Explanation of Names
DOG-DAY: a reference to the hot "dog days" of late summer when this species is heard singing; at this time in the northern hemisphere the Dog Star (Sirius) is above the horizon in the Big Dog constellation (Canis Major).
NOTE: Dog-days of summer indeed do refer to Sirius, the dog star, and although it is above the horizon, it is not visible in summer in the northern hemisphere. This is because it is up during the daytime. Canis major is a "winter" constellation.
CANICULARIS: from the Latin "canicula" (a little dog, the Dog Star, Sirius)
HARVESTFLY: another reference to the late season song of this species, heard during harvest time
Color and pattern are not absolutes for species id., but can be helpful. Regarding measurements, these too can be misleading; some individuals may not adhere to "specified measurements" used to "key out" a species. Within this taxon, head & thoracic widths as well as wing dimensions, costal margin shapes, node positions, eye color (light to dark, incl. grey, bluish, slate, greenish, tan, brown &/or black) and body coloration are all subject to a wide spectrum of variation (often based on the individual, geographic origin and gender).
This particular species is perhaps one of the most physically variable members of the Genus Tibicen in North America (rivaled by T. lyricen). Northern Dog-day Cicadas are HIGHLY VARIABLE in color, pattern and size. Based on discussions and observations (incl. collections) there may be some geographic tendencies regarding observed variations between and among individuals (? - larger series/collections can better address these observations)
Dog-Day Cicadas, T. canicularis, are most often represented by 3 primary color morphs - (Green, Brown, & Dark/"near Black"). All known color forms and intermediate combinations may be encountered across the species' range; however, there may be some geographic tendencies to the frequency with which these forms are encountered (additional collecting efforts may better address these observations - ?).
1) "GREEN": Most specimens are typically some shade of green with black markings; wing veins are usu. green, especially noticeable near the base. The mesonotum is often green with black markings centrally and reddish/rust laterally (this color and pattern scheme is similar in several Tibicen species often confounding identification).
NOTE: This color morph is perhaps the most common and widespread. It is often mistaken for T. pruinosus, T. robinsonianus, and/or T. linnei.
2) "BROWN": The "Dog-Day Cicada" may also be brown or reddish-brown with black markings; the wing veins in this form are often dark/brown, especially noticeable near the base.
NOTE: This color morph may also be encountered across the canicularis range, but seems most abundant in the Mid-Atlantic pine barrens (PA, NJ, NY north into New England)
3) "GREEN with heavy black": This particular color morph is also common and widespread; however, may be most common along the Great Lakes & northwestern part of the range (upper Prairie States).
4) "Dark form" or "nr. BLACK": In extreme examples, some specimens may be nearly all black with little green or brown evident on the body (wing veins may be green or brown).
"Rule of thumb" - T. lyricen is generally a larger cicada and averages 2 inches or slightly more in total length - incl. the wings. At the very least, the wings in most lyricen populations exhibit a slight amber cast (intensity is subject to regional variation - for details, refer to Tibicen lyricen (DeGeer 1773), "Lyric Cicada"
). The legs in most lyricen specimens are predominantyly brown with occasional green at the joints (exceptions exist in teneral specimens).
Regarding the cicada pictured below, notice the legs (esp. the tibia); they are mostly green and not predominantly reddish-brown as typically seen in T. lyricen. It is important to mention, in brown forms of canicularis, the legs and the wing veins also tend to be brown (incl. the wing bases which may have only hints of green). In contrast, living or fresh specimens of T. lyricen are not known to have brown wing veins nr. the base (always green or bluish-green).
Many Dog-Day cicadas like the one pictured below come from the extreme northern parts of the canicularis range, incl. the ne. USA (New England) ranging north into the Maritime Provinces of Canada (this color variant may also be found west across the Canadian & US Great Lakes region).
NOTE: Some individuals may exhibit varying degrees & intermediate color forms as described above. Specimens exhibiting more black pigmentation (like #'s 3 & 4 above) are most often associated with more northern latitudes and higher elevations (perhaps the darker pigments help with thermoregulation in higher latitudes - ??).
(Field observations and review of specimens in collections have been instrumental in the formation of the above descriptions, explanations and hypotheticals. Many of the details for this species were obtained via per. comm. I would like to personally thank Gerry Bunker & Elias Bonaros for their contributions based on years of personal observations, collecting, & notations on this species along the eastern seaboard.)
DESCRIPTION: Male opercula short, rounded (oblique), often dark brown and ~1/3 or less the length of abdomen. Color variable, pronotal collar usually green but may be brown, reddish-brown or near black in some individuals (pronotal collar often heavily occluded with black). Eye color variable and may be black, dark brown, gray, tan, green and/or slate blue. Females often lack paired pruinose spots at the base of the abdomen, but if present these are usually poorly developed. Some female specimens may exceed 1.7 (upto 2") inches in total length making identification of females to species level difficult. Costal vein of forewing (large vein along the leading edge of the insect wing) often variable and usually exhibits a gradual arc; however, strong bowing of the costal margin may be seen in the wings of some specimens (i.e. similar to that seen in T. linnei).
In general, the Dog-Day Cicada is less than 2 inches in total length (incl. wings). The head to thorax (i.e body ratios/proportions) are often similar to those seen in linnei and pruinosus. In contrast, Davis' dog-day cicada and related taxa are usu. more compact with wider heads relative to "pronotal width" and seem to lack a "neck" (i.e. the sides of the pronotum are usually nr. ~parallel). In canicularis, the pronotum is often slightly constricted behind the head (i.e. the sides of the pronotum are more evidently convergent anteriorly & divergent posteriorly giving the insect a more "bug-eyed" appearance).
SONG: a loud, high-pitched whine (like a power saw cutting wood) lasting several seconds before fading at the end
NOTE: Some IMAGES under this taxon may be MISIDENTIFIED and are in a constant state of review!
Based on morphological characteristics, call similarities, and distribution patterns, several species are subject to confusion and erroneous id (We/I make mistakes!).
This is a dynamic "living-breathing" site and though we (I) make mistakes, we strive to share the most comprehensive and accurate information possible.
Comments, corrections and updates are always welcome.
N. USA and S. Canada - East of the Rockies.
Most Common across the northeastern US and adjacent Canada
This cicada occupies a wide range, but may be rare to absent in some areas of its "expected range". The distribution and density of this species is often scattered, ranging from very common to locally rare.
Common across much of the upper Mid-Atlantic & New England (USA)
Common across much of s. Quebec & Ontario (Eastern Canada)
Scattered across parts of e. Canada's Maritime Provinces (incl. N.S. & P.E.I.)
Scattered but locally abundant across the Great Lakes Region of both the USA & CANADA
Scattered but may be locally abundant across parts of the upper Mid-West & Upper Mississippi River Basin
Scattered across the eastern Plains states - incl. IA, WI, MN, ND, SD, south into n. Nebraska(?)
Scattered reports across s. Manitoba
Records suggest isolated reports from the Rockies - Colorado (?)
Scattered but locally abundant in the Mid-Atlantic Region (esp. NY, NJ & PA)
May be localized but potentially abundant in states adj. to n. Virginia (e. KY, WV, MD? & DE? - many reports of this species from these localities, esp. lower coastal habitats, have been questionable - ??)
Rare: Few reports from Appalachia (incl. e. TN, w NC & w. VA)
Spurious reports from the Southeastern US and Plains States are likely based on T. auriferus and T. davisi, both of which are very similar in appearance and call.
NOTES on the “Common or Northern" Dog-day Cicada (Tibicen canicularis) in the Southeast.
This cicada appears to be a generalist but may prefer pines, spruces and related trees (per. comm. & reports). Reports form the east coast suggest they are often associated with short needle pines and mixed coniferous forests of more northern latitudes (shells are often collected on or near pines/conifers - per. comm.). However, this species may naturally range southward through the Appalachians into VA, NC and TN. Davis mentions a single damaged specimen identified as canicularis was retrieved in the mountains of Virginia (For notes on T. canicularis in Virginia, refer to the following: Davis' 1922-23 paper from the Journal of the New York Entomological So (p.45)
NOTES on this species in North Carolina:
Most - if not all - historical reports/records of T. canicularis from NC (both audal & collected specimens) are likely misidentifications based on similar taxa. Those reviewed in collections were all suspect and typically keyed to either T. davisi or one of the other "Green Tibicen" species.
Similar in call and often confused with Tibicen davisi
Similar in appearance and often confused with the following: Tibicen davisi, Tibicen linnei, Tibicen robinsonianus and Tibicen winnemanna
We (NCMNS) have observed 3 specimens thus far from NC appearing congruent with this taxon (2 from the mountains and one from Wake Co., NC). However, it is possible records from NC represent spurious introductions of this otherwise northern species. North Carolina plays a major role in the arborculture industry, particularly with regards to northern conifers used as "Christmas Trees". There is some thought that the arborculture trade may be responsible for the movement of cicadas and subsequent range expansion/spurious reports (additional collecting efforts and studies are needed to fully recognize the natural range of this taxon and suspected areas of introduction).
mixed or deciduous woods; mature males sing from treetops, newly-emerged adults may be found in low vegetation and on tree trunks
Often found in pine woodlands and mixed forests from New Jersey north into New England & se, Canada
Varies from region to region, but often associated with pines and allied conifers.
Some populations seem to occupy deciduous forests and/or mixed forests.
larvae feed underground on the roots of pine and oak
*seem to prefer pines in most places (per. comm.)
Due to similarity in call, T. canicularis is frequently confused with the following:
Due to similarity in appearance, T. canicularis is frequently confused with the following:
"Green Tibicen Species"
Collectively, yet informally, referred to as the "Green Tibicen species" (per. comm.), the following cicadas are often difficult to differentiate and all appear to be very closely related. Genitalic analysis of the males suggest these species are very closely related and morphological differences between and among the species are slight. It is also thought (based on observations) that several of these may be involved in complex hybrid zones; however, more work is needed to substantiate and better understand these observations.
Tibicen pruinosus pruinosus var. fulvus Beamer 1924 [syn. T. pruinosa var. fulva], "Pale Scissor(s) Grinder Cicada"
"Southern Dog-day Cicadas"
Loosely & informally referred to as the "Southern Dog-day Cicadas" (suggested - Reynolds 2010), the following taxa are mostly "southern" in distribution and appear to be closely related. These cicadas share several traits, incl. elongated opercula in the males, rapid trill and/or clicking calls, and unusually wide heads relative to body dimension (head widths usu. exceed thoracic widths).
(*appears to be the most divergent member within this group - ??)
On rare occasion, some color morphs of T. canicularis may be confused with the following:
"Lyric Cicadas"/"The lyricen Group"