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May 10, 2021

The Cicada Olympics: Engaging Kids in Live Insect Activities

Filed under: Books | Community Science — Dan @ 10:49 am

Hey! There’s a new cicada book out for Kids. Looks fun. The Cicada Olympics: Engaging Kids in Live Insect Activities. by Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Smith, Ph.D. & Richard Grover. It is available on Kindle or Paperback.

Description of the book:

In 2021, a special kind of cicada will emerge – the Brood X. This is the first time these cicadas will dig out of the soil in 17 years! This book, by Cindy Smith, Ph.D. and Richard Groover, Ph.D., will equip you with age-appropriate information to make this a fun learning opportunity for your children. The authors have made the learning activities streamlined and easy to implement for individuals and groups. Within these pages, you’ll find: 13 fun cicada activities with instructions and materials list, parent and volunteer information, cicada jokes, pictures, and online resources

May 3, 2021

Be cautious and considerate when looking for Brood X cicadas

Filed under: Brood X | Community Science — Dan @ 6:34 pm

Brood X will emerge in 2021, and people will want to travel to see and hear them. Should you decide to travel to witness Brood X or any cicada emergence in the U.S., be cautious and considerate of the following:

Be respectful of private property

Periodical cicadas thrive in neighborhoods and campuses with old hardwood trees and grass lawns, as you’ll find in places like Princeton, New Jersey. Don’t traipse and trample onto private property without permission and always visit local parks, instead of neighborhoods, when possible.

Observe local laws and customs

This should go without saying: obey local laws. Do not: litter, trespass, speed, j-walk, etc. Don’t give cicada fans a bad name.

Be prepared to practice social distancing and to wear a mask, even if just as a courtesy. I noticed that even outdoors in public parks, people in New Jersey wear masks.

Do not bring Spotted Lanternflies home with you

Spotted Lanternflies are true bugs, just like cicadas, but they are very, very destructive pests and an “invasive species”. Like the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website says, they “cause serious damage including oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and dieback in trees, vines, crops and many other types of plants”! They kill the trees cicadas call home.

Pennsylvania and western New Jersey are loaded with Spotted Lanternflies, so if you travel to those states to see Brood X cicadas, make sure you check your vehicle and belongings for Lanternfly hitchhikers. Don’t bring them home with you. At this time of year, I believe they are still in their black phase.

Spotted Lanternfly Sign
This sign is downloadable from the USDA website.

And squash them all — for the good of the forest and cicadas.

More info at the USDA website.

Protect yourself from ticks

Long Island (NY), New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nearby states are loaded with Lyme Disease carrying Blacklegged/Deer Ticks. I’ve known people who have Lyme Disease and it practically ruined their lives. Unfortunately, ticks are found in the same areas as cicadas, like parks, yards, and forests. The CDC website has tips for preventing tick bites on people that I highly recommend you read and follow their tips. I personally wear pyrethrum-treated clothes when outdoors in New Jersey.

From the CSC.gov website:
Lyme Ticks

May 1, 2019

Cicada Safari app for tracking Magicicada periodical cicadas

Filed under: Community Science | Gene Kritsky | Identify | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 9:28 pm

Cicada Safari App Frequently Asked Questions:

Cicada Safari App

Who created the Cicada Safari app?

Who do I speak to when the app is not working?

Probably Gene Kritsky and the Center for IT Engagement is your best route. Be polite. The app has 250,000 users and only a handful of people to approve cicada sightings.

Who is Gene Kritsky?

Gene is the Charles Lester Marlatt of the 21st century. Gene is a periodical cicada expert, researcher & professor. Buy his latest book, Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition, now.

How do I download the app for my Apple or Android device?

Choose wisely: Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

How many people have downloaded the app?

As of June 1st 2021, over 250,000 people have downloaded the app.

Can I access the app data from a web browser?

Yes, you can! See a map of sightings from the Cicada Safari app.

Does the app have a website?

Of course the app has a website. Here’s the website.

What can I do with the app?

Judging by screenshots of the app, it looks like you can 1) identify cicadas, 2) take a photo and share it, 3) map the location where you found it, 4) compete with other cicada scientists for the most cicadas found. Looks that way at least. The app lets you submit cicadas photos of any species.

I’m not in the United States, so what app should I use instead?

Try the iNaturalist apps.

I don’t want to use an app. Can I send reports via email?

Not that I know of, but you can always ask Gene Kritsky. Feel free to leave a comment on this website or the Facebook Cicada Discussion Group.

Is Cicada Mania affiliated with the Cicada Safari app?

Cicada Mania is not affiliated with the Cicada Safari app. Cicada Mania is not paid to endorse or promote it. We promote it because we like it.

September 3, 2018

Looking for adult cicadas at night

Filed under: Community 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:
Neotibicen auletes nymph

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: Community 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: Community 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, the largest cicada in North America

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: Community 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.

Some video of cicada flagging:

A photo of flagging:

Periodical Cicada Flagging

May 13, 2014

Cicadas, Social Media and Community Science

Filed under: Community 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

Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org) Mapping Project

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

Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org)

Citizen Science Projects

Want to participate in a cicada community 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: 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

June 8, 2013

More crowd sourcing opportunities for cicada community scientists

I created a category for community scientist crowd sourcing projects. These are projects for you, the people, who want to help cicada researchers & scientists study cicadas.

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 chart from Chris Simon

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!

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