by Carl Strang

The Tibicen or annual cicadas are a late summer phenomenon whose loud songs characterize the August days. Occasionally you may find a shed nymphal shell or a dead adult on the ground, but generally they sing out of sight, high in the trees. Last week at Mayslake Forest Preserve I had a rare opportunity to watch one in action.

This was a scissor-grinder cicada, singing only 10 feet up in a crab. The bright white underside perhaps explains its species name, pruinosa.

The cicada was walking around in the branches, singing at frequent intervals. In this photo it apparently is feeding, as its beak is extended.

The cicada was alert and watchful. As I moved within 15 feet for a closer photo the insect abruptly stopped in mid-song and was gone.

A few days later I found a dead one on the walkway near the chapel.

I have not seen a concentration of this species anywhere to match that at Mayslake. In the evening their EE-SHER-EE-SHER-EE-SHER-EE songs can drown out everything else. (Before I learned their conventional common name I used to call them lazy-dying-battery cicadas, as their song reminded me of a car engine whose battery was on its way out. This was to contrast them with the angry-dying-battery cicada, Tibicen auletes, aka northern dusk-singing cicada, whose song also is slow but has an edge to it).

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