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.
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.
No group cicada hunts this year. My cicada hobby is much more fun when I can share it with other people.
A skunk took over my favorite spot for finding Morning Cicada nymphs.
I had to go on a business trip during what would have been the best weeks for finding nymphs.
I found a new Megatibicen auletes location in Highlands, NJ. The location is about 50 miles north of where I usually find them.
I found more Megatibicen auletes exuvia than ever at the Manchester, NJ location where my friends and I normally hunt for auletes. Normally I find one or two — this year I found dozens. I found no adult specimens, other than those singing in the trees at dusk.
I found a small but productive Neotibicen canicularis location in Little Silver, NJ. This yielded several specimens for a few good photos.
I did find enough exuvia & Morning cicadas that I should be happy.
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 found in Little Silver, NJ. August 25th.
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.
N. 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, bu 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:
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.
Tonight I went to Manchester, New Jersey to look and listen for Neotibicen auletes aka the Northern Dusk-Singing cicada. As the name suggests, these cicadas sing at dusk (basically right at sunset). They are also the largest cicadas in North America.
I heard many auletes, found some nymphal skins, and one dead adult. Unfortunately I found no live specimens to film or video. Next time.
Last night I went on an exploration of Manchester, NJ looking for Tibicen auletes (Germar, 1834) with Elias Bonaros and his friend Annette.
T. auletes, are known as the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada. As their name suggests, T. auletes calls at dusk, around sunset. Their call is amazing – visit Insect Singers to hear their call.
Luckily I found a (deceased) female and an exuvia (nymph skin). Elias and Annette found many exuvia and a live nymph. We were able to watch the nymph undergo ecdysis (leave its exuvia, and expand its adult body).
Here are some images of the cicadas we found last night (click the first two images to get to larger versions):
Some (blurry) video:
Dan and Elias netting a T. auletes exuvia. Photo by Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira: