Saturday, April 17, 2010

Camera Critters - Cicada Metamorphosis


Visit the Camera Critters meme.

Back in July of 2007 we held one of our garden club meetings at our local arboretum.  For readers not familiar with an arboretum, it is basically a large tree garden.  Ours, which our club maintains is about 9 acres and is planted with many native, as well as some non-native varieties.
People can dedicate a living memorial by sponsoring a tree, visit the area for passive recreation and picnics, and the best part is that we are providing a heritage for future residents.
The meeting was on a warm summer evening and we all sat on the chairs we'd brought amongst some trees listening to a speaker.  One of the members happened to look up at the tree he was beside and saw something very interesting.  Calling me over, I was excited to see a cicada nymph (a childhood name is heat bee) beginning to emerge from its exoskeleton.


In the first picture you can see the split exoskeleton with the cicada beginning to emerge; in the second it is completely molted and the wings are starting to unfurl; the third shows the adult hardening and the wings drying.   The fourth is a size comparison of the exoskeleton to a quarter.
For anyone that has the time or inclination, I've posted the article I wrote about the metamorphosis of the cicada.

THE DOG DAYS CICADA


Every year as we reach the end of July and slide into the hot, dog days of August you can hear the unmistakable loud buzzing of the male cicada. He makes the loudest sound of all insects as he vibrates the ribbed plates in the two drum-like sound chambers called timbals in his abdomen.
There are many types of cicadas and most can be found every year because they have unsynchronized development. The periodical cicada are synchronized and depending on the species, will all mature and emerge at the same time after spending thirteen or seventeen years underground.
The female has a blade-like ovipositor on her abdomen which she uses to create tiny slits in bark to lay twenty to thirty eggs in each opening and will make many on several branches to accommodate the four hundred to six hundred eggs laid in her life time of four to five weeks. The eggs mature in six to eight weeks and the tiny ant-like nymphs drop from the trees to burrow in the ground 5 – 46 cm (12-18") deep in search of tree roots to feed on.
It is known that the temperature in the ground is one factor that causes the nymphs to begin tunneling to the surface where they will climb trees and poles to molt. They are able to shed their brown brittle exoskeleton when it splits open at the back and they can wiggle out. The nymphs are vulnerable during the molting process of evolving into the large fly-like adult; it takes time and the wings have to dry before they can fly off into the tree tops to begin the mating calls so familiar to us on a hot day.
Cicadas do not bite or harm humans and animals, many nymphs become food for birds and their tunnels aerate the soil. The females during egg laying can cause some small branches to fall off trees but in effect it acts as a measure of pruning and stimulates future growth.

23 comments:

  1. Cool looking critter and great capture!

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  2. What an interesting thing to watch. Well photographed.

    Darryl and Ruth : )

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  3. Great pictures Judith. Must have been been fun to watch.

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  4. What amazing shots you captured - I have heard those things my whole life but, I don't think I ever really knew what they looked like and to see these 3 stages is just incredible.

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  5. I'm a big fan of insect photos! Love these!

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  6. An interesting post with excellent photos. I like how you used the quarter to establish the proper perspective.

    I also enjoyed your article.

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  7. Great shots, educational. I love the sound the cicadas make.

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  8. Very interesting post! When I moved to the East from the West I asked someone what is that loud noiss. After living here 11 years I know what maked the noise but I didn't know much information about them. Cool pictures! Joan@Americana By Candlelight

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  9. How lucky to come across something so interesting. Great photos! I have often seen the exoskeleton on trees around here but never been lucky enough to see one emerging.

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  10. I have never seen them that close, thanks for these amazing photos and all this info

    people think I'm nuts but I love the sound they make

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  11. Fabulous shots! Thank you for visiting My Muskoka !

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  13. These are great shots! I wouldn't have been able to take them though, the bigger the bug, the faster I run away screaming lol

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  14. How cool! I never knew a heat bee was the cicada!

    Pearl

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  15. Amazing shots and interesting post, thanks for sharing.

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  16. I try learn something new each day and this is today,s lesson. I love the idea of having a live memorial tree.

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  17. Hi Judith... We don't have these, and I have never seen one althought I think I have heard them while visiting family in New Mexico. These are great photos & I loved all the info. They have an amazing life!
    Have a Great Weekend,
    Bella

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  18. An interesting write up about the Cicada. Short, simple and sweet. Great shots of th metamorphosis. It looked very detailed and large in photos. They are really so tiny when especially when compared to a quarter.

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  19. Judith: It won't be long and the chirping of the Cicada will begin again in earnest.

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  20. A fascinating post,... and the photos too!!

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  21. Very excellent! Great photos and superb text. ~ks

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Judith

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