Friday, August 13, 2010

Molting can be a beautiful thing

It's always a delight to see something for the very first time. This week I saw a cicada nymph emerging from its skin (molting) to become an adult. I've found many empty cicada skins but rarely have seen a live cicada, and never one molting. The wings are tiny at first and unfurl much as a butterfly's wings do. The cicada gets darker after a little while, but I adored its fresh pale green and the delicate gold dot on its head.
There are over 2500 species of cicadas in the world and over 160 in North America. Identification is easier in Europe where there is just one species. Their life cycles can vary from one year to 17 depending on the species. Once they emerge from the ground (where they spend most of their lives) they live only long enough to molt and mate. In Japan they are a symbol of impermanence.
Some sing loud enough that if one was near your ear it would deafen you. Good thing they like to sing from high up in trees. Big groups of singing cidadas in the Midwest are sometimes very loud, but not nearly as loud as some I've heard in the tropics.  In Costa Rica, there is a species that sounds just like an automatic rotating sprinkler.
There are even more photos of a cicada molting here.

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