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Dog-day Cicadas Emerging, Courting, Mating and Laying Eggs

8-24-16 mating cicadas by wallie hammer IMG_2199

Adult annual cicadas, including the pictured Dog-day Cicadas, have emerged from their subterranean dwellings. High up in trees most males are vibrating their abdominal tymbals (drum-like organs) in order to woo female cicadas with their “song.” Thanks to an abdomen that is relatively hollow, the sound is intensified, and very audible to human ears as a high-pitched whining drone, somewhat resembling a buzz saw. We associate it with the hot, humid “dog days” of July and August.

Annual cicadas emerge from the ground (where they have been feeding off of the sap of trees through the trees’ roots for two to four years) every year as nymphs. They climb a tree, split and emerge from their exoskeleton, or outer skin, and pump their wings full of fluid. After their exoskeleton dries, the adult cicadas (also called imagoes) head for the canopy, and males commence “singing” to attract a mate. Within two weeks mating takes place, eggs are laid in slits of live branches and the adults die. After hatching, the nymphs will drop to the ground and burrow into it with their shovel-like front legs. (Thanks to Wallie Hammer for taking and providing today’s photograph. Mating usually takes place in the canopy, and therefore rarely seen.)

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9 responses

  1. Wallie Hammer

    Thank you Mary!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:54 am

  2. Nice photo Mary. I’ve always wanted to see a cicada. Next time please include a common object in your photo so we can judge the scale of the item. A dime or a quarter next to these insects would give some idea of their size. Thanks.

    August 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

    • Good point. I didn’t happen to take this excellent photo, but I often do not use something to help with the scale of things, and I should. Just hate having anything “in-natural” in a photo, but recognize it could be useful!

      August 24, 2016 at 10:43 am

  3. Pat

    I saw one here on August 10th after not seeing or hearing one in years.

    August 24, 2016 at 10:55 am

  4. They look prehistoric!

    August 24, 2016 at 9:06 pm

  5. Amy and Michael Robinson

    Wonderful article, but we’re confused about the term,”annual” when some live under ground for 2-4 years. Help! Amy&Mike

    August 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    • They are called “annual” because every year, some emerge…confusing, I know!

      August 27, 2016 at 9:57 pm

  6. Nate Williams

    Hi Mary,

    First off, thanks for all your daily e-mails. Make My Day!!
    Attached is a photo taken today at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, VT. I think it is a luna moth larvae, but I am uncertain. Any chance you can positively ID it?
    Feel free to use photo if you like.

    Many Thanks,

    September 5, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    • Hi Nate,
      Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow photos attached to comments to come through. Any chance you could send your photo to me at I’d love to see it!

      September 5, 2016 at 10:43 pm

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