📌 Pinning Cicadas

By Dr Jean Holley

What have you been up to in the holidays? As summer progresses, I have found many dead cicadas around our property. Most of these will become food for other animals, and contribute to nutrient cycling. I have managed to salvage a few and, with my niece, we have carefully pinned and preserved some beautiful specimens for our insect collections.

Two of the specimens I found had began to harden, and so I placed these in a sealed container in the fridge, with a ball of moist cotton wool to relax the specimen (leaving them for 3-5 days). This process allows you to then move the wings and legs to position them during pinning. The other two had recently died and were still quite pliable. We then did a little research to find out where to put the pin (in the thorax, see here for the exact spot), to make sure we didn’t damage any characters that are important for species identification. A side note here. When you are pinning insects, do not use dressmakers’ pins! These will rust and corrode. Instead use specialist pins which can be purchased here. After putting the pin through the cicadas, we carefully positioned their legs, and spread the wings, securing these in place with more pins to hold them as they dry and set in place (making sure these extra pins did not go through the insect – the only pin to go through the insect is the first initial pin through the thorax). After pinning a cicada together, my niece was delighted to be able to pin and position the legs and wings of her next specimen all by herself – what a great way to learn about the beauty of nature, develop confidence and learn some scientific skills along the way!

Our cicadas will now sit with their legs and wings held in position for 6 weeks. After then, we will remove all pins except the one through the thorax and transfer our beautiful specimens to our insect collections. These will keep indefinitely as a record of the species at our place, and as a splendid piece of natural art. I also plan to upload photos to the Great Cicada Blitz to have our specimens identified by a cicada specialist, and I’m pretty excited to find out what species we have!