From Prince William Forest Park, Occoquan, Virginia
Hemiptera, Auchenorrhyncha, Cicadoidea
I’ve experienced the cicadas before when i was younger, and once again got to see a few of them, up close and personal. As we were camping in Prince William Forest Park, as I was bathing in the river, a cicada flew over to the stone I was sitting on, made its noise, and crawled around. The cicadas belong to the insect order of Hemiptera and part of the super-family Cicadoidea.
Taxonomy and names:
Tettigarctidae / Cicadidae, Cicadinae, Tettigadinae, and Cicadettinae. “Cicada” in latin mean “tree cricket”. Ancient Greeks called it the “tettix” and modern Greek as “tzitzikas” meaning “onomatopoeic”. There are over 200 species in 38 genera in Australia, over 450 in Africa, 150 species in South Africa, and over 100 in the Paleo-arctic. There is only one species in England known as the New Forest cicada “Melampsalta montana” which is found throughout Europe. Most common in North America is Genus Tibicen spp. (annual or jar fly, dog-day cicada),Magicicada spp. or Diceroprocta apache (Apache cicada).
Common names: Cicada, brown baker, red eye, green grocer, green monday, yellow monday, whiskey drinker, black prince, cherry nose, double drummer, etc.
Cicada’s have a 13-17 year life cycle and emerge from the ground in large numbers. Cicada’s eyes are prominent set wide apart on their anterior lateral corners of their front face with a short antennae protruding between or in front of their two large eyes (they also have three smaller eyes calle ocelli located on top of the head between the two larger eyes). With well-developed conspicuously transparent, clouded, or opaque veined wings, they have the ability to get around their habitat especially during mating. There are over 2,500 species discovered and recorded. They are noted for their song, sound, and size thereby being cofused with locusts. They have no relation to locusts and rather more related to the spittle bug or the leaf hopper. They have a long proboscis under their head that is inserted into plant stems to feed on sap. Adults are called “imago” and measure 2-5 centimeters long (though the Pompania Megapompania imperatoria can grow upwards of 7 centimeters long) with a wingspan of 18-20 centimeters. Some species that live in deserts will cool themselves off by evaporative cooling (similar to sweating) when temperatures reach 102 degrees fahrenheit or hotter. Most cicadas can raise their body temperatures upwards of 39.6 fahrenfeit above the ambient temperature. Males possess “tymbals” on the side of their abdominal base that are their loud noise makers whereas the exoskeleton’s membranes and thickened ribs contract the internal tymbal muscles to produce a clicking sound as the tymbals buckle inwards relaxing the muscles causes them to return to original position to create another click amplified by the hollow-like abdomen. As the membranes are vibrated rapidly, the body acts like a resonance chamber further amplifying the clicking. This is modulated by the cicada by positioning its abdomen toward or away from the substrate, making each cicada’s song distinctive and unique. Songs are more active during the hottest part of the day. Cicadas can produce upwards of 120 decibals, being one of the loudest of all insects, and is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans if the cicada sang just outside the listener’s ear. Some of their songs are so high in pitch that it is inaudible to the human ear. Each mating song is different and lures certain types of mates at different times. There is a different sound for their distress calls, usually broken and erratic sound when insect is captured. Cicadas live underground as nymphs for most of their lives downwards of 30 centimeters to 2.5 meters deep, feeding on root juice. They have strong legs for digging and during their final nymphal instar create a exit tunnel to the surface to emerge every 2-16 years (depending on species) to molt and shed their skins on a nearby plant for a last time before emerging as an adult. This shell is an abandoned exo-skeleton called the exuvia and can be found stuck on the bark of trees when they are completed. Once mated, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig and deposits her eggs within upwards of several hundred eggs. Eggs hatch as newly hatched nymphs dropping to the ground and then burrow into the earth. Most go through a life cycle lasting from 2-5 years, although the North American cicadas go through a 13-17 year cycle. Their predators are the cicada killer wasp, birds, squirrels, a fungal disease called massospora cicadina, and praying mantis.
Temperate to tropical climates. They exist on all continents except Antarctica. In Australia can be found in every part of and conditions from the wet tropical north to the tasmanian snow fields and deserts. When they leave the ground, they dwell in all kinds of plants from suburban lawns, tall trees, shrubs, mangroves, thickets, and bushes.
Cicadas cannot harm humans. They do not bite or sting, though can confuse one’s arm as a feeding branch or tree limb. If their proboscis is inserted into hunan flesh, it can feel painful, but is harmless otherwise. This only occurs if one allows them to rest on one’s skin or limb. They however do cause major damage to crops, shrubs, trees, and plants. They often scar branches they land on during egg-laying deep within those branches.
Cicada’s are eaten around the world. Historical evidence suggests they were eaten in China, Malaysa, Burma, Ancient Greece, Latin America, and the Congo. The female has the most meat. They are most often deep friend, stir-fried, or skewered when prepared. In Columbia, Missouri they were introduced into an ice cream at Sparky’s in 2011. The health department recommended them not to do that again. Others had made Banana Bread Cicadas.
The Chinese utilize their shells in traditional medicine.
Folklore, Magic, and Spirituality:
Throughout history, the symbolism of a cicada represents insouciance. One of Aesop’s fables written about by Jean de la Fontaine in the “Les fables de La Fontaine” and “La Cigale et la Fourmi” (The Cicada and the Ant) tells of a cicada that spends the summer singing while the ant stores away food and finds herself without food when winter turns hard. The Cicada song in Mexico is romanticized in the mariachi song called “La Cigarra” (the Cicada) as the song that is sung until it dies. The Chinese use the phrase “to shed off the golden cicada skin” as a meaning for a tactic of using deception to escape danger. Leaving the old shell as a decoy to fool enemies. The Japanese associate the cicada as “summer” season and is used to represent summer in theater and arts. It is also a symbol of reincarnation due to the emergence from the ground every summer in Japan. In Java, they are sacred to dragons and worshipped as Gods. The Italians call cicadas “cicala” as an euphamism for “vagina” used by children. The French use the cicada to represent folklore of Prevence and Mediterranean cities. The Ancient Greek Myth of Tithonus who turns into a cicada after being granted immortality, but not eternal youth, by Zeus. Greeks also depict cicadas sitting on a harp as emblematic of music.