Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Creatures in my Backyard | Tibicen Cicada

My last foray into this feature taught me a couple things. One is that my cell phone takes horrible pictures. The other is that it was less interesting to me to post photos on my blog of creatures that I knew nothing about.

Perhaps when I get up to a thousand viewers or so, I can post the mystery beasties. Until then, I suppose I'll do my research.

This big fella spent its final days on the screen door to the "mudroom" (an architectural feature of southern homes, apparently) . After which it fell off and fed a colony of ants.

A little google research led me to identify it as a Cicada from the Tibicen genus. The website bugguide.net had a bunch of (significantly better) photos - this one by Larry Clarfeld most closely resembles the one I found.

Image: Tibicen Cicada by Larry Clarfeld

Early in their season, I made the mistake of tapping one of these buggers with the end of a broomstick - I thought it was a dung beetle - and lemme tell ya, this cicada screamed like a scarab out of a mummy horror movie. Incredible, really. According to this wikipedia article, "Some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB (SPL) "at close range", among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds."

Some more information from Wikipedia...

The Tibicen genus of cicadas are large-bodied Cicadidae appearing in late summer or autumn. Like other members of the subfamily Cicadinae, they have loud, complex songs, even (in many cases) distinct song phrases. Tibicen are the most common cicada in the United States. Unlike periodical cicadas, whose swarms occur at 13- or 17-year intervals, Tibicen species can be seen every year, hence their nickname "annual cicadas." The lifecycle of an individual, however, is more than a year. Nymphs spend two or three years feeding on tree roots before they emerge. Their annual reappearance is due to overlapping generations. Many other colloquial names exist for Tibicens: locust, dog day cicada, harvest fly, August dry bird, jar fly, bush cicada.
The article goes on to state that the cicada is edible by more than ants,  "Cicadas have been eaten in China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America, the Congo and in the United States. In North China, cicadas are skewered, deep fried or stir fried as a delicacy."

I guess I missed out on a good snack.

The short life span of the cicada, its distinctive mating song, and its transformative process all have provided plenty of material for folklores of different cultures, which I won't cite here - my challenge will be to come up with something original in my own writing.

However, something that I will use is the cicada as medicine. Some quick research gave me this information...

The pharmaceutical name of the substance made from this insect is Periostracum Cicadae or chan tui. [...]
Cicada's healing effects are due to its antispasmodic (reducing spasms), antipyretic (fever-reducing), and sedative (sleep-inducing) effects.
Cicada can prevent or reduce muscle spasms by reducing the tension of the striated muscles. It may also delay transmission of nerve signals at the neuromuscular junction, thereby reducing muscle spasms. Its activity may be similar to that of barbiturates, well-known sedatives, and anti-seizure medications. As an antispasmodic drug, it may be effective as supportive treatment for febrile seizures.

You can read the rest of the article here - some pretty interesting stuff.

And that's all I have for today - I could go on about bugs and medicine and so forth, and maybe I will, but for now, we'll keep it nice and simple.


  1. I love research on things I know nothing about.. bugs are one!! I do know these creatures are LOUD... LOUD!! He didn't like being poked.. poor guy!!! but he ended where he needed to be.. dried and food for smaller bugs that I am much more able to take.. I Hate big bugs!!!

  2. I probably jumped a foot in the air when I tapped the little guy, it was hilarious. There's all sorts of little critters on/in the carport, but this cicada must have been waiting to have his photo taken.

    There's a gorgeous blue/black butterfly that hangs out at the closest oak tree, I wish I could capture that one on film. Seeing it makes me happy.


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