Cicada Moult

by Daisy

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Never having seen a cicada in mid-moult, I was fascinated to find this one in my yard this weekend. Their sounds are the background music for nearly every summer (“Can you say that again!? I can’t hear you over the cicadas!”) and I’ve often seen their exuvia (the cast-off exoskeletons), but never witnessed how they emerge from them.

Their larvae develop underground, feeding off the liquid of roots, until they are ready to moult. At that time they tunnel to the surface and attach to trees, etc., in this case an electricity pole.

It jiggled, almost like a tremble, as it slowly and gradually wriggled out.  At first, the wings were soft and crumpled.


After a couple of hours, they straightened and strengthened, and the cicada slowly moved away from its former skin.


The exuvia are used in Chinese Traditional Medicine, ground into a powder, and used as an anti-convulsive, sedative, and to reduce skin irritation and itch, among other things.

Maybe I should start saving them up instead of using them to scare the kids.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Cinnamon Vogue August 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I saw the photo and was fascinated and repulsed. Think I would rather convulse that take Chinese medication that the exuvia are used for. 🙂 But great photography. Thanks for sharing this.

Portia McCracken August 19, 2013 at 4:51 am

I was captivated by the first photo in your email, trying to suss out what it could be (I hadn’t yet seen the title or subsequent photos). I could think only of an exquisite jade sculpture depicting some exotic, magical creature. When I finally saw your title, I was still enchanted. How lucky you are to have witnessed this transformation in person. How lucky we are to be allowed to share it with you. Thank you.

Daisy August 19, 2013 at 7:48 am

It was otherworldly, almost translucent. Jade is a good description.

Lindsay August 19, 2013 at 7:56 am

As creepy as cicada skins are, the live bugs are just ugly.

Speaking of ugly bugs, do you have assassin bugs in your neck of the woods? I had one in my house the other day. And following your example, I looked it up before I squashed it. Since it’s a predatory insect, it got to live. But it is uuugly!

Blythe Barbo August 19, 2013 at 9:38 am

What a gorgeous photo! I am continually amazed by the intricate beauty of nature in what for some is such a common thing! We don’t have these where I live, but if we did, I most certainly would save some to scare little children! Ha! Love it!

Pat August 19, 2013 at 10:35 am

Those are some awesome photos! The cicadas have been deafening this year and they started way early. There’s an old saying that we will have frost 6 weeks after the first cicadas sing. With such strange weather, who knows?? 🙂

KimH August 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Totally beautiful photos… Thanks so much for sharing them!!

Anne August 20, 2013 at 12:07 am

Love following your blog, and thoroughly enjoy your Linky pages. I love your pictures of this cicada, which we don’t have here in the UK, so thank you for posting them. It’s a beautiful animal. And I definitely think that keeping the exuvia for scaring the kids with is the best possible use of them! Anne.

Daisy August 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

Anne–Many thanks, and glad to have you reading along, (especially with your discerning taste in kid-frightening techniques).

Gerry August 21, 2013 at 5:08 am

Nature may not always be beautiful but it never ceases to be interesting. I am new to your blog and I think you have one of the most interesting sites on the net. Keep up the good work.

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