Posts Tagged 'cicadas'


Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen) orbits a butternut hickory nut.


On Saturday, your correspondent stumbled upon a cicada emerging from its larval husk.
The folded forewing has sprung from the exoskeleton, but the hindwing remains inside. The left hindwing, on the other side, was free soon enough, but this right one would remain inside the tight confines of the husk for the entire time.
From below. This occurred about four feet up from the road, the tree coming out of a steep bank. I counted a dozen other exuviae on the trunk or on the ground around this linden, a record number at one tree (by my count).
Right forewing uncurling.
The wings were very soft. The breeze made them flap about like streamers. You can see the right hindwing still folded up here.
From when I spotted it to final breakout, it took about an hour and a half, late morning into the afternoon. This is typically a nocturnal process: they’re utterly vulnerable to predators when they’re struggling, and all soft and juicy, too.
Just before the fall… because when you’re perpendicular to a tree, there are only so many places to go when you let go….
Hard to see the exuvia, but it is just to the right of center close to the top. The fresh green bug fell about three feet, bouncing a bit, but managed to stay on the tree trunk. It slowly turned around to point up and parked itself that way.
The right hindwing was still crumpled when I left. This one needed to harden off, stiffen the wings by pumping fluid into them, and start to take on their darker, mature colors.

An Ecosystem

On Monday, we started with cicadas. I’ve been trying to get a photo of a Cicada-killer Wasp with her six mitts on a cicada. Thrice now laden-wasps have zipped by me, white underside of their prey visible, but I haven’t been quick enough with the camera. ONce they land, the wasps are quite quick into their nests.
And here’s why, maybe. A Northern Mockingbird beat me to the scene! Almost as soon as the wasp landed her prey at her nest, this bird flew in and grabbed it.
Flying off to a nearby tree, the bird then proceeded to break the bank, or smash the exoskeleton of the cicada. There was much jabbing to get to the meat within.
The bird ate most of this morsel.
And took the rest to this one’s sibling, who was further up in the tree and unseen. But not unheard.

More Wasps

This Cicada-killer Wasp was emerging from her nest. She had just deposited a paralyzed cicada inside and, presumably since this is what they do, laid an egg on the cicada. I tried to get a photo of her carrying her progeny-to-be’s food inside, but she was too fast for me. I waited for about fifteen minutes to see is she would return with another cicada. Not on my watch. I could hear three cicadas in surrounding trees.
About ten feet away, on the road, this one patrolled the entire time, often perching, occasionally tangling with another passing by.
Elsewhere in Green-Wood: the lower nest here (the dirt slide is more than a foot long) has been here since at least July 28. Besides the second nest seen here, there were four others in this area. Most were on the flats above this slope.
This is that same lower-on-the-slope nest seen in the two-shot. It poured the afternoon before this picture. There has already been some maintenance.

And one more nest appeared this weekend.
This is some sexual dimorphism, isn’t it? Female on the left, male on the right.

Remember, it’s the larval form that eats the cicada. The adults eat very little, says bugguide. I have seen them taking nectar at flowers before. Recently I hit the mother (and father) lode of feeding for these large wasps. Stay tuned.

More Cicadas

I’ve seen and photographed more adult cicadas this year than I ever have before. The spent larval husks are easy to find, just look on tree trunks… and leaves. This quartet, plus another that fell by the wayside, were on a single horse chestnut.
Of course, most trees I look at don’t have any of these exuvia on them. But they also show up in more surprising places, like this Asteraceae less than a foot off the ground.
Some of the adults have been in the tall meadows in Green-Wood. They’re pretty skittish, giving a zzzt sound when they’re spooked.
This one flew away and then back, into this tree.

All of the above are side-views, the best available for these individuals. Makes them hard to figure out as to species.This one, however, is iNaturalist approved as a Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen tibicen). The vocalization of Swamp (also called Morning) Cicadas are similar to Linne’s Cicada Neotibicen linnei.
Might this be a Linne’s Cicada?
I think so.
This one made a couple of buzzing attempts to get out this mesh fencing. The fencing had rolled over, off the ground, so I gently tapped the creatures so that it fell down, as far as the reach of the mesh. It zooming out of the trap and across the street. (Note the chalky white of the underside. We’ll return to this later in the week.)
Do I think there are more cicadas in Brooklyn this year than, say, last year? Not necessarily. But I have gotten much better at spotting them.

Cicada Weather

These Neotibicen annual cicadas are more often heard than seen. When I do come across them, they’re usually dead. While their exoskeleton exuviae can be found gripping tree trunks under ten feet from the ground, the adults are usually way up in the tree, hidden by all that foliage. (You’d hide too, if giant wasps were hunting for you, and mammals treated you like crunchy snacks.)

This one burst into rattle close-by in an oak. As I was looking for it, it flew to this branch. I wanted to get a picture showing his top-side, but he took off, descended towards the nearby pond, which he landed on, before continuing out of sight. THe landing was sort of a bounce. Drinking or just an awkward flier?

This is an annual cicada, not a periodic one. Periodic cicadas are a different genus, have red eyes and show up in 17 year cycles. They spend 17 years underground sucking on tree roots in their larval form. Then they emerge en masse to mate. Masses of them. There was a big regional emergence of Brood II in 2013. Staten Island was the place to be then in the city. Paved over Brooklyn is not blessed with periodical cicadas, alas. You can see reports from 2013 here and here.

But back to our annual cicadas. They spend 3-4 years underground in their larval state, but since there’s a brood every year, we hear them (and sometimes see them) every summer.

That’s them screech-rattling in the trees, the whine rising and falling. It’s the males who rattle, advertising themselves to the females.

For the past few years, there’s been one or two across the street in the street trees or backyards beyond, but mostly the parks is where’ll you hear them. Look at all these species! Judging from their calls, this could be Swamp/Morning (Neotibicen tibicen) or Lyric (N. linnei).

Lobster Claws

The emptied husk of a dog day cicada (Neotibicen). This is the final form of the underground nymph stage of these annual cicadas, which spend four to five years underground sucking on plant roots, counting the days. They’re “annual” because there’s a brood or cohort every year. This is split open and hollow inside now, because the adult form has emerged to make its way up into the tree for a summer of, ideally, love.

There were nine of these on the bole of this fat beech in Green-Wood a week ago. That’s a lot. Other beeches had one or a few on them. Do they like beeches in particular, or are these exuviae just easier to spot on the silvery-gray bark?

Here Come the Magic Cicadas Again

MagicicadaThrough the magic of the social networks (thanks, Xris and Erin), I’ve learned that there will be a nearby emergence of 17-year cicadas this year. Brood V of Magicicada genus cicadas will be emerging on Long Island, as well as into Ohio and Virginia, this spring. Brooklyn may be on the western end of Long Island, but we don’t get these periodic, as opposed to annual, cicadas in our massively disturbed terrain. The Cicadamania link above recommends a park near Riverhead, NY, as a good location to enjoy the critters.

Pictured here are an adult Magicicada on the left and the husk of the underground larval stage on the right. 17 years of underground living!

I wrote about the 2013 emergence of Brood II in Staten Island and points north in all its glorious crunchy cacophony numerous times because it was so much fun:

June was the peak month in ’13. Sounds like road trip this June will be necessary…


Sphecius speciosusThe Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus) are out and about now, collecting pollen at flowers to eat, stabbing cicadas for their young…TibicenI’m not telling, but here’s a Dog Day cicada (genus Tibicen), more heard than seen by we ground-huggers.Sphecius speciosusThe two wasps pictured above are males. They’re smaller than the females. Sphecius speciosusHere’s a female, scare-the-horses-ginormous, patrolling her tunnel of a nest under some Bearberry (Arctostaphylos ova-ursi) in the Pine Barrens section of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

‘Till Next Time

magicicadaMany of the Magicicadas never had a chance.c3But those that did survive to breed have laid their eggs by now, setting in process yet again the long-term strategy of this genus of periodical cicada. The eggs are planted in branches. Once they hatch, the tiny nymphs will drop down to the ground, to burrow into the earth and grow for the next 17 years.cic1They will suck on tree roots, hidden away from us, by the millions, telling time by the seasonal changes in the growing trees. Counting down… where will I be in 17 years? Where will you be? exit


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