T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Cicada nymph shedding its skin

Cicada nymphs burrow underground to depths ranging from about 30 cm down to 2.5 m. The nymphs feed on root juice and have strong front legs for digging.  The length of time they spend in this subterranean existence varies from 2 to 17 years, depending on the species.

A subterranean cicada nymph

When they are ready to become adults in the final nymphal instar, they construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge and crawl up on the side of the nearest object. Then the skin splits down the middle of their back and they emerge to inflate and dry their wings. The abandoned exoskeleton remains, still clinging to the bark of trees, fences and posts. This is usually done at night.

The following photos were taken over a period of 90 minutes.

Wings still folded up.

A new cicada starting to inflate its wings. 

A cicada with its winds nearly fully inflated

A native orchid seed stalk that four cicada nymphs had climbed to shed their skins.

Four empty cicada nymph skins.on native orchid seed capsule.

The nymphs will climb any object that is available. Here one has shed its skin while attached to a flower head.

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/