Molting Cicada

Recently, got a chance to visit Amboli, a truly fantastic, serene, laid back little hill station, nestled in the Sahyadri hills. A place very rich in a wide variety of flora and fauna.

While over there, I kept coming across a lot of shed exoskeletons of Cicadas. They were everywhere. Seemed as though it was their molting season. Many of the Cicada nymphs appeared to have emerged from their underground abode to shed their skins and enter into their adult life. The thought of how awesome it would be to witness one such event, kept crossing my mind. Somehow, this thought of mine, was about to come true….. :-)

Late in the evening that day, I noticed a Cicada, or should I say, a Cicada nymph, that had settled down on a small plant very close to our room. It was quite motionless and I suspected that it was up to something, may be, getting ready to molt. Waited there for sometime. But nothing seemed to happen. Left it at peace and went back to the room.

An hour or so later, I came back out and saw that the Cicada had started molting. It’s old outer covering had split open and the cicada had started to emerge with its brand new coat. I was expecting the Cicada to completely come out of its old shell very quickly. But, I was wrong. It was to take a considerable amount of time.


The Cicada was completely still for quite a while. Nothing much seemed to be happening. But, it was trying to make an effort to push itself out, inch by inch.


Slowly, the legs came out, but still seemed very soft, to be able to balance the weight of the insect. The cicada started flexing its legs to enable blood flow to them. Gradually, they seemed to harden, gaining in strength. All this while, the Cicada stayed there, in an upside-down position. The wing parts, called as wing buds, also had emerged, completely folded, needing a very good supply of blood to flow through their veins in order to open up and be ready for flight.


The brand new outer covering had a bluish/bluish green color to it, which I read, would become darker as the outer skin thickens and the Cicada would regain its original color.

By now, the legs had hardened enough to be able to support its body weight and the Cicada grasped on to the shed exoskeleton and got into its upright position. It sat there in this position for a considerable amount of time, to allow the rest of the body and the wings to strengthen.


Once it had gathered enough energy, it was now ready to fly away into the world, with its brand new look, to discharge its duties as an adult.

The whole process, it seemed, was indeed a very slow and strenuous one, taking a lot of energy on the little insect’s part. Albeit, it was a successful one and I was very happy to have been able to witness it.


Vijay Krishna

Hi Santhosh, Nice write up and stunning photos…do you have any idea after how long these cicada nymphs come up from their underground abode?…heard some species take many years!!! Vijay
Reply to Vijay Krishna
Thanks Vijay…. The duration could vary depending on the species is what I have read..generally, these common species could emerge once a year or once in two years and not really synchronized, meaning, not all of their brood emerge at the same time. It gets spread over the year. However, there are other species of Cicadas, referred to as the ‘Periodical Cicadas’, which as you said, have a longer cycle, some in the range of 13 to 17 years !… and they are synchronized, all of them emerge together….. Really, an interesting adaptation…. 🙂
Reply to Santhosh

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