Molting cicada in the valley

July 13, 2010

As humans we don’t think about what it takes to grow. It just happens. For animals that molt, there is a very different process.

Over the weekend I watched this curious behavior with a cicada in the Shenandoah Valley.

Atop a birdhouse, the old skin was split and the creature had begun to emerge.


If you’re not familiar with what a cicada is, I’ll summarize – they sit in the top of trees with a characteristic buzz that rings through most summer evenings and they eat sap. Ah, what a life.

I’ve never watched the process for anything besides a snake, so I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take. Over the course of two hours, I saw little besides flailing legs.

It was kind of pathetic, honestly.

There was so little progress that I thought it was stuck, or would soon overheat as the sun continued to rise. I thought about intervening, but opted to let nature take its course.

After a few hours, the creature disappeared.

There are two possibilities that came to mind. The preferred one is that it succeeded and flew off. The other is that it was taken by a bird or other animal.

Typically, an exoskeleton remains where the molting happened but I saw nothing on top of the birdhouse. I’m hesitant to say it was eaten, though, since a few exoskeletons were scattered on the ground.

Whether he made it or not, I was still glad to see part of the process.

What have you seen molt?

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