Cicada Mania

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

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July 31, 1998

Cicada Mail from July 1998

Filed under: Mail, Comments & Social — Dan @ 8:59 am


Cicada Sounds On CD

Hello there- I must first thank you for your site! It really has helped me a lot in my searching and I even learned a little more about these little critters. I have a few questions and was hoping that you could point me in the correct direction or know someone who might have the answers. I currently live in eastern PA and before that lived in CT and have developed quite an affection for the cicada song(s) of the Tibicen Chloromera specifically that day time “sprinkler” type sound. I was wondering if anyone has made a CD of this, I find the song quite relaxing and have yet to find one in any nature store or on the web. My second question is about a night time song by what I am told is a cicada but have been unable to identify from my searching on the web. Its more of a “chick chick chick” that seems to be almost always done in threes. I am particuarly interested in finding a CD recording of this insect so I can play it to drown out the noise of the cars that pass by my now treeless window! Thanks for any help that you can give me. peace [Ed: If anyone knows of a CD of Tibicen song, please let us know.]
— Mike Allen (7/30)

Cicada Mystery Solved!

I’ve lived in Georgia many years. Had the same house 7 years, so I know what a cicada looks/sounds like. Last week I found 2 dead cicadas on my front deck/doorstep. Bright green, in perfect condition. Threw them away. Next day I found 2 more. The day after, 3 more. All appeared in the same 2×2 foot area in front of my doormat. After a couple days, I started lining the bodies up on my porch rail. What a mystery! Where were they coming from, as I have no trees for say 20 yards and am mostly concrete and low planted hedges in a condo neighborhood. It finally came to Saturday, and I kept a close watch outside to be sure no cats/kids were playing pranks (none of either nearby anyway, but I wanted to rule out possibilities). About once an hour, I’d find another body and line it up. My porch rail was pretty gruesome (they turned black in the 95 degree heat), and I’m fearful of bugs, so this was getting out of hand. I tried to look under the deck with a flashlight, but a loud buzz nearly gave me a heart attack. It wasn’t a cicada, but an enormous, evil looking black and yellow wasp. I gave up, went inside and checked out my insect books: looks like dog-day cicadas are dying on my doorstep. But why? Today I boxed up the corpses and went to the Natural History Museum (conveniently located next door to my office building) and got an ID of dog-day cicada and their life history from the friendly entomology man. Still a mystery why I’d never seen them in years past and why they were all by the doormat. Falling off the roof? Nah. Slamming into the sunlit glass storm door? Maybe. Hatching out, nah. Poison, maybe. Then I mentioned the wasp. Bingo. Apparently I have a cicada killer under my deck, and she’s pulling the bodies into her burrows. Only some bodies don’t fit between the wood planks! And apparently they aren’t bodies, but merely paralyzed until they die underground! But there’s a happy ending…. all the corpses I collected will be used by the campus art dept who gives individual specimens to the ‘scientific illustration’ classes.
— Sylvia Elliot (7/27)

French Cicadas

I just returned from the South of France – in the area of Cannes – and was very impressed by the din of “crickets.” Someone mentioned to me that they might have been cicada. Can you tell me of their presence in that part of the world? Thank you. [Unfortunately, Cicada Mania’s knowledge of French Cicadas is weak. If anyone would like to pass along some information, please do.]
— Deborah de Savignon (7/24)

Cicada Memories

Hey I found your site tonight and was very happy to find it. I moved into my moms house last august to help her out. I found the cicada shells lined up on the pine tree. This year they are again coming out, and tonight I actually got to see one just after it had come out, its wings were spread out. Do you know how long it takes from the time the cicada climbs up till he flies off? Does it only happen at night? I find the shells in the morning. I think they are awesome. I remember being down south in Maryland many years ago, and the cyclical cicadas were in full force. They were as thick as flies, and you could hear them pinging against the picture window in the hotel we stayed in. They’re bodies were everywhere and trees were stripped. It was awesome, I was about 12 and was terrified when we pulled up and these huge bugs were “attacking” the car. No one seemed to be afraid of them but me….I had never seen a bug that big in my life. As the week went on I became less fearful, but thankful for the cloudy day, when they didn’t seem to be as thick. The noise was a constant hum. Quite a lesson. So here I am some 30 years later finally enjoying these magnificent “bugs”. Thanks for your site!
— maureen (7/18)

Natural Souvenirs

When I was a kid in the early- to mid-Seventies I used to collect cicada nymph shells (but I lovingly called them “grub shells” much to the dismay of all around me). Each summer I ravenously scoured the neighborhood trees (in Scottsdale, Arizona) and pulled countless nymph skins off the bark. I had jars of them. Labeled by year. They all eventually collapsed under their own weight and turned into a formless powdery substance, but to me they were like treasure — like golden nuggets. I don’t know why, but I eventually lost interest in this activity; I think it had to do with a move to a different neighborhood and the onset of the video game revolution (founding member, here), but today the sounds of cicada singing still make me think of this activity — and I have this urge to go out there and collect a few grub shells, just because.
— James Kracht


While on vacation in Central Texas in early September 1997 my wife and I visited Enchanted Rock, the largest of a cluster of enormous dome-shaped granite batholiths northwest of the state capital, Austin. We had hiked up to the summit of the Rock on a typical (hot!) Texas day, and as we descended we looked forward to the shaded benches and water fountains at the trailhead. As we approached a stunted hackberry tree close to the trail we became aware of a cicada singing from the tree’s upper branches. Now, cicadas are hardly a rarity around the Rock. Their song is typically an ear-splitting whine that would arouse the envy of a sawmill, which is why they are colloquilally known as “sawflies”. This one, however, sounded distinctly unwell. Its song consisted of spells of strained, anemic stridulation, almost a groan, separated by silence. I was puzzled. Cicadas are normally the most alert of insects and our approach should have elicited an indignant squawk and rapidly retreating rattle of wings. Had it been seized by a bird there would have been an agonized shriek as its assassin bore it away. Seizure by a cicada killer would have resulted in an outburst rapidly cut off as it fell toward the ground, while a cicada nearing the end of its brief life would be marked by no more than the buzzing of wings on the ground. We reached the tree and I spotted the cicada, a typical stout, dark gray creature with a narrow white band around its abdomen just behind the wings. It perched on the tree’s trunk, head up, wings slightly spread, and again gave forth that pitiful groan, apparently oblivious to our presence. And then in the foliage above it there was movement and the unhappy cicada’s fate was instantly obvious. It had been seized and was being held – and devoured – headfirst by a large, green, preying mantis, scarcely bigger than it was. The predator turned its head and regarded us incuriously as it waited for its victim’s struggles to subside. As, in time, they surely would. I could only marvel at how the mantis had come by its meal. Had the cicada simply had the incredible bad luck of landing in the tree within the striking distance of the mantis? Was it already ill or injured and thus not as alert to its surroundings as it should have been? Or did the mantis stalk its blithely singing victim, its stealthy movement and superb camouflage covering its approach? We would never know. We studied the grim sight for a moment longer, then returned to the trail, the cicada’s groans growing weaker and more infrequent behind us until they could no longer be heard at all.
— Cliff Barnes (7/11)

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