Sunday, July 22, 2012

Emerging Cicada

The empty skin, or exuviae, of a cicada clings to the side of a tree
 While camping at Bass Lake Provincial Park the other day, I happened to notice an empty cicada skin clinging to the side of a tree by the beach.  I stopped to snap some shots of the skin, which is called exuviae, and happened to notice that something much more spectacular was occuring on this tree.  As I looked up, was thrilled to see a cicada in the midst of shedding its skin.  And it wasn't just one cicada... there were three cicadas that were all at different stages of metamorphosis!  Needless to say, I was over the moon!  With camera in hand, I captured these cicadas as they emerged from their nymphal skin to begin their new existence as winged adults. 

The cicada is dear to me for a few reasons.  First, their distinctive high pitched song reminds me of when I was a child and how I used to think their buzzing was actually the power surging through the power lines.  Second, the cicada song to me means summer.  When you hear that buzzing, you immediately think of a hot summer day, jumping in a lake and sipping lemonade.  Well at least I do.  Lastly, the cicada was the insect that rekindled my passion for insect identification, for nature and for photography.  This happened about 10 years ago when we found a freshly molted cicada clinging to the tire of our car.  I had never seen a cicada before and was instantly mesmerized.  As a child, I was always fascinated by insects... I had forgotten that part of me as an adult.  Today I embrace it, thanks to one little cicada that happened to cross my path a decade ago. 

Now, I have already written about the cicada in this blog, so I don't really wish to repeat everything again.  If you'd like more info on this amazing creature, check out my January blog from 2010:  Cicadas: One of My Favourite Insects...

Here are some shots of cicadas as they are emerging from their nymphal skins.  Essentially, what is happening is that the cicada has pushed through the back of its shell and then slowly pulls itself out of its skin.  As it slowly wiggles itself loose, it ends up sticking straight out from the tree so that it is parallel with the ground.  When it is finally ready to complete molting, it curls forward and grabs the head of its now empty skin and then pulls its back end out of the casing.  The cicada will then rest there while its wings slowly expand and dry.  When rested enough, the cicada then slowly starts walking up the tree to where it lives its adult life.

I am not sure as to exactly what species these cicada are, but I have an i.d. request in with the experts at

An emerging cicada slowly wiggles its way out of the back of its casing (exuviae). 

Fully emerged, the cicada still clings to its skin (exuviae) to rest and let its wings expand and dry

I used my flash in this shot.

A more cropped in version of the shot from above
This was a different cicada.  It had emerged closer to the ground, which made photographing it a bit easier. Here I was able to take a top down shot, showing the underside of this amazing creature.  The cicada has a pointy needle-like beak used for feeding.  It is used to pierce twigs and branches in order to suck up nutrients.  It is not used to bite people.

  This one's wings are much greener than the previous one.  Its wings have not fully expanded yet.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to witness this incredible transformation.  The cicada, indeed, is one of my favourite insects.  I hope it becomes one of yours too.

For more information on the cicada, check out the following sites:

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