Dog Days of Cicadas

Dog Day Cicada- adult

For the last month a cacophony of buzzing has sounded in my yard, the parking lot at work, and almost anywhere there’s a tree and some open ground. It’s that time of year when the cicadas start calling for their mates to complete the cycle of life. For those who might not know what I’m talking about, have you ever gone outside in July and August and heard what sounds like electricity buzzing loudly, very loudly, in the air? The dog day cicada creates that noise by vibrating membranes on its abdomen.

Cicada 'skin' from a nymph after the adult has emerged

The dog day cicada (Tibicen sp.) in not as famous as it’s cousin the 17-year cicada (also called a locust even though it’s not, a locust is a type of grasshopper). The dog day cicadas emerge every year (they actually have a 2-5 year life cycle) and adults can live for up to 2 months. Here’s how it works: adults emerge, males buzz, females come on over and they mate; the females then lay eggs in the twigs and a few weeks later little nymphs hatch out and drop to the ground; the nymphs then live underground for a few years feeding on sap from tree roots before emerging out of the ground, crawling up a tree and molting into an adult.

Cicada- close-up of nymphal 'skin' (aka. exuvia)

The thing that surprised me the most as I’ve been watching the cicadas this year is how agile they are in flight. One would expect that an insect that big and bulky to barely be able to get off the ground, yet the few I’ve scared out of trees do just the opposite. Once they are startled they zip right off, avoiding leaves and tree limbs to find another safe resting spot.

Sources I used for information:
http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/aimg82.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada

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One thought on “Dog Days of Cicadas

  1. Jen says:

    I love the sound of cicadas, have been looking for more molts/skins to collect for school but haven’t found any around this year(lol there were some at my parents but the dog munched them)

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