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September 3, 2018

Looking for adult cicadas at night

Filed under: Citizen Science,FAQs,Neotibicen — Tags: , , — Dan @ 8:25 am

Nighttime is often the best time to find cicadas.

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).

Cicada Nymph:
Megatibicen resh  female climbing 3

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:
Nighttime prime cicada location

Cicadas can damage their skin and innards by fling into and bouncing off walls:
Nightime N linnei with wound

A Neotibicen tibicen clinging to a cinderblock wall:
Nighttime N tibicen on wall

A Megatibicen auletes crawling on an illuminated sidewalk:
Megatibicen auletes in Manchester NJ

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.

August 26, 2018

Tips for making a time-lapse video of a cicada molting

Filed under: Citizen Science,Molting,Neotibicen — Tags: — Dan @ 8:51 am

Molting Morning Cicada

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Rig for Filming cicadas

Skills you’ll need to practice

  1. Patience. Unless you’re a pro who films wildlife all the time, you might need a few tries to get it right.
  2. Learn how to use the Time-Lapse feature of your camera.
  3. Learn how to light a small subject like a cicada.
  4. 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

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The skin of the back of the nymph will split — look and listen for that. Start time-lapse filming. Example.
  6. Re-frame the camera as necessary to capture the cicada’s wings as they inflate.
  7. 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.
  8. Return the cicada to the outdoors within 12 hours.
  9. 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.
  10. Add the species of the cicada, the location where you found it, and other comments to the video.
  11. Share your video with friends, family and the world.

More tips:

  • 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.

Some results:

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

April 29, 2018

Cicada habitat in peril in Connecticut

Filed under: Citizen Science,Megatibicen — Dan @ 7:05 am

Update: The hearing on the development of this property is May 14 at 7 p.m. but researchers can write testimony now and send it to Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission, Wallingford Town Hall, 45 S. Main St., Wallingford, CT 06492.

Megatibicen auletes, the largest cicada in North America:
Megatibicen auletes (Germar, 1834) aka the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada

Anytime we remove trees, we reduce cicada habitat. Remove a small forest of trees and we might destroy the habitat for an entire species. North American cicada species need trees to survive and live out their life cycles, and certain cicada species require specific types of trees and specific environmental conditions. This is the case for Megatibicen auletes, also known as the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada, which prefers oak trees growing in sandy soil.

Megatibicen auletes habitat is in peril in Wallingford, Connecticut, where a rare sandplain is about to be excavated and turned into space for a warehouse. Read this article: Environmental concerns prompt questions of state oversight in Wallingford. After reading the article, it seems like there is still a chance to reverse plans to develop this area. I hope it does not happen, for the sake of the cicadas.

Megatibicen auletes is the largest cicada in North America. You can hear its remarkable call right after sunset in late summer months. I wonder how many residents of the Wallingford area knew that the largest cicada in North America lived in their community. I wonder how many people have heard the auletes’ scream right after sunset and wondered what creature made that sound. Hopefully, people will have another chance to hear them this summer, rather than the sounds of machines grinding up a forest, or the silence of yet another warehouse parking lot.

June 26, 2016

Got Flagging? Report flagging and egg nests.

Filed under: Citizen Science,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 1:01 am

Got flagging? Flagging happens when tree branches wilt or die due to cicada egg laying, resulting in bunches of brown leaves. Don’t worry, this will not cause trees to die, unless they are small and weak trees. Flagging can actually do a tree a favor, by removing its weakest branches.

Visit the Magicicada.org report page to report flagging (scroll towards the bottom of the form / only on Desktop for now).

Some video of cicada flagging:

A photo of flagging:

Periodical Cicada Flagging 3

May 13, 2014

Cicadas, Social Media and Citizen Science

Filed under: Citizen Science,Mail, Comments & Social — Dan @ 3:09 am

Want to meet other cicada fans, help with cicada science projects, or simply check out cicada photos, images, or video? Try these projects and links.

Connect to Cicada Mania

Cicada Mania on FacebookCicada Mania on FlickrCicada Mania on TwitterCicada Mania on YouTubeCicada Mania on Vimeo

Magicicada.org Mapping Project

In 2014, contribute your Magicicada/Periodical/17 & 13 Year cicada sightings to Magicicada.org. They will add your report to their Google map.

Magicicada.org

Citizen Science Projects

Want to participate in a cicada citizen science project? Check out the cicada science projects on Cicada Central. There is the The Simon Lab Nymph Tracking Project and a Magicicada Biology Class Exercise.

If you are in Ohio or Kentucky and spot a periodical cicada this year (2014), send a geo-tagged cellphone photo to Gene Kritsky.

Your Wild Life wants your dead cicadas! They will use them to study the effects of urbanization (pollution, etc.) on the cicadas.

Discuss cicadas on Twitter

Use hash tags like #cicadas for general cicada issues. Use @cicadamania to get my attention.

Cicada Mania on Twitter

Discuss cicadas on Facebook

Once you’re done reporting your cicada sighting to magicicada.org, head over to Facebook to discuss your cicada experiences.

Cicada Mania Discussion Board on Facebook

Discuss cicadas with cicada experts

If you’re serious about cicadas, try the Entomology Cicadidae Yahoo group.

Entomology Cicadidae Yahoo group

Share your cicada photos, sounds and videos

Share your cicada photos and videos with the world:

Cicada Photos Group on Flickr

Cicadas on Pinterest (note, there’s no guarantee just photos of cicadas will show up)

Search Instagram photos for cicadas (note, there’s no guarantee just photos of cicadas will show up)

Cicada Mania Videos and Audio:

Cicada Mania on Vimeo

Cicada Mania YouTube

Update:

If you want to tag a species, you can use what’s called a “machine tag” or “triple tag” (see Wikipedia article on Tags).

taxonomy:binomial=Magicicada tredecim
taxonomy:binomial=Magicicada neotredecim
taxonomy:binomial=Magicicada tredecassini
taxonomy:binomial=Magicicada tredecula

If you’re tagging on sites that use spaces instead of commas (like flickr) put them in quotes when you enter them.

June 26, 2013

Help the Simon Cicada Lab study periodical cicada nymphs

Filed under: Citizen Science,Magicicada,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

June 8, 2013

More crowd sourcing opportunities for cicada citizen scientists

I created a category for citizen scientist crowd sourcing projects.

Here are more ways you can help cicada researchers study cicadas:

Project 1:

Chris Simon and the Simon Cicada Lab need your help with a couple of projects:

We at the Simon Lab are anxious to get the word out that we are very interested in finding upcoming Brood II locations with lots of flagging (broken branches and wilted stems that should turn brown in late June or July or sooner down south).

When cicadas lay eggs they cause some damage to tree branches called flagging. It is easy to spot the brown patches of leaves. The Simon Lab want your sightings of flagging come the end of June and July.

A form to submit your sightings will be available soon.

flagging

Project 2:

Also we need to continue to crowd source locations of spring stragglers from any brood in any year.

A straggler is a periodical cicada that emerges years in advance of the rest of its brood. Typically they emerge four years in advance. An example of this is the cicadas that emerged in Ohio this year. Please let us know if you see a periodical cicada outside the Brood II area.

You can probably use this form for that.

Next year (2014), folks in western New York state might see some stragglers from Brood VII (due 2018) for example.

This chart will give you an idea of when stragglers can be expected. The best bet is -4 years for 17 year broods, and +4 for 13 year broods.

Probability of Straggling

I’ve added straggler probabilities to this brood chart.

Note to self: read Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions by David Marshall.

Future projects:

There will be at least one more major crowd sourcing project coming soon. Stay tuned!

June 5, 2013

Urban Buzz 17-Year Cicada Citizen Science Project

Filed under: Brood II,Citizen Science,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 7:00 pm

Are you interested in participating in a cicada citizen science project? Check out: Urban Buzz: A 17-Year Cicada Citizen Science Project.

The folks behind the Your Wild Life website are hoping people will collect cicadas and send them to them for a science project to see how Urbanization impacts periodical cicadas.

They want samples from forests, from cities, from suburbs, from farms – in other words, across a gradient from low to high urbanization.

They have instructions on their site as to which cicadas to collect and where to send them.

Time is wasting though. The 17 year cicadas will only be around so long, so you have to act fast.

April 14, 2013

How you can help with temperature related periodical cicada research

Gene Kritsky is one of the leading periodical cicada researchers. He’s asked that we help with his research regarding temperature and cicada emergence. He needs to know the date that cicadas first emerge, and then the date when they appear in large numbers in a given locality. To contact Gene with your findings, email him at cdarwin@aol.com.

Here are the details:

I wanted to alert you to a paper that I published with Roy after Brood XIV. I had placed sensors at cicada depths in Roy’s backyard, and also hung others in the area trees. We recorded the temperatures at 10 minute intervals at all the locations. I was trying to find a weather model to predict soil temperatures without using probes. This would be cheaper for people wanting to monitor an impending emergence. This research is based on what potato farmers do to track the growth of their crop.

We found that the average of the running three day and two day mean temperatures was a good predictor of soil temps.

The formula along with the extended forecast can be used to forecast soil temperatures. Once we get the 64º F soil temps and a nice rain we got emergences. I am hoping to test this model again this year, which in part is why I emailing you. What I need to know is the date that cicadas first emerge, and then the date when they appear in large numbers in a given locality. I will then use weather data to check the soil model. Can you ask readers to send me that info? Many thanks.

You can find more details on the model at:

http://inside.msj.edu/academics/faculty/kritskg/cicada/Site/Estimating_soil_temperature.html

An easier way of getting to the details is to go to www.msj.edu/cicada and click on estimating soil temperatures. That site will also link them to John’s mapping page, activities for kids, etc.

Thank you for your help.

Gene Kritsky

More info about Gene Kritsky:

April 3, 2013

Cicada “Crowdsourcing”

Filed under: Brood II,Citizen Science,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 5:40 am

What is crowdsourcing? Here is what the Wikipedia says:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Often used to subdivide tedious work or to fund-raise startup companies and charities, this process can occur both online and offline.

There are two prominent cicada crowdsourcing efforts you can take part in!

First, there is the Cicada Tracker project:

The group Radiolab is hoping you’ll build what they call a cicada tracker. A cicada tracker will measure the temperature of the soil and report that back to Radiolab, to help estimate the arrival of the cicadas. Here is a short video about the project:

Throughout April there will be events where you can get to together with other cicada enthusiasts, and build cicada trackers. See their website for more details.

Second, there is Magicicada.org.

Magicicada.org is a website where you can report and map cicada emergences in your area. I strongly suggest that everyone visits that site to report their cicada sightings. Your reports will be used to build new and better maps of the periodical cicada populations in the U.S.A.

When you visit their site, look for this icon, click it and enter your report:

Report Icon

Information needed for the report include location (GPS coordinates, or simple street address), and what you observed: was it a nymph or adult, how many were there, etc. I think they’ll even have a Google maps interface to help you locate your sighting.

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