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Archive for August 3, 2011

Cicada Skin


During the recent hot weather, male cicada courtship calls were much in evidence (among the loudest  of all insect songs).  Although we hear cicadas constantly, it’s unusual to actually see one, as they are usually way up in the canopy. What we do find, however, are remnants of their immature, or nymph, stage.  When they molt their skin for the final time, cicada nymphs come up out of the ground where they’ve been living and climb up the stem of a plant or a tree trunk, where they split their skin and emerge as winged adults.  Their skin remains on the vegetation, and a close look at it reveals that during their nymph stage, their front legs are extremely large.  These appendages serve as efficient shovels for digging, which young cicada nymphs do a lot of, as they live anywhere from one to eight feet down in the ground, feeding on the sap in roots.  While adult cicadas also feed on sap, they do so above ground, which is evident from their slender front legs.