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May 24, 2014

Cicada Myths

Filed under: Anatomy | Periodical — Dan @ 12:49 pm

Cicada Myth Busters

There are many myths (widely held but false beliefs or ideas) about cicadas. Time to bust some cicada myths.

Myth 1: Cicadas are sleeping when they are underground.

There’s a popular meme that [mis]states the following “if cicadas can sleep for 17 years and then wake up only to scream and reproduce so can i”. The actual tweet doesn’t say “reproduce”, but I want to keep it clean.

American periodical cicadas aren’t sleeping the entire 17 years they’re underground. Much of the time they’re digging tunnels and building feeding cells, tapping into roots and feeding, vying with other cicadas for space along a crowded root system, growing (they experience four phases or instars while underground), avoiding unfavorable conditions like flooding, and possibly actively avoiding predators like moles and voles. Yes, cicadas can sleep — or at least the insect version of sleep called torpor — but they are definitely not asleep for 17 years.

That said cicadas do spend their time screaming (the males) and procreating once above ground.

Myth 2: All cicadas have a 17 year life cycle.

This is false. Only three species, out of the thousands of cicada species in the world, have a 17-year life cycle: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini, and Magicicada septendecula.

Myth 3: All cicadas have periodical life cycles and synchronized emergences.

This is false. Only seven species in the United States (belonging to the genus Magicicada), and a few species in Asia (belonging to the genus Chremistica 1) have been confirmed to have periodical life cycles and synchronized emergences.

All other species of cicadas emerge annually, although in some years they are more plentiful than in others.

Myth 4: All cicadas live a prime number of years.

Many cicadas live a prime number of years, but some do not. Chremistica ribhoi, the World Cup cicada, has four year life cycle.

Myth 5: A long, periodical, prime number life cycle has allowed American periodical cicadas to avoid gaining a predator.

American periodical cicadas have avoided gaining an animal predator that specifically predates them, but they haven’t avoided a fungus. Massospora cicadina is a fungal parasite of Magicicada cicadas.

Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus

That said, just about any animal will eat an American periodical cicada, so they definitely get eaten. They get eaten a lot.

Myth 6: Cicadas make their well-known sound by stridulation, like crickets, grasshoppers & katydids.

It is true that some cicadas can make noise by stridulation, making sound by rubbing body parts.

However, and this is a huge “however”, the sound cicadas are known for is made by organs found in male cicadas called tymbals. Tymbals are a pair of ribbed membranes, that produce the cicada’s sound when they are flexed in and out by muscles. The mechanism is like the popping sound made when the plastic of a soda pop bottle is flexed in and out.

Tymbal

Cicadas can also make sound by flicking or clapping their wings.

Myth 7: Cicadas eat vegetation.

This is false. Cicadas lack the mouthparts to chew and swallow vegetable matter. Your tomatoes are safe around cicadas. Rather than eating solid food, cicadas ingest xylem, which is a type of tree sap that cicadas drink through their straw-like mouthparts.

Myth 8: American periodical cicadas are locusts.

Cicadas are not locusts. Locusts are a form of grasshopper. People confuse cicadas with locusts because both insects aggregate in massive numbers.

This is an image of a locust:
Locust

Characteristic Locust Cicada
Order Orthoptera Hemiptera
Hind Legs Giant hind legs for jumping Hind legs about the same size as other legs; great for climbing and perching.
What they eat Everything green they can find to eat Xylem sap
They’re in your town All the plants in your town have been stripped bare Cool UFO movie soundtrack sounds during the day

9) If you see a W appear in a cicada’s wings it means there will be a war. If you see a P, there will be peace.

This is the most mythical of cicada myths and has no basis in fact. That said, here’s the W:

W in cicada wing

1 Hajong, S.R. 2013. Mass emergence of a cicada (homoptera: cicadidae) and its capture methods and consumption by villagers in the ri-bhoi district of Meghalaya. Department of Zoology, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong — 793 022, Meghalaya, India.

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 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)

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.

May 8, 2014

Gaeana atkinsoni from the Uttara Kannada district in India

Filed under: Gaeana | Gaeanini | India | Raghu Ananth — Dan @ 1:46 am

Here’s a cicada I never thought I would see, but thanks to Raghu Ananth, here are two photos of a Tosena sibyla Gaeana atkinsoni.

Gaeana atkinsoni Distant, 1892 from Uttara Kannada district in India by Raghu Ananth

This photo was taken on May 2nd, 2009:

Gaeana atkinsoni Distant, 1892 from Uttara Kannada district in India by Raghu Ananth

Note the characteristic double stripes on the forewings. Note how the smaller stripe doesn’t make it all the way to the claval fold.

Here are observations about this cicada provided by Raghu Ananth:

Brief description –
The cicada has red eyes, red thorax with black patch above, red abdomen, black wings with yellow veins and a large yellow patch lines on the wings.

Numbers. found – several dozens.
Habitat – tree barks near forest path
length – 4-5 cms

The orange-red coloured cicada is one of the beautiful cicadas in the forests. It has a red body, red eyes and black wings with yellow patches. During one of our trips to the evergreen forests in the Uttara Kannada district (Karnataka), we spotted two of them camouflaged on the bark of each tree, actively walking up and down and then appearing a colourful red when in flight from one bark of the tree to another. Their singing, however, seemed not in sync with each another. On our approach, they would try to hide behind the bark or fly to a distant tree.

Gaeana atkinsoni
This illustration of a T. sibylla Gaeana atkinsoni comes from the document A monograph of oriental cicadidae (1892) by W. L. Distant.

Updated (5/8/2014) with a video by Harinath Ravichandran:

April 28, 2014

Periodical Cicada Turrets Spotted in Chilo, OH

Filed under: Brood XXII | Magicicada | Periodical | Roy Troutman — Dan @ 7:48 pm

Roy Troutman spotted and photographed periodical cicada turrets in Chilo Lock 34 Park in Chilo, OH. We expect 13 year cicadas to emerge in Ohio and Kentucky this year, and this is proof it will happen.

Chilo Lock 34 Park

This group of cicadas is not officially aligned with a Brood, but given enough research, documentation and population samples, I imagine they’ll be aligned with Brood XXII (although they might be genetically different from the cicadas in LA and MS). TBD.

April 27, 2014

Cicada anatomy photo by Santisuk Vibul. Dundubia sp.

Filed under: Anatomy | Dundubia | Santisuk Vibul | Thailand — Dan @ 8:56 pm

This photo points out the Tymbal (the organ that makes the cicada’s signature sound), the Tympanum (their hearing organ), the Operculum (which covers the Tympanum), and its wings.

Dundubia

Dundubia

Dundubia

Dundubia

April 20, 2014

Song of a Dundubia sp. cicada recorded by Santisuk Vibul

Filed under: Santisuk Vibul | Sounds | Thailand — Dan @ 8:50 am

Here’s the song of a cicada belonging to the Dundubia genus recorded by Santisuk Vibul in Bangkok, Thailand.

April 15, 2014

Cicada Beer and Brood XXII

Filed under: Brood XXII | Pop Culture — Dan @ 4:18 am

Southern Prohibition Brewing is offering Cicada themed (but not flavored) beer this year. Just in time for Brood XXII.

Cicada Beer

Their site says cicadas are their favorite “invasive species”, but cicadas are not an invasive species, however it can feel like an invasion when periodical cicadas arrive.

BTW, here’s the first news article about Brood XXII I’ve found. It’s from the LSU AgCenter and features Christopher Carlton, LSU AgCenter entomologist and director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum.

No signs of Brood XXII cicadas on social media yet.

March 29, 2014

Australian Cicadas by M.S. Moulds

Filed under: Australia | Books — Dan @ 6:47 pm

Australian Cicadas by M.S. Moulds was first published in 1990 by the New South Wales University Press. It is the best reference for Australian cicadas that I’ve found, and I use it at least once a week.

The book covers common names of cicada, life history, predators & parasites, distribution, anatomy, sound production & reception, and classification. The book also features an extensive catalog of Australian cicadas including photos, maps, and descriptions of their behavior.

It appears on Amazon and Ebay from time to time. I found my copy used. It was expensive but well worth the price.

Australian Cicadas by Max Moulds

March 26, 2014

Cicada Books for Kids, Part 1

Filed under: Books — Dan @ 7:51 pm

I collect virtually every cicada book I can get my hands on, including books written for children. They often contain some of the best photos and illustrations, and for that reason alone they’re nice to have.

One bittersweet thing about cicada books is people often resell them after a periodical cicada emergence is over, but that also means you can get them for a low price if you don’t mind a used book. Before Amazon.com was invented, people went to a place called the library, and an entire town essentially shared a single used book.

Cicadas Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle illustrated by Meryl Henderson

This is a recent book and features page after page of color illustrations of cicadas, and cicada-related information. The book is factually accurate and the illustrations are excellent. The reading level is 4 to 8, but I think cicada fans of all ages would enjoy this book. Get it on Amazon.com.

Cicadas Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle illustrated by Meryl Henderson

Cicadas, A True Book, by Ann O Squire

Get it on Amazon.com.

Cicadas by Ann O Squire

The Visual Book of Australian Cicadas by Peter Leyden

This short book is packed with excellent illustrations of Australian cicadas. It is likely out of print, but I recommend it for the quality of the illustrations and the collectibility factor.

The Visual Book of Australian Cicadas by Peter Leyden

Cicadas and Aphids What They Have in Common by Sara Swan Miller

This book features photos (not illustrations) of cicadas and other members of the order Hemiptera (true bugs). I recommend this book for kids who want to expand their interest in insects beyond cicadas. The reading level is 8 or above.

Get it on Amazon.com.

Cicadas and Aphids What They Have in Common by Sara Swan Miller

The next three books are very similar in that they all feature photos of mostly periodical cicadas (Magicicadas) with easy-to-understand explanations. The reading level for all three is 4 to 8.

Cicadas by Helen Frost Gail Saunders-Smith Ph.D. Consulting Editor

Get it on Amazon.com.

Cicadas by Helen Frost Gail Saunders-Smith Ph.D. Consulting Editor

March 25, 2014

Catalogue of the Cicadoidea by Allen F Sanborn

Filed under: Allen F. Sanborn | Books — Dan @ 7:17 pm

The Catalogue of the Cicadoidea (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha) by Allen F Sanborn weighs about six pounds. It’s also one of my favorite cicada books, and it usually can be found on my desk. I use it mostly to verify the names of cicadas. The book is not inexpensive, but it is also not meant academics, not for someone with a fleeting interest in cicadas. You can get a copy on Amazon.com.

The book is also ~10 years old as of 2024, and many cicada names have changed since it was published.

Catalogue of the Cicadoidea by Allen F Sanborn

Here’s a description from the publisher:

This is the third in a series of catalogs and bibliographies of the Cicadoidea covering 1981-2010. The work summarizes the cicada literature, providing a means for easy access to information previously published on a particular species or to allow researchers the ability to locate similar work that has been published on other species. A total of 2,591 references are included in the bibliography. The book is a source of biological and systematic information that could be used by zoologists, entomologists, individuals interested in crop protection, and students studying entomology as well as anyone interested in cicadas or who require specific information on the insects. Each genus/species is identified with the reference, the page number, any figures (if applicable), the topics covered by the reference, any synonymies, and any biogeographic information mentioned for the species in the individual reference. An added benefit to the catalog is that it is the first complete species list for the Cicadoidea, including all synonymies and new combinations through 2012.

Over 3,390 varieties of cicadas (yeah, I manually counted the species).

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