Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: 4 Views of a Cicada

A while back I went collecting with a friend in one of my favorite places in Arizona right when the very large cicadas in the area (Tibicen cultriformis) were active.   You could hear their grand songs sweeping up the canyon every few minutes, like the auditory equivalent of the wave at a baseball game, each one picking up the song from its neighbor and passing it along.  Those cicadas were enormous, so I was delighted when I found some shed exoskeletons from the nymphs clinging to my favorite tree.  I brought a few home and photographed one of them from several different angles.  Just for fun, I combined all the shots into one a few days ago (click on the image to enlarge it greatly):


I kinda like the way this looks.  What do you all think – kinda fun?  Or kinda creepy?


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34 thoughts on “Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: 4 Views of a Cicada

  1. I love it!! I have a picture of some of them lined up as well but not nearly as cool as that one. I also hung a few on my daughters shirt and took a pic. Some people did not enjoy it as much as we did. :)

  2. I’m for creepy. Wife and I stayed on Lookout Mountain near Mentone, Alabama during an emergence a couple years ago. To hear the ratcheting of uncounted millions and then to ‘admire’ the exoskeletal findings of my Grandkids in Valley Head – gingerly plucked from their favorite trees – made an idelible memory.

  3. definitely fun. I knew they dug themselves out of the ground and climbed right up and shed their “skin” but I’ve never noticed the amount of dirt stuck to them as in yours.

    This June the 17-yr, cicadas come back here (in NJ) and I’m the only one outside my family who can’t wait.

    • These cicadas came from mushy soils in a riparian area of a spring-fed stream, so I suspect they’re a bit muddier than the average cicada husk. I hadn’t ever seen one so covered in mud before I came across these! And enjoy your 17-year cicadas! I would be right there with you in the excited, can’t wait camp. I now live in a place where I can hope to see the periodical cicada mega-emergences (eventually – need to figure out which brood number we have here so I know when they’re coming) and I’m thrilled!

  4. Great picture! I love finding these around, stuck to a fence rail or tree bark. The last view in particular looks just like a Garthim from The Dark Crystal.

    • I’m not sure I ever knew they were called Garthims (and I’ve seen that movie a hundred times or more – my very favorite as a kid!), but you’re totally right! And I enjoy finding them too. Aren’t they great insects?

  5. I stuck one of the shed skins onto my niece’s sweater and she went ballistic! It didn’t matter that it was a skin only, she was terrified of it. They are beautiful to me and I have several in my collection. I believe they are Tibicen lyricin, one of four species we have here on the Texas Gulf Coast.

    • The Tibicen are impressive cicadas, aren’t they? And I’m constantly shocked by how scared people can be about anything that has ever even TOUCHED an insect. In your niece’s defense though, I have witnessed a person picking what she thought was a shed skin at night and it had the nymph inside it still. It grabbed a hold of my companion’s finger and she started screaming bloody murder. May have been a bit of an overreation, but they’re really fairly scary looking and she didn’t expect it to move, so it was a traumatic experience for her. Perhaps your niece is worried about having a similar experience? Or she just didn’t know it wasn’t alive?

  6. Ok, they’re a bit creepy, but the photos are excellent! And, I know I keep coming back because I enjoy your blog, even though I am a bit scared of insects. Your posts have helped me appreciate them. :-)

    • You know, I’m not sure. I honestly am not familiar enough with cicadas to know if you can tell them apart from the shed exoskeletons or not. I would imagine you can (I’ve IDed mayfly nymphs from shed exoskeletons before), but I can’t give you a good answer to that.

  7. I was very young when I found a cicada clinging to a tree, having just shed it’s last juvenile exoskeleton. I couldn’t believe that something so big had come out of something so small. Which is fine, because my mother assured me it was impossible, and the big bug being near the smaller shed skin was just a coincidence.

    It was years before I found out otherwise.

    I can hardly blame her, though. It doesn’t look rather preposterous.

    • Parents always know best, right? :) I’ve been surprised time and time again at how large insects can come from much smaller exoskeletons, but that’s the whole reason they have to molt! They get too big and need to expand, so they grow a whole new “skin,” climb out of the old one, puff the new one up, and off they go. It’s really rather amazing if you think about it.

  8. I can understand those who might think they’re a little creepy … or weird … or odd, but who says creepy can’t also be fun …and interesting … and cool – sometimes?

    It’s definitely a great image though!

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