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I came across a black cicada in northwest Missouri last week (May 2015). I am only familiar with brown cicadas. What makes this black one different? Is it a different species, or do the brown cicadas change color at some point in adulthood?

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A little digging on wikipedia seems to have answered my question. This picture of a 17 year cicada, Magicicada septendecim is pretty close to what I saw. enter image description here

Furthermore, this seems to match the time and place, as the Kansas Brood of 17 year cicadas is scheduled to emerge this year and should appear in the Missouri-Kansas area. It also explains why I'm not familiar with these cicadas, 17 years ago I wasn't paying attention to them.

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  • $\begingroup$ It is a 17-year periodical cicada, but you got the species wrong. See my answer for evidence for another of the three 17-year species! $\endgroup$ May 14 at 6:26
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Short answer

This is Magicicada septendecula, one of the three species of 17-year cicada (colloquially, "17 year locust") native to the Eastern United states.

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Credit: C. Simon, Fontaine et al (2007)1

Long answer

Periodical cicadas are the only group of dark-bodied cicadas with bright red eyes and orange/red-tinted wings (at least I don't know of any others). These cicadas, all of which are in the genus Magicicada, can be divided into 13-year and 17-year cicadas, each with multiple potential species:

These species tend to form mixed-species cohorts called broods in which all members of a brood synchronously emerge at the same time (every 13 or 17 years). There are 23 broods found in the US that emerge in different years, and the broods are identified by Roman numerals (I-XXIII). [Source: Scientific American]

  • You can read more about periodical cicada broods on Wikipedia, and you can see range maps of both 13- and 17-year species here (from here) and all together in one map here: Liebhold et al (2013)2.

Importantly, only 3 broods are found anywhere in Missouri: one 17-year brood (Brood IV, the Kansan Brood) and two 13-year broods (Brood XIX, the Great southern Brood, and Brood XXIII, the Mississippi Valley Brood).

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Modified from: Liebhold et al (2013)

  • Brood XIX is by far the biggest brood in terms of coverage in Missouri, but these 13-year cicadas last emerged in 2011 (not 2015).

  • The other two broods both emerged in 2015, when the OP photographed the specimen in question, but only Brood IV is found in Northwest Missouri. So we can safely narrow the potential species down to just one of the three 17-year cicadas.

    • However, Brood IV does contain all 3 species of 17-year cicadas, so we'll have to keep digging...

CicadaMania.com provides the following tips for IDing these fairly similar looking species:

  • M. cassinii: Smaller (2.4-2.7 cm long) with black ventral abdomen

  • M. septendecula: smaller (similar to M. cassinii) with orange/yellow stripes on ventral abdomen

  • M. septendecim: larger (2.7-3.0 cm long3) with orange/yellow stripes on ventral abdomen.

We don't have the greatest view of the abdomen and we have no definitive reference for size (at least to differentiate a couple of mm), so this makes ID a bit more difficult. However, it does appear that there are bands of orange striping seen on the lateral sides of the abdomen in the OP's image, suggesting we can rule out M. cassinii.

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Lucky for us, there is one additional way to identify between the other two species. Again from CicadaMania.com:

The pronotal extension is an extension of the pronotum that lies between the Magicicada’s eye and its wing (outlined in green in the photo below). M. septendecim have orange coloring in that area, which gives us a key way to visually distinguish them from M. septendecula.

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Orange pronatal extension of M. septendecim ; Source: Cicada Mania

Sure enough, the OP's specimen does not have an orange pronatal extension...

enter image description here

...suggesting that the OP's species is M. septendecula!

Also, FYI: cicada adults do not change colors. The 5th molt prior to the adult stage, which leaves behind the familiar exuviae clinging to a tree trunk, is the final anatomical change cicadas undergo in their life cycle. [See here for more]


Citations:

1. Fontaine, K.M., Cooley, J.R. and Simon, C., 2007. Evidence for paternal leakage in hybrid periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Magicicada spp.). PloS one, 2(9), p.e892.

2. Lloyd, M. and Dybas, H.S., 1966. The periodical cicada problem. I. Population ecology. Evolution, 20(2), pp.133-149.

3. Evans, A.V., 2007. National Wildlife Federation field guide to insects and spiders & related species of North America. Sterling Publishing Company.

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It's difficult to be sure without seeing the specimen more from the side (or ventrally), but the lack of visible orange color between the eye and the wing articulation suggests that it could be one of two other 17-year cicada species, Magicicada cassinii or M. septedecula (all three species emerge synchronously; their different songs isolate them reproductively). M. septendecim has the lateral orange color. M. cassinii is the most common of the three species in the 17-year brood that came out in 2015.

Cicadas do not change much in appearance during their short adult lives.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome and thanks for your answer.By convention we ask for sources, a verifying image of your ID and additional background info such as the distribution and habitat of your species ID. As of now, it's more of a question comment. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jun 21 '18 at 8:18

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