My Digital Photography of

Cicadas

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The cicada is a fascinating insect.  It spends the beginning of its life underground, sucking juices from tree roots.  Then one day, it climbs above ground and holds tight to something (like a wall or tree trunk) and its skin splits.  Out comes a mature cicada with wings.  It flies up to the trees and makes the loud droning sound you have probably heard before.  Cicadas take anywhere from 2-17 years underground before they emerge as adults, depending on the species.  I have found the skins and I've found adult cicadas before, but never have I seen them in the underground stage until July 2, 2004.  I watered the lawn on this evening and the ground was so dry that much of the water stayed near the surface and wasn't seeping into the soil.  One of these little guys must have been drowning just below the surface, so he climbed out to get some air.  My boyfriend Brian spotted him in the grass and I took a whole bunch of pictures before letting him go again (I think he needs another year or so---look how underdeveloped his wings are).  So now I can share this amazing stage of life with you---something you probably haven't seen before either.  On July 26, 2008, I found a rather another rather large nymph after it rained at my campsite in Nelson, OH.  In between these two discoveries was a smaller, younger nymph found on May 20, 2006.  I placed its pictures before the older nymphs.  It wasn't until May 12, 2009 that I finally was able to take macro photographs of one of these nymphs.

Click on any photo to see a larger view!

 

Early stage of Cicada Life Cycle (underground root-sucking nymphs)

cicada nymph in hand front view cropped.jpg (106203 bytes)  cicada nymph in hand side view cropped.jpg (112151 bytes)  cicada nymph in hand top view.jpg (141451 bytes)  cicada nymph on back on wood cropped.jpg (147663 bytes)

cicada nymph in leaf side view cropped.jpg (130208 bytes)  cicada nymph in leaf underside view 3 cropped.jpg (132314 bytes)  cicada nymph in leaf underside view cropped.jpg (135507 bytes)  cicada nymph on glove front view.jpg (146887 bytes)  cicada nymph in leaf front view cropped.jpg (123741 bytes)
Young Nymph, 5-19-06
 
 

dancing left leg up.jpg (87134 bytes)  front view proboscis out.jpg (85498 bytes)

dancing right leg up.jpg (93293 bytes)  facing right 2.jpg (97132 bytes)  facing left 2.jpg (91183 bytes) on back cropped.jpg (88661 bytes)  on back top view.jpg (85199 bytes)
Older Nymph, 7-2-04
 
 
   
 
Older Nymph, 7-26-08 (from Nelson, OH)
 
 

Here is an older nymph I found in the "wooded area" at my new house while I was digging a hole to plant some English Ivy on May 14, 2009.  Finally, I could take some true macro shots of a nymph.  I even scrubbed this guy up with a moist q-tip so you could see the details and facial features.  He is photographed on my Vegetanimal Woodburning.  I also made a few animations from the still photos.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

 

 

Here are some normal videos (not still frames pieced together) on Youtube of this same cicada nymph.

 

 

 

 

Here is an older nymph discovered under the grass (that was being removed to make room for a flower bed) on July 4, 2010.  It was photographed in my moss garden.  I think this one is almost ready to emerge.  Notice the dark eyes it has and the green wings, as compared with the lighter eyes and brown wings above.  You can see that they have green wings when they emerge by looking at one splitting through its skin.

       

       

     

       

       

       

These photos were taken in my favorite section of moss (two species different than the one above).

     

       

       

       

     

     

 

 

Splitting through the skin and emerging as an adult cicada

For 23 years, I have wanted to observe a cicada emerging from its shell (ever since I was 8 and first saw the shells).  On the evening of July 25th, 2006 at around 11:55pm, I finally got the chance.  One had climbed onto the wall by my side door and luckily, Brian noticed it and alerted me to get my camera.  I took a lot of photographs of it when it first started to come out of the shell.  Once it was pretty much out, I went inside.  After seeing its stubby, crunched-up wings, I figured there must be some other stage where its wings would develop more.  I assumed I wouldn't get to see this process.  Unfortunately, my assumption was wrong---when I went back outside at around 2 am, the cicada was fully emerged, resting next to its skin, and the wings were there!  They must have unfolded, which seemed impossible from the looks of things.  What a surprise.  It's too bad I didn't get any pictures of them unfolding.  The cicada still doesn't have the adult coloration---it is a very pale green color, but it seems to be darkening up a bit over time.  Below are the photos of its emergence in sequential order.  At the end is a close-up of a different split skin.

cicada 7-26-06 number 2.jpg (126487 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 7.jpg (133881 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 11.jpg (138704 bytes)

cicada 7-26-06 number 15.jpg (136847 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 15 closeup.jpg (128865 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 16.jpg (127645 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 18.jpg (125803 bytes)

cicada 7-26-06 number 20.jpg (151853 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 21.jpg (158724 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 23.jpg (139938 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 28.jpg (141766 bytes)

cicada 7-26-06 number 31.jpg (146299 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 33 head on view.jpg (145212 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 36.jpg (150917 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 38.jpg (131732 bytes)

cicada 7-26-06 number 40 bottom view.jpg (144956 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 42 side view.jpg (135048 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 43 top view.jpg (128741 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 number 45.jpg (122599 bytes)

cicada 7-26-06 shell in bkg 5 cropped.jpg (155696 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 shell in bkg 5.jpg (152057 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 final cicada back view.jpg (136872 bytes)  cicada 7-26-06 final cicada side view.jpg (125940 bytes)

cicada skin.jpg (112018 bytes)  cicada skin 2.jpg (74930 bytes)

On July 11, 2015, I got lucky again.  On my walk around the neighborhood, I found a nymph crawling on the sidewalk.  I knew it had to be looking for a place to latch onto and emerge as an adult.  I took it home and put it on the curtains.  Unfortunately, I was a bit too late to see the actual emergence, but I took photos just afterward on the curtains, a petunia, and a willow.

     

   

   

     

   

 

 

Adult Cicadas

I almost captured an incredible moment on August 22, 2011, but I missed it by about 20 seconds.  My parents found two cicadas mating while they were out for a walk in the neighborhood---they were actually butt to butt instead of the male on top of the female.  Unfortunately, I think my dad accidentally stepped on the male before they found them (or maybe someone else did before my parents arrived) because he was dead when I got him and I could see where his thorax was crushed.  However, the pair stayed linked together and my parents saved them for me.  I picked them up and drove home, started getting the camera ready.  Just when I got the lens and flash on, she flipped over and freed herself from him.  So I didn't get any pictures of the mating.  I figured before I let her go, I would get a few photos since I had the camera set up already.  These are not my best, but they do show a few close-ups of the cicada's features.

 

 

   

 

On September 16, 2006, Brian found a living adult cicada in the lawn.  It seemed to be dying, as it did not try to immediately fly away when I caught it.  I managed to take photos of it on several different surfaces---a leaf, two different hasta flowers, and summer poinsettia flowers.  Then it flew up high, hit my house, bounced off and headed west.  This is the first adult cicada I've ever photographed while it was still alive (besides the one that emerged from a nymph).

cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower whole body ant and stamens in focus too.jpg (132253 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 in hand eye facets in focus.jpg (152818 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower perched on top.jpg (127746 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower head on.jpg (110085 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower legs out front 2.jpg (125034 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower whole body ant not but stamens in focus too.jpg (151689 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower legs out front whole body.jpg (126754 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower whole flower.jpg (123095 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower legs out front.jpg (116438 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower whole flower 2.jpg (149633 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on hasta flower whole flower head on view.jpg (136580 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on leaf eye facets in focus 2.jpg (110762 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf cropped climbing up.jpg (125627 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf cropped nice face 2.jpg (154361 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf cropped nice face.jpg (141297 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on leaf eye facets in focus heading down.jpg (126190 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf whole body.jpg (118565 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf eye facets in focus 2 cropped.jpg (122554 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on leaf eye facets in focus.jpg (111941 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on purple hastas full body 2.jpg (127658 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on leaf good face but wing cropped.jpg (136569 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on purple hastas full body 3.jpg (113477 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on purple hastas full body darker.jpg (128575 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on purple hastas full body.jpg (140970 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia cropped body nice eye focus.jpg (141883 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on purple hastas partial body.jpg (144017 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia cropped reaching.jpg (129500 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia cropped body nice facial hair focus.jpg (136523 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view darker great focus 2.jpg (145997 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view horizontal.jpg (145211 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view darker great focus.jpg (136204 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view great focus.jpg (151030 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia heading upward.jpg (123448 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia upside down head on.jpg (128077 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia leaf bkg.jpg (113293 bytes)

cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view darker.jpg (138915 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view.jpg (134047 bytes)  cicada 9-16-06 on summer poinsettia full body view horizontal darker.jpg (132248 bytes)

 

The adult pictured below was photographed at dusk on 8-21-05.  Unfortunately, it was freshly dead when I found it.  If it was alive, I probably wouldn't have gotten any photos of it.  Notice how the three red dots near the top of its head act as reflectors.

cicada facing left night.jpg (123272 bytes)  cicada front night brighter cropped.jpg (112001 bytes)  cicada front night.jpg (108900 bytes)

cicada top night.jpg (137199 bytes)  cicada front wings exposed night.jpg (136979 bytes)  cicada front night brighter.jpg (124410 bytes)

 

Here is the same adult photographed on 8-22-05 with daylight (natural settings) and indoor lighting (white background).

creeping up light bkg.jpg (96816 bytes)  front view dancing cropped.jpg (103622 bytes)  top view bark.jpg (110742 bytes)  frontal right foot in hole cropped.jpg (103749 bytes)

facing left white bkg cropped.jpg (120888 bytes)  head on facing slight right cropped.jpg (113030 bytes)  head on white bkg cropped.jpg (111260 bytes)  facing right white bkg cropped.jpg (133709 bytes)

 

Below is a close-up of the head and thorax region, the underside, and a close-up of one of its eyes.

creeping up light bkg eye fringe cropped.jpg (99812 bytes)  underside light.jpg (104772 bytes)  eye closeup cropped.jpg (42283 bytes)

 

Here is a different cicada specimen that I mounted with its wings out.  This way, you can see all four wings.

flying cicada front view.jpg (114632 bytes)  flying cicada top view 2.jpg (107623 bytes)  flying cicada top view.jpg (117216 bytes)

 

To learn more about cicadas, click the links below:

U of M Periodical Cicada Page

Cicadas of Michigan

 

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