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I Want to Molt Free!

Do you ever hear insects chirping in the dead heat of summer days? The insects you hear are called cicadas. So what is the life cycle of these noisy little critters?

First, a mother cicada finds a tree limb. She digs out a small groove and drops in a rice-shaped egg. The groove protects the egg, and reveals tree fluid for food. In time, the egg hatches and out pops a small insect that looks like a white ant. This young cicada digs a hole in the ground to get to the roots of the plant for food. The young cicada stays underground for 2-17 years! Would you want to live in dirt for up to 17 years? That’s a long time with no sunshine.

One day, the cicada breaks out of the ground in a new form known as a nymph. The nymph climbs to the nearest tree, and what happens next seems like a kind of magic. The insect pushes and pops out of its old crusty skin and into a new, larger, softer skin! This is called molting. The wings perk up, and the new skin hardens like a shell. It has now transformed into an adult cicada.

Young Cicadas Molting cicada in rainforest
Life as an adult cicada only lasts for a few weeks. The male “sings” to find a mate (that’s the noise you hear). The female responds, and a new cycle of life begins. Imagine going through all the trouble of spending seventeen years in the ground and then “growing up” and living as an adult for just a few weeks!

Dig for more: Cicadas

ETL Rainforest Science curriculum connection: Unit 3-Chapter 1-Lesson 1 Gr 2/ Unit 2-Chapter 2-Lesson 2 Gr 1
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