Ohio.
This one looks like a Neotibicen tibicen tibicen:
This one looks like a Neotibicen linnei or pruinosus.
Molting Neotibicen cicada photos by Roy Troutman from 2004. Probably Ohio. Looks like a Neotibicen tibicen tibicen.
March 2, 2020
Male Neotibicen tibicen molting. Other names for this cicada include: Morning Cicada, Swamp Cicada and formerly Tibicen chloromera or chloromerus.
February 29, 2020
Molting cicada photos from Japan by John McDonald. Taken in 2004.
September 18, 2018
When I think of cicadas I rarely think of them as an agricultural pest, mostly because I’m located in the U.S. where they’re not quite a menace to agriculture as other creatures can be, like aphids or the dreaded, invasive Spotted Lanternfly. Periodical cicadas can be a pest to fruit trees1 — tip: don’t plant an orchard where periodical cicadas live. Whenever there is an emergence of periodical cicadas some of the weaker, ornamental, or fruit trees will be lost to damage from ovipositing (egg-laying). In these cases, the cicadas are impacting non-native trees introduced into America — apples, pears, and peaches are originally from Asia — and these trees did not evolve to withstand cicadas and their root-sucking, egg-laying ways. I. “Cicada lawyer” recommends that I don’t give too much advice in this area.
Cicada Laywer says “don’t give advice you aren’t willing to back up in court, and we need to discuss your ‘Instarbucks logo’.”
Outside the U.S., cicadas can have more of an impact on agriculture. In Australia, the Brown sugarcane cicada (Cicadetta crucifera), Green cicada (C. multifascia), and Yellow sugarcane cicada (Parnkalla muelleri) suck on sugar plant roots when they’re nymphs, which can cause poor or failed ratoons2. Also in Australia, the Bladder Cicada is said to cause severe damage to olive trees when they oviposit (lay eggs in branches)3.
I was researching the cicadas of Brazil, trying to ID a cicada someone emailed me. One thing I noticed was a lot of papers about cicadas mention coffee (cafeeiro). Papers have names like, “Description and key to the fifth-instars of some Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) associated with coffee plants in Brazil”4, or “Description of new cicada species associated with the coffee plant and an identification key for the species of Fidicinoides (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from Brazil”5. These documents often contain wonderful cicada information, illustrations, and photos, just the sort of stuff I’m looking for.
Coffee and cicadas. Cafeeiro e cigarras. This association piqued my interest because I am both a huge fan of cicadas and coffee. Both are addictions, and if I tried to quit either, it would be painful (I’ve tried — lots of headaches). I enjoy cicadas as a hobby, and coffee as a stimulant and treat. I’ve even thought of opening a cafe called “Instarbucks” (that is a joke for entomologists).
Unfortunately, the association between coffee and cicadas is that cicadas are pests of the coffee plant. As nymphs, they suck the xylem roots of the coffee plant, and may occasionally cause damage4. Of course, coffee farms will be none too pleased about possible damage to their cash crops, so a lot of research goes into cicadas and their relationship to the coffee plant. Coffee is not native to Brazil, it originates from Ethiopia, and so it’s another non-native species of plant, grown for agricultural reasons, that is impacted by a native species of cicada. I’m sensing a pattern here. The unfortunate (for cicadas) reality is that folks will use information about the cicadas to control them, rather than risk damage to their coffee crops.
I’ll use the rest of this article to discuss coffee + cicada papers and some highlights within.
Description and key to the fifth-instars of some Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) associated with coffee plants in Brazil4:
This paper is interesting as it describes and visually illustrates the physical characteristics of each instar (phase) of the cicadas development during their nymph stage. It covers these cicadas: Dorisiana drewseni (Stål) Dorisiana viridis (Olivier), Fidicina mannifera (Fabricius), Fidicinoides pronoe (Walker) and Carineta fasciculata (Germar). Related to coffee, these researchers are providing the knowledge that allows folks to identify fifth-instar nymphs, for the purpose of determining the extent of a plant’s cicada infestation4.
Oviposition of Quesada gigas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) in coffee plants.6:
This paper describes and visually illustrates the ovipositing behavior of Quesada gigas (the Giant Cicada). Related to coffee — other than the fact that Q. gigas will lay their eggs in the coffee’s tree branches — this paper provides ideas for preventing the egg-laying behavior, such as the removal of dry branches from “the upper third of the coffee plant, which is the preferred egg-laying location”6.
Nice photo of the bearly 2mm long cicada eggs — very small for a very large cicada.
Description of the Nymphs of Quesada gigas (Olivier) (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) Associated with Coffee Plants6:
Unfortunately, I cannot read Portuguese, so I cannot read this article. That said, the illustrations of the Quesada gigas nymphs (ninfas) contained within are wonderful.
Description of new cicada species associated with the coffee plant and an identification key for the species of Fidicinoides (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from Brazil7:
This paper describes a new cicada, Fidicinoides sarutaiensis Santos, Martinelli & Maccagnan sp. n, and provides information, illustrations and photos to help identify this cicada and others belonging to the genus Fidicinoides, including F. opalina, F. sericans, F. pauliensis, F. picea, F. pronoe, F. distanti, F. brisa, F. rosabasalae, F. brunnea, F. besti, F. sucinalae, F. saccifera, F. jauffretti, and F. pseudethelae. Related to coffee, these cicadas feed on the xylem roots of coffee plants.7
This paper includes wonderful photos of key parts of these cicadas’ anatomy, which is very helpful for identifying them.
There are many more papers about cicadas that appreciate coffee plants as much as you do. I’ll leave it up to you to research further.
If I had to choose, I’d choose cicadas over coffee. Which would you choose?
- Tree Fruit Insect Pest – Periodical Cicada
- Peter Samson, Nader Sallam, Keith Chandler. (2013). Pests of Australian Sugarcane.
- Spooner-Hart, Robert & Tesoriero, L & Hall, Barbara. (2018). Field Guide to Olive Pests, Diseases and Disorders in Australia.
- DMACCAGNAN, DHB and MARTINELLI, NM. Description and key to the fifth-instars of some Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) associated with coffee plants in Brazil. Neotrop. entomol. [online]. 2011, vol.40, n.4 [cited 2018-09-18], pp.445-451. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1519-566X2011000400006&lng=en&nrm=iso. ISSN 1519-566X. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1519-566X2011000400006.
- Santos RS, Martinelli NM, Maccagnan DHB, Sanborn AF, Ribeiro R (2010) Description of new cicada species associated with the coffee plant and an identification key for the species of Fidicinoides (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from Brazil. Zootaxa, 2602: 48-56.
- DECARO JUNIOR, SERGIO T; MARTINELLI, NILZA M; MACCAGNAN, DOUGLAS H. B. and RIBEIRO, EDUARDO S.. Oviposition of Quesada gigas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) in coffee plants. Rev. Colomb. Entomol. [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.1 [cited 2018-09-18], pp.1-5. Available from: http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0120-04882012000100001&lng=en&nrm=iso. ISSN 0120-0488.
- DHB Maccagnan, NM Martinelli. DescriÃ§ão das ninfas de Quesada gigas (Olivier)(Hemiptera: Cicadidae) associadas ao cafeeiro. Neotropical Entomology, 2004 – SciELO Brasil.
- SANTOS RS, MARTINELLI NM, MACCAGNAN DHB, SANBORN AF,RIBEIRO R. Description of new cicada species associated with the coffee plant and an identification key for the species of Fidicinoides (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from Brazil. Zootaxa, 2010.
August 26, 2018
Time-lapse videos of insects molting can be as visually fascinating as they are scientifically important. Cicadas are amongst the best insect subjects for time-lapse because they’re relatively large, and depending on where you live, easy to find.
Equipment you’ll need for your time-lapse video:
- Lights. I use cheap LED and fluorescent lights. Not enough light and you’ll end up with a grainy video. Too much light and you’ll over-expose the subject and miss some important details. You’ll need a stand or tripod for your lights as well.
- A tripod for your camera. You want your camera to be as steady as possible. Hand-holding the camera is not recommended. The molting process takes hours.
- A camera. Some cameras have a Time-Lapse mode, but you could also take a photo every 30 seconds or so and use software to assemble the photos into a video. A camera with a large view screen is recommended so you can make adjustments to the lighting and framing of the insect.
- A platform for your cicada/insect. If you film outside use the tree the insect decides to molt on. If you film inside, build a structure using tree branches, or other materials the nymph can anchor onto.
- Video editing software. Free software works fine, as long as it lets you compile a series of photos into a single video.
I made my own platform out of some driftwood and a 2×4 I had lying around. Cheap but effective. Cicadas need to hang perpendicular to the ground so their wings will properly expand, so your creation needs to allow for that. A lot of people simply use a roll of paper towel.
Skills you’ll need to practice
- Patience. Unless you’re a pro who films wildlife all the time, you might need a few tries to get it right.
- Learn how to use the Time-Lapse feature of your camera.
- Learn how to light a small subject like a cicada.
- The ability to stay up late. The entire molting process can take up to 5-6 hours, especially if you want to let the cicada’s wings and body harden a bit. Coffee or tea helps (you, not the cicada).
If you’ve never tried filming a cicada molting before, you can practice lighting, focusing and using the time-lapse features of your camera with a paper model of a cicada. Just draw a cicada onto a small piece of paper, and pin it to a tree. If you know origami, even better.
Finding a specimen
I begin looking for cicada nymphs about 15 minutes after sunset. I find them at the base of trees, or ascending tree trunks. If you plan on filming indoors, or on a custom platform, treat the cicada with care. Be very gentle, and place the cicada nymph in a spacious enclosure — preferably one that allows it to grip, and hang off the side. I transport cicadas in a pop-up butterfly pavilion/habitat — these portable enclosures are made for butterflies, but they work well for other insects, like cicadas. Don’t forget to release the cicada the following day as well.
The overall process for shooting indoors
- Set up your rig: platform, lights, camera. Make sure your camera has an empty memory card in it and is charged/plugged in. Make sure all the lights are working. Place a towel or something soft at the base of the platform, in case the cicada falls (it happens).
- Collect your specimen. Bring a flashlight and a butterfly pavilion (or similar container). Gently grab the cicada nymph with your fingers and place in the container. do not collect a cicada that has already begun molting. Take some (not a lot) of tree branches with you. You can use the branches to augment your platform.
- Place the cicada at the base of the platform. Let it explore and become comfortable. Place it back at the base of the platform if it falls or wanders off.
- Once the cicada is ready to molt, it will stay still for a while. This is a good time to get your camera in focus and lights in the right position.
- The skin of the back of the nymph will split — look and listen for that. Start time-lapse filming. Example.
- Re-frame the camera as necessary to capture the cicada’s wings as they inflate.
- An hour after the cicada’s wings move into place (see that happen), you can stop filming, and place the cicada into the safety of the butterfly pavilion — or on a tree outside.
- Return the cicada to the outdoors within 12 hours.
- Use video editing software to compile the time-lapse frames into a video. I set each frame to 0.2 seconds — experiment with the times.
- Add the species of the cicada, the location where you found it, and other comments to the video.
- Share your video with friends, family and the world.
- The process takes a long time — you might be up until 1 or 2 am in the morning. Be prepared for that.
- Film some non-time-lapse video as well. There are key moments during the molting process that happen quickly, like when the cicada pulls its abdomen from its old skin. Having a video of that is nice.
- Be prepared to adjust the framing and focus a few times during the shoot. Don’t adjust too much though — just if the cicada’s wings fall out of frame.
- The cicada will double its overall size. Its wings will hang downward. Be prepared for that when you frame the shot.
My latest time-lapse video:
Notice how I frame the video.
A non-time-lapse detail:
A video where I used a tree branch to make the molting look more natural
January 23, 2018
A new paper, A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada), has been published by John R. Cooley, David C. Marshall & Kathy B. R. Hill, in Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 1432 (2018).
In a nutshell: the fungus infects males and causes them to exactly mimic the mating behavior of female cicadas, thus infected males end up spreading the fungus to uninfected males.
Male periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) infected with conidiospore-producing (“Stage I”) infections of the entomopathogenic fungus Massospora cicadina exhibit precisely timed wing-flick signaling behavior normally seen only in sexually receptive female cicadas. Male wing-flicks attract copulation attempts from conspecific males in the chorus; close contact apparently spreads the infective conidiospores. In contrast, males with “Stage II” infections that produce resting spores that wait for the next cicada generation do not produce female-specific signals. We propose that these complex fungus-induced behavioral changes, which resemble apparently independently derived changes in other cicada-Massospora systems, represent a fungus “extended phenotype” that hijacks cicadas, turning them into vehicles for fungus transmission at the expense of the cicadas’ own interests.
And now, because I need an image for the post: a meme:
Cicadas, when infected, are called “salt shakers of doom”. Add that to the meme “Salt Bae”, and the image makes sense.
November 5, 2017
Temperature plays an important part in much of cicada behavior, such as determining when they emerge from the ground, and when they are active above ground.
There’s a new paper out from Allen F.Sanborn, James E.Heath, Maxine S.Heath and Polly K.Phillips titled “Thermal adaptation in North American cicadas”.
Here are the highlights:
- Thermal responses are related specific environments of North America cicadas.
- Thermoregulatory strategy can influence thermal responses in sympatric species.
- Emergence time can influence thermal responses in sympatric species.
- Subspecies in general do not differ in their thermal responses.
- Thermal responses within a species do not differ in populations separated by more than 7600 km.
And here’s the citation info (even though I’m not citing anything):
Allen F. Sanborn, James E. Heath, Maxine S. Heath, Polly K. Phillips, Thermal adaptation in North American cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae), In Journal of Thermal Biology, Volume 69, 2017, Pages v-xviii, ISSN 0306-4565, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtherbio.2017.07.011.
April 18, 2017
Most, if not all cicadas sing during the day, but what time of day they sing depends on the species and the weather. There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, and each has its own unique behavior.
Typically, cicadas do not sing at night, but there are exceptions. Most of the time when you hear an insect at night, it’s a cricket or katydid.
Most cicadas love the sun, so rain and cloudy skies will decrease the likelihood they will sing. Temperature also affects whether or not they will sing. If it is too cold, or too hot cicadas won’t sing. Tolerance for temperature depends on the species.
Cicadas, depending on the species, will sing depending on the number and proximity of other cicadas in their area. Periodical cicadas, when there are enough in a given area, will synchronize their songs forming a chorus (a group effort to attract females).
When they sing during the day, under perfect conditions, depends on the species. Each species has its favorite time to sing, for example, in North America:
- Neotibicen tibicen, also known as Morning Cicadas, typically sing before noon.
- Neotibicen latifasciatus, aka Coastal Scissor Grinder Cicada, seem to sing throughout the day, taking breaks during the most brutal sunlight and temperatures.
- Megatibicen auletes, also know as the Northern Dusk-Singing Cicada, sings for about a half hour around sunset.
- Periodical cicadas, like Magicicada septendecim, typically sing between 10am and 5pm.
Recapping, when cicadas sing depends on:
- The species
- The amount of light (sun or artificial)
- The amount of cicadas in a given area
- Rain, clouds, and other “bad weather”
- The temperature
Cicadas can be surprising “rule breakers” so don’t be surprised to hear them when least expected.
More examples and references to come…