Neotibicen superbus photo by Sloan Childers from 2005. Round Rock, Texas.
Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.
Neotibicen superbus photo by Sloan Childers from 2005. Round Rock, Texas.
Vince Matson’s Neotibicen tibicen photos from 2005. Back in 2005 we called them Tibicen chloromerus. Location unknown.
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).
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:
Cicadas can damage their skin and innards by fling into and bouncing off walls:
A Neotibicen tibicen clinging to a cinderblock wall:
A Megatibicen auletes crawling on an illuminated sidewalk:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Today is September 21st, 2017 — the last day of Summer, in central New Jersey. Leaves of maple trees have started to turn scarlet and yellow. Oaks are dropping their acorns. The few, remaining Morning (Neotibicen tibicen tibicen) and Linne’s (Neotibicen linnei) cicadas sound decrepit and tired — like tiny breaking machines, low on fuel and oil. I found one dead Morning cicada lying on a sidewalk — its body crushed. Here in New Jersey, at least, the cicada season is all but over.
Molting Neotibicen tibicen tibicen in Little Silver, NJ. August 26st.
As cicada years go, this one had ups and downs. It wasn’t as awesome as 2016, but I can’t blame the cicadas.
Here’s some images from this summer:
Neotibicen tibicen tibicen with bad wing. The indigo color is fascinating. August 9th.
A Neotibicen tibicen tibicen found during a lunchtime stroll. September 1st.
A female Neotibicen canicularis or maybe pink N. linnei found in Little Silver, NJ. August 25th.
And last, the most popular post on the Cicada Mania Facebook page:
Back in the day — 1970s and earlier — people would sharpen scissors, knives, and tools rather than throw them out and buy new ones. A scissors grinder was a person who would sharpen your scissors for you. They used an abrasive wheel to grind your scissors sharp. The sound of the metal of a scissor gliding across the sharpening stone made a unique sound — a sound used to describe the sound some cicadas make.
These days (2017 when I wrote this article) scissors grinders are not a common sight or sound, but a few cicadas still have a common name referring to the scissor grinding days of yore. A few, but not all, are also Dusk Singers.
Neotibicen latifasciatus aka Coastal Scissor(s) Grinder Cicada. Found in FL, MD, NJ, NC, VA. Season: June – Fall. A day singer found along the coast.
N. latifasciatus Call*:
Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus aka Scissor(s) Grinder. Found in AL, AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, OH, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI. Season: June – September. Neotibicen pruinosus fulvus aka Pale Scissor(s) Grinder Cicada. Found in: KS, OK. Season: June – September. A Dusk Singer, very much like N. winnemanna but predominately west of the Appalachian mountains.
N. pruinosus Call*:
Neotibicen winnemanna aka Eastern Scissor(s) Grinder. Found in AL, DE, DC, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV. Season: June – Fall. A Dusk Singer, very much like N. pruinosus but predominately east of the Appalachian mountains.
N. winnemanna Call*:
It’s worth mentioning two similar cicadas, that don’t bear the “Scissors Grinder” name, but either sound similar or hybridize with Scissor Grinders.
Neotibicen robinsonianus aka Robinson’s Annual Cicada or Robinson’s Cicada. This cicada’s call is similar to Scissor Grinders in rhythm, but it has a duller sound/lower pitch (IMHO). Maybe it should be called the “Dull Scissor Grinder” (that is a joke). Found: AL, AR, DC, FL, GA, IN, KS, MD, MS, MO, NC, OH, PA, TN, TX, VA. Season: June-Fall.
N. robinsonianus Call*:
Neotibicen linnei aka Linne’s Cicada sounds nothing like the Scissors Grinders, but it is known to hybridize with Scissor Grinders. Found: AL, AR, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NY, NC, OH, ON, PA, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV, WI. Season: June – fall.
You might hear a hybrid Scissors Grinder with a call that features part of an N. Linnei call!
A pure (non hybrid) N. linnei Call for reference*:
The five cicadas mentioned on this page are part of a group informally known as the Green Neotibicen. They are closely genetically related.
Dusk is the time of day between sunset and night. Many species of Megatibicen & Neotibicen (formerly Tibicen) sing at this time. I’m not sure why they sing at this time — perhaps it helps them avoid audio competition with other singing insects, or perhaps it helps them avoid predators by calling at this specific time of the day.
If you find yourself outdoors in the eastern half of the U.S. after sunset and hear a cicada call, it is likely one of the following Megatibicen or Neotibicen species:
Megatibicen are LARGE and LOUD cicadas.
Megatibicen auletes aka the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada. This cicada can be found in these states: AL, AR, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI. Season: July to Fall.
M. auletes Call*:
Megatibicen figuratus aka the Fall Southeastern Dusk-singing Cicada. Found in: AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA. Season: July to Fall.
M. figuratus Call*:
Megatibicen resh aka Resh Cicada aka Western Dusk Singing Cicada. Found in: AR, KS, LA, MS, NE, OK, SC, TN, TX. Season: July to Fall.
M. resh Call*:
Megatibicen resonans aka Southern Resonant/Great Pine Barrens Cicada aka Southern Dusk Singing Cicada. Found in AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA. Season: July to Fall.
M. resonans Call*:
Medium-sized, green cicadas with calls that sound like the rhythmic grinding of a scissor on a sharpening wheel (not a common tool in the 21st century).
Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus aka Scissor(s) Grinder. Found in AL, AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, OH, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WV, WI. Season: June – September. Neotibicen pruinosus fulvus aka Pale Scissor(s) Grinder Cicada. Found in: KS, OK. Season: June – September.
N. pruinosus Call*:
Neotibicen winnemanna aka Eastern Scissor(s) Grinder. Found in AL, DE, DC, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV. Season: June – Fall.
N. winnemanna Call*:
Photo credit: N. canicularis (Dog-Day cicada) and N. davisi (Southern Dog-Day cicada) by Paul Krombholz. N. superbus by Sloan Childers.
Dog-day cicada is the common name given to Tibicen (now Neotibicen) type cicadas in North America. These cicadas are called “Dog Day” because they are typically observed during the “Dog Days of Summer“, which fall somewhere between late July to early September, or once the “Dog Star” Sirius appears in the morning sky. All Neotibicen species are present during the month of August in North America.
Dog-day cicadas are known for their green, brown, black & white coloration that provides them with excellent camouflage in the trees they inhabit.
Dog-day cicada is used generally to describe most Neotibicen, but a few species are explicitly named Dog-day:
Photo credit: Neotibicen superbus by Sloan Childers
These cicadas do not actually appear the moment Sirius rises, and when they do appear depends on your location and the weather. Neotibicen canicularis will appear in Arkansas before it appears in Quebec. That said, if you are curious when Sirius will rise in your area, search for “heliacal rising of sirius” — it varies about a day per degree of latitude. Neotibicen, depending on the species, can be found from May to December (December in Florida), but all Neotibicen species are present during the month of August in North America.
A new subspecies of the Similar Dog-Day Cicada has been described in the paper A new Neotibicen cicada subspecies (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from the southeastern USA forms hybrid zones with a widespread relative despite a divergent male calling song by David C. Marshall and Kathy B. R. Hill (Zootaxa, Vol 4272, No 4). The cicada is named Neotibicen similaris apalachicola.
This cicada lives in Florida, Georgia & Alabama, and hybridizes with the other Similar Dog-Day Cicada sub-speces, Neotibicen similaris similaris. The document is available on biotaxa.org.
A morphologically cryptic subspecies of Neotibicen similaris (Smith and Grossbeck) is described from forests of the Apalachicola region of the southeastern United States. Although the new form exhibits a highly distinctive male calling song, it hybridizes extensively where it meets populations of the nominate subspecies in parapatry, by which it is nearly surrounded. This is the first reported example of hybridization between North American nonperiodical cicadas. Acoustic and morphological characters are added to the original description of the nominate subspecies, and illustrations of complex hybrid song phenotypes are presented. The biogeography of N. similaris is discussed in light of historical changes in forest composition on the southeastern Coastal Plain.
You will find song samples and maps on the Insect Singers website.
I think this is an image of the new cicada:
— Zootaxa updates (@Zootaxa) May 31, 2017
For some reason I associate “Giga” with “Gigabytes” and storage media like Flash drives, which explains this joke image.
Over the past two years there have been quite a few updates to the genera of the cicadas that were organized under the Tibicen genus earlier this decade.
The most recent paper by Young June Lee introduces the genera Gigatibicen, Ameritibicen, and Paratibicen 1. Earlier this year there was a paper by Allen Sanborn and Maxine Heath that introduced the genus Megatibicen 3, and in 2015 there was a paper by Kathy Hill and others that introduced Neotibicen and Hadoa 2.
See the end of the article for links to these papers, and related articles on CicadaMania.com.
The table below shows the names/synonyms (sub species have been removed to keep the table compact):
|(Tibicen circa 2014)||Hill (2015)2||Sanborn, Heath (2016)3||Lee (2016)1|
|Tibicen auletes||Neotibicen auletes||Megatibicen auletes||Gigatibicen auletes|
|Tibicen auriferus||Neotibicen auriferus||no change||no change|
|Tibicen canicularis||Neotibicen canicularis||no change||no change|
|Tibicen cultriformis||Neotibicen cultriformis||Megatibicen cultriformis||Ameritibicen cultriformis|
|Tibicen davisi davisi||Neotibicen davisi||no change||no change|
|Tibicen dealbatus||Neotibicen dealbatus||Megatibicen dealbatus||Ameritibicen dealbatus|
|Tibicen dorsatus||Neotibicen dorsatus||Megatibicen dorsatus||Ameritibicen dorsatus|
|Tibicen figuratus||Neotibicen figuratus||Megatibicen figuratus||Ameritibicen figuratus|
|Tibicen latifasciatus||Neotibicen latifasciatus||no change||no change|
|Tibicen linnei||Neotibicen linnei||no change||no change|
|Tibicen lyricen engelhardti||Neotibicen lyricen||no change||no change|
|Tibicen pronotalis pronotalis||Neotibicen pronotalis||Megatibicen pronotalis||Ameritibicen pronotalis|
|Tibicen pruinosus fulvus||Neotibicen pruinosus||no change||no change|
|Tibicen resh||Neotibicen resh||Megatibicen resh||Gigatibicen resh|
|Tibicen resonans||Neotibicen resonans||Megatibicen resonans||Gigatibicen resonans|
|Tibicen robinsonianus||Neotibicen robinsonianus||no change||no change|
|Tibicen similaris||Neotibicen similaris||no change||Paratibicen similaris|
|Tibicen superbus||Neotibicen superbus||no change||no change|
|Tibicen tibicen australis||Neotibicen tibicen||no change||no change|
|Tibicen tremulus||Neotibicen tremulus||Megatibicen tremulus||Ameritibicen tremulus|
|Tibicen winnemanna||Neotibicen winnemanna||no change||no change|
|Tibicen bifidus||Hadoa bifida||no change||no change|
|Tibicen chiricahua||Hadoa chiricahua||no change||no change|
|Tibicen duryi||Hadoa duryi||no change||no change|
|Tibicen inauditus||Hadoa inaudita||no change||no change|
|Tibicen longioperculus||Hadoa longiopercula||no change||no change|
|Tibicen neomexicensis||Hadoa neomexicensis||no change||no change|
|Tibicen parallelus||Hadoa parallela||no change||no change|
|Tibicen simplex||Hadoa simplex||no change||no change|
|Tibicen texanus||Hadoa texana||no change||no change|
|Tibicen townsendii||Hadoa townsendii||no change||no change|