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August 31, 2016

An early start to Australia’s cicada season

Filed under: Australia | Cystosoma | Nathan Emery — Dan @ 5:56 am

Cicada researcher and photographer Nathan Emery found his first Bladder Cicada (Cystosoma saundersii) for the year. See this iNaturalist page. It is still winter there, so this is particular interesting.

A Bladder cicada looks like this (Cystosoma saundersii):

Bladder cicadas (Cystosoma saundersii)
Photo by David Emery.

Read more about this cicada on Dr. Pop’s website.

August 29, 2016

Neotibicen latifasciatus – the South Jersey Shore Screamer

Filed under: Elias Bonaros | Neotibicen — Tags: — Dan @ 9:05 pm

This is a Neotibicen latifasciatus (Davis, 1915) commonly known as the Coastal Scissor Grinder, locally known as a Yodeling Cedar Sucker in Florida and Beach Banshee in North Carolina 3:

Dorsal view of two latifasciatus males

See more photos.

The holotype — a single type specimen on which the description of a new species is based — for the cicada Neotibicen latifasciatus was gathered from Cold Spring, Cape May County1. I feel that N. latifasciatus needs a common name indicative of Cape May, New Jersey. Here are my ideas:

  1. Cape May Crooner
  2. Cape May Crier
  3. Cape May Car Alarm
  4. Shore Shrieker
  5. Woodbine Warbler
  6. South Jersey Shore Screamer

The last one is my favorite (changed it to South ;))

N. latifasciatus is a cicada found along the east coast of the United States, and is known for its preference for cedar trees. It can be found in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia2, Florida and points in between3. Its affinity for cedar trees (plus its distinct call) makes it relatively easy to locate and capture — if you’re willing to get a little messy climbing through the thick & sticky branches of a cedar tree. A thin mist of sap from the cedar seems to coat the wings of these cicadas, and it’s worth mentioning that their wings are often torn and ragged, probably resulting from the thick cedar foliage.

When William T. Davis first described N. latifasciatus in 19154, he described it as a variety of Cicada pruinosa (now Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus). This is understandable, since they sound very much alike, and look alike except for the the white bands on the sides of the latifasciatus, some other minor morphological differences, and habitats. pruinosus, latifasciatus, winnemanna, linnei, canicularis, and robinsonianus are collectively known as the Green [Neo]tibicen Species3 or simply “the Green Group”.They’re called Green because much of their heads, collars, pronotums and mesonotums are green in color.

On Saturday, August 20th, 2016, I met Elias Bonaros and Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira in Middle Township, Cape May County to search for latifasciatus. I arrived before they did and located a relatively quiet road lined with cedar trees, filled with screaming latifasciatus. From the outside cedars resemble twisting green fire; on the inside they’re a mess of tightly-packed, dirty branches — perfect for an insect to hide. The road and trees were surrounded by briny marshland, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. Other than cicadas, there were an abundance of annoying greenhead flies (Tabanus nigrovittatus), and not annoying at all katydids. The temperature was in the mid 80s, the air was humid, the sun was brutal, and the flies thought I was delicious. In the 5 hours we spent photographing and gathering specimens, I drank a gallon of water. Elias handled cicada procurement duties, and Annette and I recorded the cicadas’ song and habitat.

Here’s a video summary of our adventure:

After a satisfying lunch, I went looking for other locations and found a very different but prime in-land location with taller cedar (Red and White varieties) in Woodbine Borough. There we found many exuvia, which we did not find at the other location, and heard not only latifasciatus, but also N. linnei, N. tibicen tibicen, N. canicularis, and N. auletes. Around 9pm, and almost 12 hours of cicada field-work, I called it quits. Elias and Annette stuck around and were able to observe molting latifasciatus.

The ventral side a male Neotibicen latifasciatus:
Neotibicen latifasciatus abdomen

This cicada was captured using the “clap” method of netting cicadas. This method involves two people using two nets, surrounding the cicada so it can’t find an escape path.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how delightful the people of Cape May County are. All the folks we encountered were pleasantly curious or encouraging about our cicada research activities. They also have “Custard” shops instead of Ice Cream shops.

Also check out Annette’s YouTube channel for video of the latifasciatus habitat and song.

1 Sanborn AF, Phillips PK. 2013. Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico. Diversity 2013, 5, 166-239.

2 Sanborn AF, Heath MS. 2012. The Cicadas (Hemipetera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae) of North America North of Mexico. Entomological Society of America. 45.

3 BugGuide Species Neotibicen latifasciatus page.

4 Davis WT. 1915a. Notes on some cicadas from the eastern and central United States with a description of a new variety of Cicada pruinosa. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 23: 1—10. (see the North American Cicadas page)

July 25, 2016

Annual Cicada Hunt in Manchester, New Jersey

Filed under: Elias Bonaros | Neotibicen — Tags: , — Dan @ 8:34 pm

Neotibicen auletes

Since 2013 I’ve met Elias Bonaros and Annette DeGiovine in Manchester, New Jersey to search for the cicada Neotibicen auletes. It has become an annual tradition.

M. auletes is the largest cicada in the Americas, they have a particularly arresting call, and are a beautiful lime green when recently molted. They are definitely worth taking the time to find.

Locating and observing cicadas in northern States can be particularly vexing because they are far less abundant, and much of their habitat has been eliminated to make way for the ever-growing, densely-packed human population. It is a treat any time we can find and observe a living cicada specimen up-close. If you’re the type who likes to travel to observe cicadas, New Jersey is not a great place to start on the east coast. Southern states, starting at North Carolina to Florida are your best bets, in terms of species diversity and abundance. If you’re a collector, be aware of local laws — for instance, collecting in Florida is completely forbidden.

This year’s adventure began around 7:15pm when I arrived at the mini-mall where Caballero’s Pizzeria is located (Manchester, NJ on Route 70). Part of the tradition is to have a few slices of pizza, and after four years the owner knows who we are. The mini-mall the pizzeria is located in is bordered on the right by a sandy-soil pine & oak forest, and in front by two small groves of tall oaks & pines. Oddly, the ground of these groves has been covered with a back mesh tarp, which completely prevents underbrush growth. This doesn’t seem to deter cicadas from emerging, but I’m skeptical that future generations of cicadas will find the smaller plant roots they need during the early stages of life.

At 7:15pm the small and beautiful Neocicada hieroglyphica cicadas were singing from many trees in groves and forest (they would continue singing to around 9pm, well past sunset). Around 7:30pm Neotibicen linnei began to join them.

Elias and Annette arrived shortly before sunset, around 8pm, giving them time and daylight to scout the grounds for deceased adult specimens and exuvia (molted skins); oddly none were found. Neotibicen auletes calls at dusk, right after sunset. On queue multiple N. auletes began calling from the trees in the groves and forest, like a soloist overpowering the lesser vocalists and instruments around him, N. auletes are the divas of the New Jersey cicada opera.

Elias photographing an auletes:
Elias Bonaros

Teneral Neotibicen auletes 3

Teneral Neotibicen auletes 4

Teneral Neotibicen auletes

No exuvia or dead N. auletes was found, but the many calls we heard were encouraging. Once night fell we began to search the local area for emerging nymphs and molting adults. After a long search Elias found a single female auletes molting on the side of a school. Three hours of searching only yeilded one cicada — for those who have experienced periodical cicada emergences, or those who live in areas with an abundance of annual species, a lone cicada would be very disappointing. For Elias, Annette and I, finding a lone (locally) rare cicada, was not disappointing at all.

The funniest moment of the night came when a local policeman asked us if we were hunting Pokemon! Of course we were not — we were hunting cicadas. A little harder to explain, and probably more fun.

Video from the trip:

Previous Manchester NJ auletes adventures:

June 25, 2016

My 2016 Brood V Experience

Filed under: Brood V | John Cooley | Magicicada | Matt Berger | Periodical — Tags: , , — Dan @ 11:20 am

Magicicada exuvia on an oak leaf_sm
Many exuvia clinging to oak leaves. Core Arboretum, WVU.

My plan was to check out Maryland first, then head to West Virginia for a few days, and then Ohio. If weather, time and patience allowed, Virginia and Long Island, New York. Like all my periodical cicada trips I start by consulting the map on Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org) to see where folks are finding cicadas. I also consult with the folks who study periodical cicadas professionally to discover their favorite hot spots and any locations of particular scientific interest. This year, the interesting spot was north-western Maryland — more on that later.

Generally speaking, you’ll see a lot of pin-drops for Magicicada cassini on the map. This is because you can hear them while driving at 70mph. You often have to stop your car and turn off the engine to hear the other species, so even though there’s lots of M. cassini on the map, there’s probably just as much M. septendecim. Generally speaking, my mapping methodology works like this: I stop and take notes when I can (usually at rest stops, parks or when I’m staying in a particular town — see Morgantown & Athens later in the article) and this is when I’ll hear M. septendecim & M. septendecula, but when I’m driving interstate highways at high speeds (with a parade of angry drivers who would rather tailgate me that use the left lane to go around me) I can only take data points for M. cassini.

What do I bring with me on a seven-day cicada road trip? Aside from clothes, road food, smartphone, and my AAA card, I bring equipment to aide my study of cicadas:

  • A junk computer. A decrepit laptop that I won’t care if it gets stolen.
  • A video camera.
  • A device for measuring sound level (decibels).
  • A notepad and pen (because technology fails).
  • Butterfly pavilions, which are these expandable enclosures for holding and observing insects.
  • Containers for holding dead specimens, and silica gel to keep them dry. Note: before you collect, make sure it is legal in the location you plan to collect. Collecting wildlife from National Parks is illegal. Collecting cicadas from a Hampton Inn parking lot is usually okay.
  • Suntan lotion and Bug Spray. I like insects, but ticks and mosquitos can turn cicada observation into a nightmare. Many researchers wear pyrethrum treated clothes (yes, bad for cats).
  • A flashlight.
  • Cicada Mania pins for folks I meet along the way.

What I don’t bring but should is one of John Cooley’s Cicada O Matic GPS Dataloggers. I have to make observations by hand.

Other than that, I follow the typical Power Vacation rules.

Maryland Part 1:

The first town I hit was Accident, Maryland (great name). There were sightings on the Cicadas @ UCONN map, and the name of the town was awesome, so I wanted to check it out. Unfortunately, I didn’t observe any cicadas there.

Route 68, West Virginia

Traveling west along Route 68, about half-way between the center of Bruceton Mills and Coopers Rock State Forest I started to hear pockets of M. cassini. I stopped at Coopers Rock, and at first, I was disappointed: I didn’t hear any cicadas from my car. Once I stopped my car and turned off the engine I could hear them: M. septendecim with their spooky sci-fi UFO chorus in the distance. It became obvious that the park had a healthy population of M. septendecim, with a smattering of M. cassini as well.

Morgantown, WV

Next, I arrived at Morgantown, WV. Some twitter friends had been posting cicada photos from there, so I thought it would be a good location to set up base and make observations for a few days. The hotel I chose had an excellent population of M. septedecim and cassini around it; so much so that the staff couldn’t keep up with unwanted cicada guests that littered their doorway, trampled by oblivious human guests.

My first day there I walked around the West Virginia University campus near the hospital, stadium & iHop. The sky was overcast and it was getting late in the afternoon, but it was clear that the campus and town had an abundance of periodical cicadas, and that I made a good choice in setting up camp there. At night, in my hotel parking lot, I was able to watch cicadas emerge as nymphs as transform into adults, which is always a highlight of an emergence for me.

WVU Core Arboretum

Core Arboretum is a large botanical garden devoted to trees (“arbor”) on the WVU campus. It was an excellent place to observe cicadas. I was able to observe all three species, the tiny but LOUD M. cassini, the larger & relatively docile M. septendecim, and the rarest of the species M. septendecula. Finding M. septendecula so early in my trip was a treat. Their clockwork/tambourine sound (at least that’s what I think they sound like) gave them away.

I met entomologists Matt Berger, who has contributed many cicada photos to this site over the years, and his colleague HereBeSpiders11 (twitter name). Awesome people. I met Zachariah Fowler, the director of the arboretum as well. Another awesome person.

Magicicada white eyes
A white-eyed Magicicada septendecim.

I was able to check off many of my cicada checklist items in Morgantown: I found a white-eyed cicada, I saw & heard all three species, and more.

Leaving West Virginia, Entering Ohio

M. cassini were plentiful along route 79 and 50 headed west towards Athens, Ohio. Along the way, I made a few stops and heard & observed some M. septendecim as well.

Athens, Ohio

Athens was another good location to stay and observe cicadas. The parks in the surrounding area had excellent cicada populations, and I had a rare chance to meet John Cooley of Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org).

My first day in Athens I spent at Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park. There I met John Cooley who was there showing a German film crew the particulars of cicada behavior. Dow Lake had a healthy mix of LOUD M. cassini and M. septendecim, but the cassini definitely dominated. The highlight for me was not a cicada, but spotting a rat snake climbing down from an acacia tree where it was no-doubt snacking on cicadas.

Sells Park in Athens was a nice place to hear VERY LOUD M. cassini choruses, well into the high 80-90db mark. So loud that I limited my time there, and left after an hour.

Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is an amazing park north of Athens than features a spectacular above-ground cave and many acres of forest filled with cicadas. Hocking Hills had a good population of all three species, and M. septendecula were unusually easy to find. They seem to have preferred areas where deciduous trees blended with evergreens, at least in the locations I found.

Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest

A Magicicada cassini chorus from the Experimental Forest:

A Magicicada chorus with audible M. septendecula from the Experimental Forest:

Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest is a forest curated to include as much biological diversity as possible. All three periodical cicada species make up part of that diversity. M. septendcula choruses were very easy to find. The forest was thrilling to visit — aside from the biting deer flies, it was exhilarating to see or hear so many species of insects, birds, and plants in one place. Also, thrilling were the winding one-lane dirt roads; I almost died a few times thanks to wild drivers out for a pretend Finland Rally race.

Back to Maryland

After an overnight stop back in Morgantown, WV, I headed back to Maryland to prove (or disprove) that periodical cicadas were there, and if I did find them, the extent of their population. It is important to show the limits of their population as researchers (John Cooley in particular) are interested in demonstrating that the Brood V population in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia & Maryland is distinct from the population in Virginia.

I’m happy to report that I did find periodical cicadas in Maryland. The populations were mostly the relatively quieter M. septendecim — the type you really have to stop the car & turn off the engine to be certain they’re there. I did find M. cassini as well, but M. septendecim dominated. The adorably named Friendsville and Selbysport had good populations, as did the hill above the Youghiogheny river overlook rest stop on I68. South of this area, I did not hear or see cicadas on Bear Creek Road, Rt 42, Rt 219 or Rt 495. It is possible there are pockets of cicadas deep in the woods and out of earshot in those areas, but it is clear there was no great population of periodical cicadas in those areas if any at all. I spoke to a chainsaw bear sculptor in Bittinger, which is not far from where the Appalachian Plateau ends & the Ridge and Valley area starts. I showed him a photo of a periodical cicada. He said he had never seen them in his life, and nor did he see them in Accident where he went to church. He did hear about them on the news, so he was aware of them.

Maryland

Pennsylvania, and home

After collecting cicada data and buying a chainsaw bear, I headed north into Pennsylvania. I stopped at a rest stop, enjoyed the last I would hear of Brood V, and headed back home.

More!

June 15, 2016

Periodical cicada photos and video from Brood V

Filed under: Brood V | Magicicada | Matt Berger | Periodical | Video — Dan @ 6:30 pm

I took a lot of cicada photos and video when I traveled to Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio. Matt Berger also contributed a gallery of cicada photos to the site.

Some of my photos:

Red and Orange eyes; Brood V

Magicicada exuvia on an oak leaf_sm

Magicicada white eyes

Photos of the Brood V emergence by Matt Berger.

A sample of Matt’s photos. Click/tab for larger versions:

A Variety of Eye Colors by Matt Berger

A Variety of Eye Colors by Matt Berger. Brood V.

Gray Eyed Cicada Up Close by Matt Berger

Gray Eyed Cicada Up Close by Matt Berger. Brood V.

Molting Cicadas:

Magicicada with White Eyes:

More videos.

May 7, 2016

Magicicada Media Faux Pas

Filed under: Chris Simon | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 7:38 am

cicada invasion

The media (news papers, bloggers, etc.) sometimes use terms to describe cicadas, and periodical cicada emergences, that range from simply incorrect to grossly hyperbolic. It is unclear if they do this to match reader expectations, to get more clicks, to write a more entertaining article, or simply because they don’t have all the facts. It bothers me when the media uses a photo or video of the wrong species, which is why I have the use the correct image page.

What media mistakes have you witnessed? Let us know in the comments.

Professor Chris Simon, of the University of Connecticut Simon Lab, is one of the premier cicada experts in the world. She provided us with her list of Magicicada Media Faux Pas (below). How many of these have you seen? Can you think of more?

Incorrect Descriptive Words

  • “swarm” They don’t swarm—i.e. fly around in large groups.
  • “invasion” They don’t invade. They have been there the whole time.
  • “plague”
    They are not a plague like grasshoppers that come in and eat everything–they don’t chew leaves. They suck.
  • “overrun” Implies that they are imposing us when in fact we are much more of an imposition on them–clearing their trees and building Walmarts on top of them.

Here are some more funny ones…

  • “lurking underground” They are not lurking or threatening, they are innocently feeding on tree roots.
  • “hatching out of the ground” They don’t hatch out of the ground, they hatched from eggs in tree branches 17years ago.

April 30, 2016

Brood V Periodical Cicada Molting

Filed under: Brood V | Matt Berger — Dan @ 3:23 pm

Frequent Cicada Mania contributor Matt Berger sent us these video clips of a periodical cicada molting and expanding its wings. Enjoy:

If you find a nymph, and bring it inside, it will likely molt.

64 Degrees Fahrenheit Eight Inches Deep

Filed under: James Edward Heath | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 1:22 am

hot under the exoskeleton

Soil temperature triggers periodical cicada emergences:

James Edward Heath in his paper Thermal Synchronization of Emergence in Periodical “17-year” Cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada)1 discovered that periodical cicadas will emerge, on average, when the soil 8 inches below the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit:

Soil temperature at 20-cm [7.87 in] depth in seven locations averaged 17.89 C [64.202 F] at the time of emergence, regardless of date. Cicadas emerging from burrows had average body temperatures of 18.04 C [64.472 F]. Synchrony in emergence may be due to animals reaching a critical threshold temperature.

The soil warms their bodies and that triggers the cicadas to emerge.

A warm rain, which will seep into the earth and warm the bodies of cicadas, can trigger a “particularly intensive” emergence.

Alexander and Moore (1962) noted that emergences were particularly intensive following warm rains ( > 2 0 C ? ). I believe this suggests that the soil temperature probably was near emergence temperature and the heat transported by the water percolating into the ground warmed the soil sufficiently to raise soil temperature above the emergence threshold.

Some unanswered questions I have are: 1) how long does the temperature have to be 64°F+ – just a moment, or a certain number of hours, and 2) because we know not all cicadas emerge instantaneously, what is the maximum temperature that for certain will clear them from the soil?

This is an example of a temperature probe use to study the emergence temperature of cicadas. The probe in this picture is held by cicada researcher Gene Kritsky:
Gene Kristsky's Cicada Thermometer

Note that males typically emerge before females and that the larger ‘decim species emerge before the smaller cassini species.

For a more modern, crowd-sourced study of this see the radiolab Cicada Tracker project.

I think I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t own a temperature probe, how can I guess when the temperature is 64°F 8” below the soil? Direct sunlight, air temperature, and rain warms the soil. Southern facing land will warm sooner than northern facing land. Land in direct sunlight will warm faster than land in shade. Rainfall on an 80°+ day will quickly do the trick, but two weeks of temps in the 70°’s should work as well. So keep an eye on the 10-day weather forecast and watch for those days in the 70s, and especially the 80s.

Minimum Flight Temperature:
Their body temperature needs to be a little warmer than that to fly. Their minimum flight temperature (MFT) is 18-21°C / 65-70°F. The temperature varies depending on the Brood and species. They’ll need a few more degrees before they’re fully functional, and start singing and mating.

So, until their bodies are about 72°F (“room temperature”) they won’t be flying, singing and mating.

Maximum voluntary tolerance temperature:
Maximum voluntary tolerance temperature (MVT) for periodical cicadas is 31-34°C / 88-93°F, again depending on Brood and species. Maximum voluntary tolerance is the point at which cicadas seek shade and when thermoregulation takes precedence over other behaviors.

See Thermal responses of periodical cicadas: within and between brood parity (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada spp.) and Thermoregulation by Endogenous Heat Production in Two South American Grass Dwelling Cicadas (Homoptera: Cicadidae: Proarna) for more information.

1 Thermal Synchronization of Emergence in Periodical “17-year” Cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada) by James Edward Heath, American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 80, No. 2. (Oct., 1968), pp. 440-448.

April 28, 2016

Cicadettana calliope floridensis (Davis, 1920)

Filed under: Cicadettana | William T. Davis — Dan @ 8:49 pm

Cicadettana calliope floridensis (Davis, 1920)

April 27, 2016

Clidophleps blaisdellii (Uhler, 1892)

Filed under: Clidophleps | Philip Reese Uhler — Dan @ 9:09 pm

Clidophleps blaisdellii (Uhler, 1892)

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