Emergence: The Dog Day Cicada

I cannot express my excitement for the coming of the periodical (17 year) cicada this year.  I thought for sure that it would erupt in a violence of noise in my town and I waited every day to hear its calls.  I strained my ears and mistook car alarms and trucks backing up for the beginning of the wave of cicadas.  I talked about it every day at lunch. And then…it didn’t come.

I was pretty disappointed.

But!  There are always dog day cicadas!  This species emerges every year (technically, they have a 2-5 year life cycle, but the generations overlap so that there are some individuals every year) later in the summer, and hums its way through the day.  Ah, the quintessential sounds of summer…I have seen them emerging from the ground as brown nymphs in carapaces that are already too tight.  I have seen them bursting from the back of the carapace, wing buds twitching (my friend had to take my hand and drag me away to prevent me from watching the hours long emergence)…but I have never had a camera with me to capture these special moments.

I did, however, catch this.

The dog day cicada (Tibicen sp.), just post emergence.

The dog day cicada (Tibicen canicularis), just post emergence.

Here is a cicada that just emerged, still holding onto its old carapace (these empty shells can be found all over trees and posts in my area of the country at this time of year).  The wings take a couple of hours to fully stretch out and dry enough for the cicada to fly.  They are very vulnerable at this stage and often get eaten by predators before they fully mature.

It was just after dawn and there wasn't a lot of natural light, so here is the same photo with flash.

It was just after dawn and there wasn’t a lot of natural light, so here is the same photo with flash.

Notice the difference in the legs between the carapace (nymphal) and adult stage.  The adult has much more delicate front legs…the nymph needs powerful legs for burrowing in the soil!

Cicadas are “true bugs” of the order Hemiptera/Homoptera.

The young cicadas drink sap from tree roots in the grounds, while adults drink sap from branches.

The young cicadas drink sap from tree roots in the grounds, while adults drink sap from branches.

Only the males sing, the have a special tymbal at the base of the abdomen that “wobbles” and amplified by a hollow chamber.  That makes the distinct cicada noise!

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4 thoughts on “Emergence: The Dog Day Cicada

  1. I love these guys. We had them everywhere as a child. I love their song and their colorful bodies. I was shocked to hear of the expected glut of them, as we never had an ebb and flow; they were there every year. Thanks for the post.

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