Monday, July 27, 2015

Neotibicen Cicadas & their Songs

Swamp Cicada (Tibicen tibicen) (14898035959).jpg
A handsome specimen of Neotibicen tibicen, the Swamp Cicada. 
["Swamp Cicada (Tibicen tibicen) (14898035959)" by Andrew C - Swamp Cicada (Tibicen tibicen). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

With summer in its mature stages, we are treated to the buzzing calls of the Cicadas of the genus Neotibicen across the Eastern United States.  These, unlike the Periodical Cicadas of the genus Magicicada who make their appearance every 17 or 13 years, are with us every year.  These unique bugs produce an incredibly loud and intense call that is unique to each species.  They are, for reference, members of the order Hemiptera (true bugs), and family Cicadidae.

An understanding of the individual species and their unique calls makes listening to their chorus that much more enjoyable.  The buzz of the Neotibicen is a far cry from the wail of the Magicicada -- as different as the greens and browns are from the reds and blacks in their appearance.  For more on the Magicicada, you might visit my earlier blog post: Brood II: A tale of three species

The genus of annual, or dog-day, Cicadas of the Eastern United States was, as of July 2015, split into multiple new genera from the original genus of Tibicen [which means "flute player" in Latin].  Those in Europe retain that generic name, but those in the Eastern USA are now designated Neotibicen  [So, "new-flute player;" appropriate for New World species.], while those in the Western USA are Hadoa [Apparently from the Apache for "singer."]  You can read the taxonomic paper that resulted in these changes here  Note especially the wonderful, and complete, photographs of the species on what are pages 19 and 20, and are labelled in the paper as 237 and 238: "Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen," by KATHY B. R. HILL, DAVID C. MARSHALL, MAXWELL S. MOULDS & CHRIS SIMON

For a variety of Cicada-related resources, you might note the aptly named website, Cicadamania.  They have an entire page on the Neotibicen Cicadas and their recent reclassification:
Cicadamania: Neotibicen Changes

Linne's Cicada (Neotibicen linnei) [Photo by blog author]

Of course, the easiest way to learn which species of Cicada is buzzing in your backyard or on the roadside is to consult recordings.  Happily, there are a few quality sites to help you with just that!

This website, Insect Singers: Cicadas of the Eastern United States, is the best, in the sense of most thorough, I have found so far for cataloging the different species and their call.  Go ahead, listen, and see if you can figure out what that fellow singing in your tree is, specifically!

For a more brief and flashy presentation, you should visit this site, which, while not exhaustive, does have great photos and audio: Songs of Insects: Cicadas  This website is a companion to a Book & CD, The Songs of Insects of Elliot & Hershberger, which is splendid and includes not just Cicadas, but a variety of singing insects, including Katydids.

Sit back, take a siesta, and, if you are fortunate enough to live in the right area of this Earth, enjoy the buzzing of late summer!

Live well!

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