Subject: Tiny cicadas; we call them ”snapping bugs”
Location: Edgewood, NM at 6800’; pinion and juniper forest
May 25, 2012 12:09 pm
Hi again! Been awhile since my last submission to you guys. We have been invaded by the cutest little cicadas I have ever seen. I’m used to the giant ones that come out in late summer or the periodical ones; these look a bit like the 17 year ones in Illinois except that their eyes aren’t red and they are about 1/4 the size. Also, they don’t buzz; they sound like a small child snapping his or her fingers. There are so many of them outside that it sounds like an entire school of kids snapping their fingers randomly. The cicadas seem to prefer junipers, but this one was snapping away in a small apple tree.
Signature: Mike

Cicada: Platypedia similis perhaps

Hi Mike,
This is a member of the genus
Okanagana and there are many similar looking species in the genus.  We suspect this might be a Mountain Cicada, Okanagana bella, because of the altitude of your sighting.  You can see some photos of the Mountain Cicada on BugGuide if you would like to compare them to your individual.  Your observations about the call of this Cicada being like the snapping of fingers is interesting.  We are going to try to locate its call online.  The Selected Cicada Species of the Western United States has many sound recordings, but none of the members of the genus Okanagana sound like snapping fingers to us.  Perhaps you can play through the songs to see if any matches what you heard.  

Ok, thanks for the suggestions.  It looks exactly like a Okanagana bella, but the song is completely different.  When I sit and watch them, they don’t buzz with their abdominal plates like “normal” cicadas; it seems that they are doing a quick wing flap which creates the “snap” sound.  I can’t tell if they are hitting their wings on the trees or if they are just catching the air around them.  For their size, the sound is surprisingly loud.  Does that help?

We would love to spend more time on this Mike, but there are so many unanswered questions in our mailbox right now.  If you find your Cicada’s call on the Selected Cicada Species of the Western United States, please let us know.

I think I found what it is–a Platypedia putnami (or other related species).  They only call with wing slaps and look exactly like the pic I sent.  If you get a chance, listen to the song and see if you agree that they sound like snapping fingers.  Thanks for helping!

Sorry–I meant a Playpedia similis.  Their calls are almost exactly a second apart.

Thanks for getting back to us Mike.  The two genera, Platypedia and Okanagana are in the same Cicada subfamily.  BugGuide has some nice images of Platypedia putnami  and they are reported from states bordering New Mexico, however, we cannot locate any images of Platypedia similis. Interestingly, the Cicadas North of Mexico website puts Platypedia in the subfamily Platypediinae, the Crepitating Cicadas.  Crepitate is defined as “To make a crackling or popping sound; crackle” on the Online Medical Dictionary.  Some folks refer to snapping fingers as “popping”.

Location: New Mexico

3 Responses to Cicada: Platypedia similis perhaps

  1. hpenfold says:

    When I lived in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California at about 3500′, the cicadas we had there matched your in size, appearance, and voice description. I would describe the call as being more like the clicking of a retractable ball-point pen than a finger snap, but perhaps we just are using different ways to describe the same noise.

    • bugman says:

      Thank you so much for your input. Related species in the same genus have similar traits, including appearance and most likely calls.

  2. damfino says:

    I’m so glad I found this page! I saw these exact same bugs in the Sandias today and wondered what they were! Their sound was just like muted “clacking” to me.

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