Every now and then I get emails or tweets from people asking me to help them identify an insect they’ve found. I love messages like this! Sometimes I recognize the critter right away, other times I have to do a little sleuthing to narrow down its identity. I don’t promise to get a species-level ID, nor do I promise to be right all the time, but I’m sure willing to give it a good shot! Feel free to submit your questions any time.
Anyways, today I got one of these emails, and it was so much fun I had to share it with you (details removed out of respect for the author’s privacy):
Can you tell me what these bugs are? I live in Texas. I walked out of my home this morning and saw these 2 bugs sitting side by side on my fence.
One appears to be a green moth, the other some sort of beetle or roach. They are both about the same size, approx, 1.5 inches.
They are probably harmless, but you never know and they creep me out.
My first thought was, “How interesting to find two such apparently different insects side-by-side on a fence!” My curiosity was piqued immediately. I finally downloaded the image files, and although the photo was a bit blurry, the mystery cleared up right away:
Mystery bugs: green “moth” on the left and brown “roach” on the right. (Photo by J, cropped by me).
J had snapped a photo of an unmistakable scene – and one I’ve never observed personally: a freshly eclosed cicada (the green “moth”, left) resting next to its old nymphal skin (or “exuvia“, right). Very cool!
A closer image of the adult sealed the deal:
It must feel like a strange and very bright new world for this adult cicada which, up to now, had been living in the soil! (Photo by J, cropped by me)
Definitely a cicada. Possibly a dog-day cicada (Tibicen sp.), but it’s hard to say for sure from these photos. Also, the colour of the insect is likely to darken considerably as it sclerotizes (hardens) – the true color would make the ID a bit easier.
As soon as those brand new adult wings have hardened, the cicada will find a nice perch in a tall tree and begin singing for a mate. I haven’t yet heard the cicadas sing here in Ontario, but their high-pitched drone always signals true summer for me 🙂