Annual Appeal 2018

Cicada emerging from exoskeleton summer 2018
Cicada emerging from exoskeleton summer 2018

A Cicada Wedding: The Story of the Cicada Exoskeletons

We had a wedding at Nature Day Camp this past summer. It wasn’t planned—at least not by the staff. The campers did it all from the proposal to the happy couple floating down the river to their new life together. The idea was conceived during free time when several cicada nymphs were discovered in their final stage of metamorphosis. The campers watched with aww (and some disgust) as an adult cicada shed its nymph exoskeleton. The remaining empty exoskeleton fascinated the campers. Over the next couple of days of camp, over 40 exoskeletons were found. Each one was named and stories imagined for them, including a love story complete with a wedding.

The gazebo near the river was decorated with rocks, spruce cones, and wildflowers. Immediately following the lovely ceremony, the newlyweds were set on a large leaf to float down the river. These children needed the opportunity to discover wonders of nature and be inspired by what they found. Nature Day Camp provided that opportunity. Generous donations made this possible. Make a donation today.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicada Life Cycle Description from
After mating, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig where she deposits her eggs.[9] When the eggs hatch, the newly hatched nymphs drop to the ground and burrow. Cicadas live underground as nymphs for most of their lives at depths down to about 2.5 metres (8 ft). Nymphs have strong front legs for digging and excavating chambers in close proximity to roots where they feed on xylem sap. In the process, their bodies and interior of the burrow become coated in anal fluids. In wet habitats, larger species construct mud towers above ground in order to aerate their burrows. In the final nymphal instar, they construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge.[9] They then moult (shed their skins) on a nearby plant for the last time, and emerge as adults. The exuviae or abandoned exoskeletons remain, still clinging to the bark of the tree.[43]

Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts from two to five years. Some species have much longer life cycles, such as the North American genus, Magicicada, which has a number of distinct “broods” that go through either a 17-year or, in some parts of the region, a 13-year life cycle. The long life cycles may have developed as a response to predators, such as the cicada killer wasp and praying mantis.[44][45][46] A specialist predator with a shorter life cycle of at least two years could not reliably prey upon the cicadas.[47]

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The Cicada’s Ceremony

The cicada’s wedding ceremony in the gazebo along the Susquehanna River at the Howland Preserve, Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Summer 2018 during Endless Mountains Nature Center’s “Yoga, Art & Nature” day camp program.

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