Sunday, April 24, 2011

Periodical Cicada (Magicicada tredecim)

The cicada world is abuzz in anticipation of the emergence of Brood XIX of the 13-year cicadas.

I know this now, but I was clueless yesterday morning when W and I went down to the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County, Georgia, to see if we could spot Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis). We were also looking for butterflies and wildflowers including plants of Asclepias sp. that we had seen last Fall. But we’re also on the lookout for anything unusual – and 'unusual' is what we encountered yesterday.

We were driving into the refuge along Sugar Hill Road from Hillsboro. Something relatively large and with clear wings flew across in front of us and settled on a leaf of a Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree. We piled out of the truck with cameras in hand, fully expecting what ever it was to fly off. But it didn’t and we found ourselves looking at a red-eyed cicada. This was noteworthy since most of the cicadas we usually encounter have brown or green eyes. This cicada flew off. I started stalking a Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) and W wandered over to the other side of the road where he found another red-dyed cicada, and then another one, and another…

A cicada posing on the leaf of a Sweetgum tree.

Another cicada posing on the trunk of a Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda).

As we looked around, we found skins such as this one on a Sweetgum leaf, the trunk of a nearby Loblolly Pine, and on a twig.

The cicada flew from the pine trunk onto the ground where it blended into its surroundings. I'd watched its flight path and found it. It was easy to pick it up gently and…

It posed on my hand for some time before I returned it to a tree branch.

It was early afternoon when we found the cicadas and they were calling in the woods to the south of Sugar Hill Road. So many were calling that it wasn't possible to distinguish individual calls.

Based on the distribution of Magicada sp., this species is Magicada tredicem.

Dr. Nancy Hinkle and colleagues at the University of Georgia are studying the emergence of Brood XIX this year. If you live in Georgia and find these cicadas, please take a few moments to take photos of cicadas and shed cicada skins that you find as well as some notes on where you found them, and e-mail them to

You can also report your sighting at the magicada Brood XIX website
Click on an image to view a larger image

Information and Distribution Maps:

- Brood XIX

- Magicicada tredecim

- Magicicada neotredecim

- NPR:
'Brood 19' cicadas poised to swarm the South

- Nancy Hinkle: Calling All Cicada Seekers

- Walter Reeves: Have You Seen This Creature?

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