The largest known cicada is the Megapomponia imperatoria (Westwood, 1842) of south-east Asia. The specimen in the photo below was captured in Malaysia and it’s wingspan measured 20 centimters/7.9 inches. Other species might be larger in terms of weight, but I’m not sure.
Photo of a Megapomponia imperatoria (formerly Pomponia imperatoria) by Michel Chantraine.
Other very large cicadas include the Bear Cicada of Japan (Cryptotympana facialis), and Tacua speciosa of south-east Asia.
Tacua speciosa from Malaysia by anonymous photographer.
The largest cicada in North America is the Megatibicen auletes:
Northern Dusk-Singing Cicadas aka Megatibicen auletes. Photo by me.
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 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 or maybe pink N. linnei found in Little Silver, NJ. August 25th.
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.
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:
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.
Later we went for lunch, and listened for N. winnemanna hybrids in the neighborhood surrounding the museum. Close to the entrance of the museum, we heard a cicada that started with the call of the N. winnemanna and ended with the call of N. linnei — likely a hybrid. Around the museum neighborhood we heard other cicadas that sounded like a N. winnemanna but not quite. Very interesting.
Personally, my methods of catching cicadas are: 1) waiting until dark and grabbing them when they are still nymphs or eclosing, 2) grabbing them by hand on a tree or in flight, or 3) waiting for them to die, and collecting them from the ground. Bill introduced me to two new methods: 1) netting cicadas, and 2) finding cicadas under lights in parking lots.
I own a net (purchased from BioQuip) but I haven’t practiced using it. Bill Reynolds is a master of spotting and netting cicadas. He uses a net with 3 or 4 extension poles, which I belive gives him a 20′ reach. Bill is a cicada netting ninja. In a small, roadside patch of trees he caught three N. winnemanna in a matter of minutes.
Here is a video of that grove of N. winnemanna patronized trees. (Listen, don’t watch. The video camera work is erratic and you won’t see any live cicadas):
Here is a N. winnemanna Bill caught with a net:
Finding cicadas under parking lot lights require you to cruise shopping mall parking lots on hot summer nights. Wait until midnight, and slowly drive behind malls looking for cicadas clinging to walls or resting on the ground. It is simple as that.
Here is a N. lyricen engelhardti found by Bill.
Whenever catching cicadas you should be respectful of private property, don’t cause a disturbance, and be mindful of local laws.
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.
Paul Krombholz has come through with an awesome guide to identifying Tibicens just after they have molted. Click the image below for an even larger version. Note that the genus of these cicadas has changed to either Megatibicen or Neotibicen — notes below.
Notes on the species from Paul:
N. pruinosus [formerly T. pruinosa]—Newly molted adult has darker mesonotum (top of mesothorax) than the very common T. chloromera. Abdomen is a golden orange color. Older adult has dark olive on lateral sides of mesonotum, lighter green below the “arches”.
M. pronotalis (formerly walkeri, marginalis)—Quite large. The reddish brown color can be seen on the mesonotum of newly molted adult. Older adult has solid green pronotum (top of prothorax) and red-brown markings on sides of mesonotum. Below the “arches” the mesonotum color can range from carmel to green. Head is black between the eyes.
N. tibicen [T. chloromerus, T. chloromera]—has large, swollen mesonotum, quite pale in a newly molted adult and almost entirely black in an older adult. Individuals from east coast can have large russet patches on sides of mesonotum. The white, lateral :”hip patches” on the anteriormost abdominal segment are always present, but the midline white area seen in my picture is sometimes absent.
N. davisi—Small. This is a variable species, but all have an oversized head that is strongly curved, giving it a ‘hammerhead’ appearance. Newly molted individuals are usually brown with blueish wing veins that will become brown, but some have more green in wing veins. Some may have pale mesonotums that will become mostly black. Older adults vary from brownish to olive to green markings on pronotum and mesonotum.
M. figuratus [formerly T. figurata]—a largish entirely brown cicada. Newly molted adult has a pink-brown coloration with some blueish hints. Older adult has chestnut-brown markings and no green anywhere. The Head is not very wide in relation to the rest of the body. The small cell at the base of the forewing is black.
M. auletes—a large, wide-bodied cicada. The newly molted adult is very green, but the older adult loses most of the green, usually retaining an olive posterior flange of the pronotum. The dorsal abdomen of the adult has a lot of powdery white on the anterior and posterior segments with a darker band in between.
Last night I went on an exploration of Manchester, NJ looking for Megatibicen auletes (Germar, 1834) with Elias Bonaros and his friend Annette.
M. auletes, are known as the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada. As their name suggests, M. 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 M. auletes exuvia. Photo by Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira:
Here’s a Tibicen auletes found in Winston-Salem, North Carolina by my friend Erin Dickinson. The T. auletes is also known as Northern Dusk Singing cicada. It can be found in most Southern states, IL, IN, MI, OH, MD, DE, NJ and CT.
The Tibicen auletes is the largest species of the Tibicen cicadas (largest in terms of physical size). Visit Insect Singers to hear its song.