Sing, Sing a Song: Annual Cicada

Since my 2013 article on cicadas visiting my place, there appears to have been a taxonomic makeover.  I’m pretty sure this week’s visitor is Davis’ Southeastern Dog-Day Cicada (Neotibicen davisi davisi) although given that the colors of this species are very variable, it is just a guess.

Dog-Day Cicada (Neotibicen sp. likely davisi davisi)
Dog-Day Cicada (Neotibicen sp. likely davisi davisi)

The habitat is listed as:

“Pine Woodlands! This species is most certainly associated with pines, particularly the southern “long-leaf” pine varieties (Loblolly, Slash, etc.)”

I’ve lots of Long-leaf Pines (Pinus palustris), so hopefully that helps in confirming a true identification.

I’ve learned that “nymphs feed on the sap in roots for several years (prefer Pines)” ibid.  That might explain a phenomenon that I have observed throughout the neighborhood over the years.  I noticed that quite a few Grass Stage and early Bottlebrush Stage Pines seem to have sudden death.

The cicada was just climbing along one of the planters
The cicada was just climbing along one of the planter braces

There may be a group of trees together and one and two will suddenly turn brown and die while the other continue to grow and look perfectly healthy.  I thought that perhaps survival of the fittest came into play…you know, healthy competition for nutrients. I always thought that the pines were growing too close together, but I’ve learned to allow nature to take its course in my restoration areas.  They seem to do a lot better when I don’t dictate what grows where and how far apart.

Nice markings
Nice markings

Now I’m wondering if maybe Mom Nature hasn’t given the gift of cicadas to help to maintain proper spacing of the trees.  Just my latest thought on the balance of nature…all things relate to something else.

Earlier in the month I saw a different cicada which I believe is a Southern Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen australis). Also known as the Southern Dusky-winged cicada, the food for this species is a bit different:

“various deciduous plants: seems to like trees and shrubs in the Rutaceae, Rosaceae, Aceraceae & Juglandaceae”.

Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen sp. likely tibicen australis) on Elderberry
Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen sp. likely tibicen australis) on Elderberry

I’ve chased this species before for photographs from my Oak to my Elderberry and back.  It wasn’t inclined to stay still enough for more than one photo.  I have Lime Prickleyash (Zanthoxylum fagara) and a couple of Citris sp. in the Rutaceae family. I also have Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) and some exotic rose in the Rosaceae family so they certainly have plants to choose from at my place.

Cicadas in Florida don’t seem to create damage significant enough to cause economic hardships. Florida doesn’t have periodical cicadas where they all appear at once. Some adult cicadas emerge each year, although it does take more than a year for the full lifecycle to complete so nymphs are underground for more than a year.

“They provide food for many kinds of wildlife, including birds, small mammals, and other insects. Newly emerged adults are easily caught and have been used for food by humans, either raw or cooked…”

I’m not sure I could ever be hungry enough to try one and hopefully things would never be so dire in my life that I’d need to make that decision.  However, I will try to learn their tunes so I can hunt them by ear should the need arise. Based on listening to the sounds in the link, I’m becoming more and more confident in my identifications.

Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus and S. hogardii) are two known  predator species here in Florida.  Now I need to keep my eye out to add these guys to my buggy life list.  Gotta love the never-ending nature in my beautiful wildlife garden!

Thomas J. Walker, University of Florida; and Thomas E. Moore, University of Michigan, Featured Creatures, Publication Number: EENY-327

University of Florida School of Forest Resources & Conservation

Magicicada Central


5 thoughts on “Sing, Sing a Song: Annual Cicada”

  1. Once again you have done an amazing job on the photography and the description. No matter what kind they are, I love the sound of Cicadas!


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