As with several taxa, color and pattern are certainly not absolutes for species id., however, 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 particular taxon, T.lyricen, color, pattern and size may differ (these observed differences are an artifact of individual variation, geographic origin and/or in some cases gender).
The color form engelhardti (previously considered a distinct subspecies) is usually black with a very small amount of green, tan or brown on the pronotum (often in the shape of an anchor or tear drop). Across and circumventing the "engelhardti range", there are numerous intermediate types (lyricen-engelhardti variants), especially where the color forms "lyricen" and "engelhardti" transition/overlap.
Due to its distinct color and pattern and the fact the literature often refers to this variety as a distinct subspecies, I recommend keeping the form "engelhardti" separate here on the guide - at least for now.
Tibicen lyricen, Lyric Cicada
1) In general, Lyric Cicadas are 2 inches or slightly more in total length (incl. wings).
2) Dark brown/reddish-brown legs (occasionally with hints of green - tenerals may have green legs!!)
3) The pronotum of these cicadas has a well developed black pronotal collar with pronotal patches which may be green, bronzy-green, bronze, reddish-brown, brown or black in coloration (typically not as clean or "leaf green" as in Tibicen tibicen ... exception in ssp. virescens)
4) Dark eyes: when alive/fresh, T. lyricen has dark black/brown eyes (rarely with dark greenish black hues when teneral)
5) Ventral black stripe on venter of abdomen is well developed in both genders and in all subspecies and color variants
6) Males of this species have oblique opercula (reddish-tan in color)
7) Behavioral note: When ALIVE, lyric cicadas will usually tuck their legs tightly to the sides and "play dead" (see image below)
There are 2 rather "poorly defined" subspecies
Tibicen lyricen ssp. virescens
Tibicen lyricen ssp. lyricen
The species T.lyricen
is polymorphic and varies tremendously in color and pattern. In particular, those populations belonging to the nominate race or ssp. lyricen
are subject to extreme variation between and among individuals and across the vast geographic range occupied by this species. Given the observed diversity and geographic distributions for many of the "forms", the current "subspecies split" is viewed as questionable by some (see Range section below). The variations seen in this taxon and associated geographic distributions are more suggestive of a cline
than of distinct "races" or "subspecies".
1) ssp. virescens, the "Coastal Lyric Cicada".
This race is best described as "monomorphic" (meaning, all individuals seem to conform to the same "recipe in color and pattern" with no extreme variation seen between and among individuals). This subspecies is restricted to the FL peninsula and the extreme coastal habitats of the Atlantic Coastal Plain - extending north from FL into coastal e. GA, e. SC & extreme se. NC.
In contrast, ssp. lyricen can be HIGHLY VARIABLE in color, pattern and size. However, there appears to be some evidence for distinct geographic tendencies regarding observed variations between and among individuals.
The ssp. lyricen form lyricen is generally patterned with greens, browns, reds, and tans while the color form engelhardti (previously considered a distinct subspecies) is usually black with a very small amount of green, tan or brown on the pronotum (often in the shape of an anchor or tear drop). There are numerous intermediate variants where the color forms "lyricen" and "engelhardti" overlap.
2) ssp. lyricen, the "Lyric Cicada"
This race is extremely polymorphic and widespread across much of the eastern USA.
a) The dark form, engelhardti, has a more eastern, northern and upland distribution (very common in and along the eastern mountains & associated plateaus/fall-line hills). Perhaps the increased pigment seen in this color form serves a thermoregulatory function associated with cooler temps and greater day-night temp differentials seen in higher altitudes and latitudes.
b) Intermediates between f. lyricen and engelhardti often occupy transitional zones (elevational & latitudinal gradiants) and can be widespread in and along the eastern mountains & associated plateaus/fall-line hills.
c) T. lyricen f. lyricen can be quite variable. This "type" generally occupies "lower elevations" and has a greater distribution than seen for f. engelhardti. It is common across the Southeast (Gulf Coast), Mid-Atlantic, New England (usu. associated with the coastal areas & lower elevations), Mississippi River Basin, much of the Mid-West, Great Lakes region, and Eastern Plains. Individuals belonging to ssp. lyricen f. lyricen from coastal areas - i.e. the mid-Atlantic north into New England - are often similar in appearance to ssp. virescens; however, these cicadas lack the bright BLUE wing veins basally and more often than not exhibit slightly duller greens.
The f. lyricen also appears to comprise several "sub-groupings", often with strong geographic affinities. Despite observations suggesting some of these populations exhibit notable differences, none have been given "varietal names".
"Southeastern US - Upper Coastal Plain" (nr. virescens?)
"Southeastern US - Fall-line Hills of the Piedmont Plateau"
"Northeastern US - Atlantic Coastal Plain"
T. lyricen f. lyricen, "Western Lyric Cicadas" or "Osage Lyric Cicadas"
[quick handle(s)/common name(s) used by Bill Reynolds
, 2008 - NOTE: not intended to imply separate taxonomic status]
Perhaps the most notable population group within the f. lyricen would be the western forms ("Osage Lyric Cicadas"). Not unlike the "Coastal Lyric Cicada", these populations tend to be "~monomorphic" with most individuals exhibiting relatively consistent character sets.
Populations along the Mississippi River and west often appear "distinct". There is a broad transition zone between the very similar looking Mid-Western types and those occupying the western most parts of the range (i.e. populations across c./ne. TX & OK being most distinct). MOST of these cicadas exhibit a heavy black pattern resembling the Roman Numeral "V" on the pronotum. Unlike many of the eastern types, this pattern is usally bold, unbroken and confluent with the pronotal collar (refer to images). The pronotal "shoulder patches" may be bronzy-green or reddish brown. The mesonotum is usually characterized by deep reddish-brown, esp. laterally. The central area of the mesonotum is often a deep olive green or taupe. When alive or fresh, the basal wing veins in these "western lyricen" are usually a bright bluish-aqua (much as seen in ssp. virescens ... and in contrast to the yellow-greens characteristic of the other more eastern forms). Additionally, as one travels west, the wings often exhibit a much deeper orangish/amber-grey wash - a trait not characteristic of specimens to the east (even more extreme than seen in ssp. virescens).
"Osage Lyric Cicadas"
NOTATIONS on the geographic distribution of Tibicen lyricen ssp. lyricen form engelhardti
DARK LYRIC CICADA
Upland deciduous forests of the eastern US
Appalachia, Cumberland Plateau, Piedmont Plateau north into New England. This particular color form (NOT a valid subspecies) seems to disappear along the fall-line hills of both the Piedmont and Cumberland Plateaus.
Across and circumventing the "engelhardti range", there are numerous intermediate types (lyricen-engelhardti variants), especially where the color forms "lyricen" and "engelhardti" transition/overlap.
Form "engelhardti" is absent across most of the lyricen range incl. the Coastal Plain of the Southeast, Mid-West, Mississippi River Basin, & Eastern Plains where this species is replaced by variants all considered to be "form lyricen".
NOTATIONS on the geographic distribution of Tibicen lyricen ssp. lyricen form lyricen
Occupies various habitats across the eastern US from The Midwest/Great Lakes east to New England and south to Texas & Florida.
Often common and widespread across the eastern USA
Southeast (incl the Gulf Coast States)
Appalachia (scattered individuals of var. lyricen & intermediates may be encountered amongst var. engelhardti)
s. New England (usu. associated with the coastal areas & lower elevations)
Upper & Lower Mississippi River Basin
s. Great Lakes Region
NOTATIONS on the geographic distribution of Tibicen lyricen ssp. virescens
COASTAL LYRIC CICADA
"Coastal Lyric Cicadas" (virescens) are native to the Florida peninsula ranging northward along the Atlantic coast - at least into se. North Carolina. Documentation beyond the Carolinas is sketchy; additional surveys may yield a more northern distribution and blend zones with nominate lyricen.
Isolated reports suggest se. NJ as the northern most point for ssp. virescens.
As mentioned, many individuals of "f. lyricen" collected along the Atlantic Coast often strongly resemble "ssp. virescens"; however, these specimens do seem to differ slightly in color and intensity (slightly more muted greens). Side note - the wings of these more northern examples generally lack the apparent smoky-amber cast seen in virescens.
Thought to have a similar range as seen in Tibicen latifasciatus with which it shares many of the same habitats.
Sap of several hardwoods (preferred adult hosts seem to incl. Pecan, Hickory, Walnut, Wild Cherry, Apple, Pear + many other species in the rose and walnut families)
eggs laid in twigs or dead wood
eggs hatch and nymphs burrow into the soil
nymphs feed on the sap in roots for several years
Final instar nymphs emerge and develop into winged adults (emergence for this species may be at night or during the day)
As mentioned, "engelhardti" is NO LONGER recognized as a valid subspecies, but rather a color form. This particular form has a strong geographic concentration along the eastern mountains and upland decid. forests stretching into the higher latitudes of the extreme northeast (incl. New England).
Tibicen lyricen and Tibicen tibicen (chloromerus) are often confused with one another. It is not an uncommon mistake to mis id. these two species since both are subject to regional and individual variability - hence frequently confused.
Pronotal and mesonotal patterns are variable in both Tibicen tibicen (chloromerus) and in T. lyricen; however, living or freshly dead chloromerus specimens have distinctly green pronotal patches in both the teneral and sclerotized states. Additionally, the green patches are usually better defined in T. tibicen than in lyricen.
Tibicen tibicen (chloromerus)
1) Greater development of the paired pruinose spots at the base of the abdomen
(less developed in T. lyricen)
2) Bright mint-green legs (occasionally with light brown at the terminal ends of the tibia/tarsi)
3) The green in the pronotum of these cicadas is a clean bright "leaf green" in both the teneral and sclerotized forms (excluding ssp. australis which is typically very dark green)
4) The pronotal collar is often black but may have green intrusion or even green in some individuals/populations
5) Although some Swamp Cicadas may have dark eyes (usu. very dark green), the vast majority of T. tibicen specimens have distinct greenish hues when alive/fresh
6) Venter of abdomen with No dark stripe (lacks the black pigmentation as seen in lyricen)
7) Males have elongated opercula (yellowish-green in color)
8) Behavioral note: When ALIVE, swamp cicadas will often raise their legs up and "fold them" into an interlocking tangle = "play dead" (See VENTRAL image below)
Ventral aspect is basically the same in both subspecies (ssp. australis & ssp. tibicen). The opercula of T. australis may be slightly longer (?)
Tibicen lyricen, Lyric Cicada
T. lyricen may strongly resemble T. tibicen, however, note the following traits.
1) Less development of the paired pruinose spots at the base of the abdomen
(esp. in females of lyricen; males usu. possess the paired spots but they are smaller by comparison than those seen in males of T. tibicen ... always large and better developed in both genders of T. tibicen)
2) Dark brown/reddish-brown legs (occasionally with hints of green - tenerals may have green legs!!)
3) The green in the pronotum of these cicadas is typically not as clean or "leaf green" as in Tibicen tibicen (exception in ssp. virescens) - in engelhardti, the pronotal patches are BLACK!
4) BLACK Pronotal collar (rarely with brown intrusion) is well developed in both genders and in all subspecies and color variants
5) Dark eyes: when alive/fresh, T. lyricen has dark black/brown eyes (rarely with dark greenish black hues when teneral)
6) Ventral black stripe on venter of abdomen is well developed in both genders and in all subspecies and color variants
7) Males of this species have oblique opercula (reddish-tan in color)
8) Behavioral note: When ALIVE, lyric cicadas will usually tuck their legs tightly to the sides of their body and "play dead"(see image below)
"Swamp Cicadas"/"The chloromerus Group"
"Swamp Cicada" or "Morning cicada"
"Southern Dusky-winged cicada" or "Southern Swamp Cicada"
"Lyric Cicadas"/"The lyricen Group" (BLACK Pronotal Collars!)
*Tibicen bermudianus [T. bermudiana (Verrill 1902)], "Bermuda Cicada"- EXTINCT
(*Most closely related to T. lyricen, this cicada was endemic to the Bermuda Islands. Sadly, this cicada is now EXTINCT due to habitat and host plant loss. Unfortunately, disease threats to the host plant, Bermuda cedar, Juniperus bermudiana continue to threaten its existence as well.)
, the "Similar Dog-day Cicada"
Like the Lyric Cicada, this species usually has a dark pronotal collar and is often colored and patterned much like "form lyricen" in parts of its range. However, unlike typical specimens of lyricen, there is often green intrusion along the lateral edges of the pronotal collar. Like T. chloromerus, the males of this species possess elongated ochreous-colored operculae and are quite different ventrally from lyricen. Additionally, the ventral black stripe characteristic of lyricen is less well developed and may even be absent in some similaris specimens. The legs of similaris often possess more green and are not as brown as seen in those of lyricen; however, this character is also subject to variation in similaris.
*T. similaris is also often confused with T. davisi; however, similaris is typically a larger cicada (~2" in total length incl. wings) and the males' operculae are longer and more pointed or angular terminally than seen in davisi.
Due to similarity in appearance, T. lyricen is occasionally confused with several of the "Green Tibicen Species":
On rare occasion, some color morphs of T. canicularis may be confused with the "Lyric Cicadas"/esp. the "Dark Lyric Cicada"
"Green Tibicen Species" (Usually GREEN or rarely BROWN Pronotal Collars!)
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"