A copperhead eating a cicada in our yard.

Copperhead Eating a Cicada

The photo shows a copperhead with a cicada nymph in its mouth.

This time of the year at the farm cicada nymphs are emerging at dusk from ground to ascend into a shrub, tree, or other object where they eclose into winged adults. This typically happens from June 1st to about July 15th. They and June bugs provide about 80% of copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix) diets during this time. This is also mating season for the copperheads, probably because the females can gorge on the plentiful cicadas and June bugs and produce healthy eggs. Copperheads are livebearers. The females have 10-20 youngsters each year. After delivery, they show on further interest in their offspring.

This particular copperhead, probably a female based on its somewhat subdued coloration, caught a cicada as the insect burrowed out of the ground to search for a tree to ascend. The cicada was a mouthful and the snake took around five minutes to finally swallow it past its jaws. The dark mass in the snake’s mouth is the cicada.

The snake stayed backed up against our German Shepherd’s water bowl (that’s a 45 gallon tank; they like to bathe in the water they drink). The snake wasn’t pleased at being watched as it ate, but felt more secure with the water bowl at its back. Our dogs give the snakes berth, but not wide, when they encounter them; a daily happening. The dogs usually stay about three feet away until the snake feels threatened and leaves.

This snake beat a quick retreat as soon as it had swallowed its meal.