I really love this photo, which I took a couple summers back. Our cicadas, while still present, seem to be on the decline, although I can't say why. Maybe the majority just aren't ready to emerge yet. I hope that's why. In fact I only just heard my first cicada of the year (although not having my mp3 player playing might have helped make this happen earlier
Ecdysis is the scientific term for when an arthropod molts it's exoskeleton in order to grow. An arduous process, it's very much like having to squeeze yourself out of your own body like a tube of toothpaste (ick!) It's not pleasant for the insects, either, and disturbing them even by the slightest physical provocation can have fatal consequences, such as the inability for the wings to unfurl properly or for the legs to become deformed (two of the most common problems for molting animals).
It's safe to say, though, that besides all the setbacks, it tends to be successful, as if if wasn't arthropods wouldn't be as prolific as they are now.
Coming out of the exuvia (the molted shell), you can see something white trailing out. These are actually the old chitinous linings to the tracheal system (the tubes insects use to breath with). During ecdysis, these are shed along with the rest of the exoskeleton in order for the animal to grow and expand upon itself (since chitin is just a secreted carbohydrate and the exoskeleton is not living tissue, it has to be done away with for the animal's tissues to grow unconstrained.)
You'll also notice the parts of the animal that are a pale green. This is due to the transparency of the animal at this point, and thus what you're seeing is actually it's blood (hemolymph, as it is not blood as we know it*).
Hemolymph is a mixture that is impregnated by oxygen transporting proteins as well as any nutrients and wastes the animal has accumulated. While they don't have blood cells that carry the oxygen, there are immune cells that go around and serve to guard against infection similar to our white blood cells (don't know anything more specific about them though, sorry!)
This adult cicada has just completed its final molt and it's wings have finally unfurled and are drying. The pale white body is still drying, as the exoskeleton will darken to a range of greens and browns to give rise to one of the very common Tibicen spp.
common here in the Eastern U.S.
Each summer, these and related cicadas, each about two inches long, pop up out of the ground where they've been feeding on fluids from tree roots for the past several years (the number of years varies from one species to the next), leaving very characteristic dime-sized holes int he ground. They often do this at night, which is when this photo was taken.
Harmless, the adults, once their shells have hardened, climb up into the tops of out hard wood trees and rein out in loud buzzing love songs, similar to the buzz made by power transformers except only MUCH louder (but not obnoxiously so; unlike the notorious 17 year Magicicada
cicadas, I can't think of a single time that there have been 'plagues' of our Tibicen
cicadas, so the calling insects tend to be more spread out.
(Actually, we don't have Magicicada sp.
back home. When the last crop of them hatched out of the ground, my grandparents in Delaware had to mail
me a dead one just so I could see what they looked like! I was SO bummed by this local absence! Next time, I guess!)
For those of you who would rather I be posting Affexian artwork, don't worry, I have a 2nd teaser coming up and then some. The Earth wasn't made in a day, you know.