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Cicadetta calliope

Cicadetta calliope
Loess Hills SF, Harrison County, Iowa, USA
June 18, 2009

Images of this individual: tag all
Cicadetta calliope Cicadetta calliope

Cicadetta calliope (kansa ?)
Given locality (Iowa), it is possible this cicada may be either the "Common Grass Cicada", Melampsalta (Cicadetta) calliope or the "Plains Grass Cicada", Melampsalta (Cicadetta) kansa. Both species may be variable in color: lime green, olive green, tan, pink-ish, and orange -ish (?)

There are several species in the Genus Melampsalta (archaic syn. Cicadetta). Several of these taxa have been confused with and/or once considered to be populations of Melampsalta calliope.

Melampsalta - little grassland cicadas

Melampsalta calliope (Walker 1850a)
Atlantic Coast, Southeast, Lower Mississippi River Valley northward into the southern parts of the Mid-West
(New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana - west into the eastern Plains & northward into the Upper Miss. Riv. & lower Mid-West??)

Melampsalta camerona Davis 1920a
Southeastern Texas/South Texas

Melampsalta floridensis Davis 1920a
Peninsular Florida
(Possibly across parts of the FL panhandle? northward into s. Georgia? & s. Alabama?..???)

Melampsalta kansa Davis 1919b
Most states of the "Great Plains" and western portions of the Upper Mississippi R. Valley
(n. Texas?, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota ... east into the Mid-West - parts of Missouri, Illinois?, Iowa?, ...???)

Melampsalta texana Davis 1936a
Southern Plains - across Texas grassland habitats (east into Louisiana ??)

Cicadetta vs. Melampsalta & how many species ????
Cicadetta vs. Melampsalta - the conundrum of Splitting!

The Genus Melampsalta has apparently been used to group all the species previously under Cicadetta and native to the US (North America).

Geographic distribution, coloration, population dynamics, and species relationships/interactions can be a real problem with regards to the taxonomy and id of these little guys. There is no doubt there are differences in their songs and habitat preferences, both suggestive of taxonomic distinctiveness. There also appears to be some overlap in range(s) for some.

Historically the group was split into eastern and western counterparts (calliope & kansa) - read the below quote from a web article by Ted C. MacRae (very good article, http link below).

....."Despite being the only world-wide genus of cicadas, Cicadetta is represented in the U.S. by only two species—C. kansa and C. calliope. In addition to its pale green coloration, C. kansa is distinguished from C. calliope by having only 4 or 5 apical cells in the hind wing (6 in C. calliope). Cicadetta kansa occurs from Texas north to South Dakota, while C. calliope is found from Texas to Florida and northwards to Iowa, Ohio and New Jersey. Little is known about the biology of Cicadetta kansa; however, presumably it is similar to that of C. calliope, which emerges and lays eggs in late spring. Eggs hatch by late summer, at which time the nymphs burrow into the ground again begin feeding on the roots of grasses. This feature of their biology protects them from the negative impacts of managed spring and fall burns, and indeed C. calliope is known to increase in prairies that are managed by such burns.".....

Ted C. MacRae


Unfortunately, there are few references to these little cicadas and what can be found is typically slight on info.

f.y.i. Most of the information I have gathered has been based on personal field experience & via personal communication with several cicada specialists (+ added info from a few other interested individuals who either live in areas where Cicadetta/Melampsalta species occur or have encountered these little cicadas in the wild first hand).

Through the years I have collected several color forms of Cicadetta in the southeast (& central Florida). The alternate color forms from central Florida raised the question of species we possibly have both floridensis & calliope in Ocala, FL? ... YES!!

Extensive collecting of Cicadetta in several central florida counties has produced green, tan and pink morphs of calliope + green floridensis, previously thought to be calliope(?) - evidently, calliope & possibly "floridensis" aren't always one color! So what of kansa??..are there possibly other color forms??.

Since we have observed color variations across the ranges of several other Cicadetta species..."Is color a good tool to use in differentiation?"...probably not in every case.

In Alabama, I have collected calliope and possibly "floridensis" (green calliope) ... but we aren't sure. Separation of dead and faded material can be difficult. However, there is no doubt that green, brown, gold, tan and orangish color forms of "Cicadetta something" occurs across parts of Alabama.


Back to the point I was making on the Guide before tangent jumping and "as always, being too verbose".

I was reading the commentary under Cicadetta species and noticed Dr. Hamilton's comment under one of the pic's regarding coloration and uncertainty in id.

"Cicadetta - This genus has longer wings and thorax than Beameria. I don't know which one would be all brown, like this."
… Andy Hamilton, 11 July, 2008 - 8:10am

And I AGREE (strangely "monochromatic" with reduced pattern and no apparent banding in the abdomen as seen in most C. calliope specimens from other parts of the range)

My commentaries have been inserted to add some additional info for the group as "currently known" and perhaps to question the id's for a few of these little bugs that may have been based on color alone and not considering distribution (Do we know for a fact what species we have in some of those photos?).

I think we should use trepidation with id'ing some members of this group until we have a better understanding of the various taxa, variability within and among taxa, geographic distributions & the interactions between and among the related taxa (per. comm.).

Hope that helps a little.

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