Cicada Mania

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

October 12, 2013

A third way cicadas make sounds

Filed under: Anatomy | Australia | Cyclochila | Sounds | Video — Dan @ 8:06 am

Cicadas are well known for the songs male cicadas make with their their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens.

Some female cicadas will also flick their wings to get the males attention. Watch this video where a male Magicicada is convinced that the snapping of fingers is a wing flick. Note: Magicicada males will also flick their wings once they become infected with the Massospora cicadina fungus (which removes their sex organs).

There is a third way some cicadas can make sounds. This method of creating a sound is unique to the Australian species Cyclochila australasiae (aka the Green Grocer and Masked Devil). These cicadas have stridulatory ridges on their pronotal collars (the collar shaped structure at the back of their head), and a stridulatory scraper on their fore wing.

From M. S. MOULDS, 2012, A review of the genera of Australian cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea). Magnolia Press Auckland, New Zealand. p84:

Cyclochila is unique among the Cicadoidea in possessing a stridulatory file on the underside of the lateral angles of the pronotal collar that interacts with a scraper on the fore wing base (Fig. 132). Rubbed together these produce low audible sound in hand-held specimens (K. Hill, pers. comm.), the purpose of which is for sexual com- munication at close quarters (J. Kentwell and B. Fryz, pers. comm.)

Here is a photo of these structures:

Structure on Green Grocer

The location of these structures is right about where the blue pin is in this photo:
Collar

Update:

Tim McNary of the Bibliography of the Cicadoidea website, let us know that Clidophleps cicadas are also able to create should using a stridulatory structure. Clidophleps is a genus of cicada that can be found in California, Nevada, Arizona, and I assume adjacent parts of Mexico. Clidophleps differs from Cyclochila in that the stridulatory structure is on its mesonotum, and not its pronotal collar.

Photo courtesy of Tim McNary:
stridatory file

June 26, 2013

Help the Simon Cicada Lab study periodical cicada nymphs

Filed under: Community Science | Magicicada | Nymphs | Periodical — Dan @ 9:20 pm

The Simon Lab is dedicated to the study of cicadas, in particular, periodical cicadas.

One of the things they study is the development of cicada nymphs while they are underground.

They need your help to collect cicada nymph specimens. You would dig for them, and if you find them, mail them to the Simon Lab. The nymphs will be used for valuable scientific study, so the loss of a few from your yard will not be in vain.

If you are interested in participating in cicada nymph research, visit The Simon Lab Nymph Tracking Project page for more information. You must have had periodical cicadas on your property in past 13 or 17 years to find the nymphs — not including the Brood II area, since those nymphs came out of the ground this year.

Cicada Nymphs

March 28, 2013

Videos of cicadas molting

Filed under: Exuvia | Video — Dan @ 6:57 pm

When a cicada sheds its nymphal skin, revealing its adult form, we call it ecdysis. You probably call it molting, and that’s just fine.

Here are a bunch of videos of cicadas moulting:

Here is a Magicicada nymph molting (the 17-year variety) by Roy Troutman:

Magicicada nymph molting from Roy Troutman on Vimeo.

Annual cicada molting to an adult by Roy:

Annual cicada molting to an adult from Roy Troutman on Vimeo.

Here is Tibicen moulting by blackpawphoto (YouTube Link):

Here is a video of a Japanese cicada, the Terpnosia nigricosta, moulting by AntoSan09 (YouTube Link):

January 5, 2013

These are Not Cicada Insects!

Filed under: Anatomy | FAQs | Identify — Dan @ 4:07 am

I made this page for two reasons: 1) to point out insects and other animals that people commonly confuse with cicadas, and 2) list people, places and things named "cicada" that clearly are not cicadas.

By the way, if you’re looking for places to Identify insects that are not cicadas, try Bug Guide and What’s that Bug.

Order Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids)

Are cicadas locusts? No, but people call them locusts, and have since the 1600’s.

Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids are often confused with cicadas because they are relatively large, singing insects. There are many differences between cicadas and Orthopterans, but the easiest way to tell them apart is Orthopterans have huge hind legs.

The Songs of Insects has song samples of grasshoppers, katydids, crickets and cicadas — listen and compare.

Learn more about insects belonging to the Order Orthoptera.

Grasshoppers / Locusts

True locusts are grasshoppers and definitely not cicadas.

Locust:

Locust

17-year cicada:

17-year cicada

People call periodical Magicicada cicadas "locusts" because they emerge in massive numbers like true locusts. Unlike true locusts — which will chew, eat and destroy virtually all vegetation they come across — most cicadas only cause damage to weaker tree branches when they lay their eggs. When true locusts come to town, your family might starve and die (because the locusts ate all your food). When cicadas come to town, your maple tree gets a few branches of brown leaves. Big difference.

Learn more about Grasshoppers on BugGuide.

Katydids

Katydids get confused with cicadas for both the way they look and for the sounds they make. Some key differences: katydids usually have wings that look like green leaves, long antennae, and large hind legs for jumping. Most of the time you year an insect at night, it’s either a cricket or a katydid.

Amblycorypha oblongifolia,-side_2012-07-26-17.10.53-ZS-PMax
Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about Katydids on BugGuide.

Learn about North American Katydids on orthsoc.org

Crickets

Crickets don’t look like cicadas, but they do make sounds. Most of the time you year an insect at night, it’s either a cricket or a katydid.

Velarifictorus micado,-side_2012-07-09-18.36.02-ZS-PMax
Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about crickets on BugGuide.

Learn about North American Crickets on orthsoc.org

Sphinx Moths

Sphinx Moths are confused for cicadas because, at a glance, they have a similar shape. Learn more about Sphinx moths.

Hawk or Sphinx Moth
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region

Other members of the Suborder Auchenorrhyncha

Planthoppers (Infraorder Fulgoromorpha), Froghoppers (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Cercopoidea), and Cicadelloidea (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Membracoidea ) are often mistaken for cicadas (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Cicadoidea) because they share the same Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order and Suborder — and they look a lot alike. The big difference is cicadas sing, while other members of Auchenorrhyncha do not sing.

Leafhopper, U, top, Patuxant, MD_2012-10-09-11.40.20 ZS PMax
Plant-Hopper,-side_2012-07-06-19.25.23-ZS-PMax
Photos by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about the other members of the Suborder Auchenorrhyncha.

June Bugs

NO, cicadas are not June Bugs. Many people confuse June Bug larvae for cicada larvae.

Beetle Larve Grubs

“I dug up a white grub in my backyard. Is it a cicada?”

Maybe. Just about every insect goes through a larval phase, and they pretty much all look alike to the novice. Unlike beetle larvae, cicada larvae or nymphs are not long-bodied like grubs. Long larvae = beetle larvae.

An example of a young cicada nymph unearthed from the ground. Note how its body is white, but it doesn’t have the Cheetos/worm-like body of a beetle grub:
Elias nymph

Frogs

Frog calls are often mistaken for cicada song, particularly at night.

Birds

Bird calls can be mistaken for cicada song. Some birds that can mimic sounds, such as Lyrebirds, Mockingbirds, and Psittaciformes (Parrots) could conceivably mimic cicada sounds.

The HORSE

No one would confuse a horse with a cicada (visually and audibly speaking), but there was a famous horse named cicada.

People, Places and Things Named Cicada

These are people (in the form of Bands), places and things named cicada. They often show up on Flickr, Twitter, eBay or Amazon, when I’m searching for cicada insects. It is awesome that people name stuff after cicadas (but it can be annoying when you’re searching for cicada insects, and other stuff shows up).

Bands

There are many bands with "cicada" in their name. These show up a lot on eBay and Twitter. Here is a partial list:

There are many albums named Cicada as well, such as Cicada by Cat Scientist. That one comes up a lot in ebay.

Places

These places show up on twitter, and when I search for cicada photos on Flickr.

Things

Here’s a list of other things that often show up in eBay, Twitter and Amazon.

  • BattleTech BattleMech Cicada is a toy.
  • Cicada is a company that makes dental equipment.
  • Cicada Magazine is a magazine for children.
  • The Cicada is a multi tool.
  • PageFlip Cicada is a wireless Bluetooth pedal designed to meet the needs of musicians and people with disabilities who struggle with the challenge and inconvenience of page turning.


December 2, 2012

Blue Cicadas

Filed under: Anatomy | Australia — Dan @ 7:14 pm

Blue cicadas. Did you know they exist? They do… at least in Australia.

What’s That Bug recently posted a photo of a blue Bladder Cicada from Australia (Cystosoma saundersii). It’s a great find. Cystosoma saundersii are typically green.

Then there is the Blue Moon blue colored morph of Cyclochila australasiae:

Cyclochila australasiae, Blue Moon, by David Emery
Photo by David Emery

Cyclochila australasiae come in many colors, but the most common color is green. “Blue Moon” is a good nickname for these cicadas because they are rare and only found, idiomatically speaking, “once in a Blue Moon”.

So, why are some cicadas blue, when their species is typically green? Here is a quote from the paper Blue, red, and yellow insects by B. G. BENNETT, Entomology Division, DSIR, Private Bag, Auckland, New Zealand:

The colours of insects are often due to a complex mixture of pigments, some of which
are concentrated from their diet. These are carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthraquinones, and some are porphyrins made from the breakdown of plant chlorophyll. Insectoverdin is a common green pigment produced by a mixture of blue and yellow compounds. The blue is tetrapyrrole, but sometimes an anthocyanin, and the yellow is a carotenoid.

Blue + yellow = green. If the yellow is missing, you get a blue cicada. I heard that, at least in the case of the Cyclochila australasiae, the blue cicadas are typically females. Perhaps something related to genetics or behavior of the females leads to an inability to process the caroteniods ingested along with their diet (tree fluids). I’m not sure, but it’s a topic that fascinates me, so I’ll continue to look into it.

April 1, 2012

Cicadas and Prime Numbers

Filed under: Anatomy | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 8:51 pm

Last week io9 published an article titled Why do cicadas know prime numbers? The gist of the article is that cicadas developed long, prime-numbered, periodical life cycles to avoid gaining a predator that can synch up with the cicadas.

It’s an interesting read, but it’s a little thin on facts and references. Here is part of what the article is missing:

Only seven out of the hundreds of species of cicadas have 13 or 17-year life cycles, and they all belong to the genus Magicicada. Three species of cicadas have 17-year life cycles: M. septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. Four species of cicadas have 13-year life cycles: M. neotredecim, M. tredecim, M. tredecassini and M. tredecula. These are the periodical cicadas Stephen Jay Gould wrote about.

As one proof of the theory, there isn’t a wasp that specifically predates Magicicadas (the genus of cicadas with long, prime-numbered life cycles), but there is a Cicada Killer Wasp that predates Tibicen cicadas, which have shorter life cycles and emerge every year.

Although no animal predator has figured out their 17 & 13-year life cycle, one life form has: the Massospora cicadina fungus.

The book in which Stephen Jay Gould theorized about prime numbers and periodical cicadas is Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History. You can search through the book in Google Book Search, or just buy a copy (if you’re interested). I think I paid a cent for my copy (used).

Other species of cicadas also have life cycles of a prime number of years, but some do not. The Chremistica ribhoi is known for four-year life cycles, which coincide with the Fifa World Cup (association football event). The Raiateana knowlesi of Fiji has an 8 year life cycle.

Not all cicadas are periodical cicadas; the vast majority of cicada species appear every year even though their life cycles are longer than one year.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject of periodical cicadas and prime numbers, search for the paper Evolution of Periodicity in Periodical Cicadas by Nicolas Lehmann-Ziebarth et al.

This image is meant to be funny, but it’s a bit misleading…
A cicada counting prime numbers
It’s likely that periodical cicadas are counting in units of 4. 4+4+4+1 = 13. 4+4+4+4+1 = 17.

Prof. Douglas Galvao of the State University of Campinas has written a paper titled Emergence of Prime Numbers as the Result of Evolutionary Strategy. Download his paper from Cicada Mania.

Notes:

  • Cicadas do not incubate underground. Cicada eggs hatch above ground; typically in grooves in the stems of plants created by female cicadas.
  • Cicadas rarely sing at night. In rare circumstances, like in the presence of artificial light, they will sing at night. If you hear an insect at night it is likely a cricket or katydid (or frog).
  • Here’s another article with a practical application for web design called The Cicada Principle and Why It Matters to Web Designers.
  • Mathematical “locusts” an mathematical explanation of the cicadas and prime numbers phenomenon.

October 26, 2011

Cicadas serenaded the dinosaurs

Filed under: Gene Kritsky | Nymphs — Dan @ 10:15 am

Apparently cicadas serenaded the dinosaurs! Entomologist and Mount St. Joseph professor Gene Kritsky shared the news today that cicadas lived as long as 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

A quote from a press release:

New research has documented that cicadas, those noisy insects that sing during the dog days of summer, have been screaming since the time of the dinosaurs.

A fossil of the oldest definitive cicada to be discovered was described by George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D., professor of zoology at Oregon State University and Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., professor of biology, at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. The cicada, measuring 1.26 mm in length, was named Burmacicada protera.

Read the full Press Release on the MSJ website.

Here is a photo of the ancient Burmacicada protera cicada nymph trapped in amber. Photo credit: George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D.

Burmacicada protera. Copyright of George Poinar, Jr.

It looks a lot like a modern-day first-instar cicada nymph:
First instar cicada nymphs
Photo by Roy Troutman.

Update: Here’s a video news story about Gene’s fossil find.

I need a step-up my fossil collecting hobby. It looks like there’s some places in New Jersey to find fossils. Maybe I’ll find a cicada.

May 22, 2011

Cicada Contest: Find a Cicada with White Eyes and Win a Prize

Filed under: Brood XIX | Eye Color | Magicicada | Video — Dan @ 8:35 pm

The White-eyed cicada contest is complete!

I had ten “I Love Cicada” pins sitting in a bag in my office. Ten people found a white-eyed cicada, sent me a photo and won “I Love Cicadas pins”!

Our first pin winner is Joey Simmons of Nashville, TN:
White eyed Magicicada from Joey Simmons of Nashville, TN. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our second winner is Meagan Lang of Nashville, TN:
White-eyed Magicicada from Meagan Lang of Nashville, TN. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our third winner is Serena Cochrane of Gerald MO:
White-eyed cicada from Serena Cochrane of Gerald, MO. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our fourth winner is Melissa Han of Nashville TN:
White Eyed cicada found by Melissa Ham in Nashville TN

Our fifth winners are Jane and Evan Skinner of Troy MO:
White-Eyed Magicicada found by Jane and Evan Skinner of Troy, MO. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our sixth winner is Phyllis Rice of Poplar Bluff MO:
White-Eyed Magicicada found by Phyllis Rice of Poplar Bluff, MO. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our seventh winner is Jack Willey of Nashville TV:
White-eyed Magicicada found by Jack Willey of Nashville TV

Our eighth winner is Chris Lowry of Nashville TN:
White-eyed cicada from Paul Stuve found in Columbia, MO. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our ninth winner is Nathan Voss of Spring Hill TN :
White-eyed cicada found by Nathan Voss of Spring Hill, TN. Brood XIX. 2011.

Our tenth and final winner is Paul Stuve of Columbia, MO:
White-eyed cicada from Paul Stuve found in Columbia, MO. Brood XIX. 2011.

Here’s the prize pins:

White eyed Magicicada by Dan from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

May 9, 2011

Look out for Magicicadas with white eyes

Filed under: Eye Color | Magicicada | Video — Dan @ 5:22 pm

Most of the periodical cicadas you’ll see have red or reddish-orange eyes. A very small number, however, have white, blue, or yellow eyes. Some even have amazing multi-colored eyes. Have you seen any white eyed periodical cicadas yet? Be on the lookout for them, and make sure you take a photo or video when you see one. Have a contest with your friends and family to see who can find the first white or blue-eyed cicada. If you have a TV station, radio show or a local website, you could have a contest for who can find the first white eyed cicada. I personally have only found one white eyed cicada (video below), so I have to guess that the odds are at least one in 10,000.

Here’s a photo of a white eyed Magicicada cicada Roy Troutman found back in 2004:

Photo of a Magicicada cicada with white eyes by Roy Troutman.

Roy took a photo of a blue-eyed cicada, and I made a t-shirt from the image (I use the mug version for my morning coffee).

This is a video of white eyed cicada I recorded back in 2007:

White eyed Magicicada by Dan from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

All photos of periodical cicadas with different color eyes.

March 29, 2010

New Magicicada nymph photos

Filed under: Elias Bonaros | Magicicada | Nymphs — Dan @ 5:05 am

Elias went digging for Magicicada nymphs on 3/21. Here’s a gallery of the nymphs he found.

Elias's 1st and 2nd Instar Magicicada nymph

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