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Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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What is a Cicada?

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Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadoidea and therefore are differentiated by their stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membraned wings, and huge compound eyes.

Cicadas are divided into two types: annual cicadas, that are visible every year, and periodical cicadas, that devote the majority of time underground and emerge once every decade or two.

Cicadas are well-known for their proclivity to vanish for long periods of time, only to reappear in force at regular intervals. Annual cicadas, despite their name, generally live for two to five years, and their brood life cycles overlap, so some cicadas emerge every summer. Even periodical cicadas occur most years in various geographic regions because they are divided into 15 brood cycles that last 13 or 17 years.

Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the amazing lifestyle of cicadas. Because of their unusual life cycles, these insects were revered as powerful symbols of rebirth by many cultures. Cicadas were also considered high-status creatures in early Chinese folklore that rulers should strive to emulate in their purity, and cicada motifs were even incorporated into imperial court wardrobes in the seventh century.

Geographic Range

While annual cicadas can be found all over the world, periodicals are only found in North America. The eastern and central United States have a high concentration of periodic broods, and also some areas have multiple broods.

Size and Appearance

According to National Geographic, there are approximately 3,000 cicada species, with sizes ranging from 0.75 to 2.25 in (2.2 to 5.5 cm). Cicadas can have red, white, or blue eyes and can be black, brown, or green.

When held up to a light source, their wings are transparent and appear rainbow-colored. Some cicadas' veins form the shape of a W on the tips of their wings.

What Do Cicadas Bug Eat and Drink?

Cicadas "eat" / drink xylem (sap), which is a watery tree fluid rich in amino acids and minerals. Cicadas prefer to drink rather than eat.

People are probably curious about “what do cicadas eat” because they are afraid that cicadas will eat their flowers, fruits, and vegetables from their gardens. Cicadas do not have mouthparts that allow them to chew and swallow vegetation. Your tomatoes and marigolds will be fine.

How does a cicada consume xylem? The cicada's mouthparts (also known as the rostrum or beak) are shaped like a straw and can pierce rootlets, roots, and branches.

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The labium forms the outside of the cicada's beak; inside the labium is the stylet, which is made up of the mandibles and maxillae and is used by the cicada to pierce plants and drink their sap.

The labrum is the link that connects the labium to the rostrum...

The rostrum, also known as the cicada's "nose," contains massive pumping muscles (1) that suck the xylem up into the cicada.

Cicadas' polymerized, viscous saliva plugs any holes their mouth parts create (2), preventing xylem leakage when the cicada moves on to a new root. They reinserted the cork into the wine bottle, so to speak.

Cicadas can obtain nutrition from the xylem thanks to bacterial endosymbionts found in the cicada's gut.

Cicadas are known to drink xylem from tree roots (as nymphs) and branches and twigs (as adults), but when they are young, they must rely on grasses and possibly other small plants for nutrition.

  • Because young cicada nymphs are smaller than a grain of rice when they first start feeding, grass roots with tiny roots are the best fit for their small beaks.

  • Because grass roots are close to the surface, they are likely to be the first roots encountered by a young cicada nymph.

  • In the winter, deciduous trees shed their rootlets, but grasses do not (2). In tropical areas, this is not an issue.

Female Cicadas

Female cicadas usually lay their eggs in woody plant tissues, which fall off the plant when the eggs hatch or soon after. Newly hatched nymphs burrow into the ground, sucking juices from perennial plant roots. During the several years it takes to reach maturity, nymphs typically go through five moults. Although not normally considered a pest, females can cause damage to young saplings during egg laying if there are a lot of them.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas have three life stages: eggs, nymphs, and adults. Female cicadas can lay up to 400 eggs in dozens of locations, most of which are twigs and branches. After six to ten weeks, young cicada nymphs hatch from their eggs and dig themselves into the ground to suck the liquids of plant roots. They spend their entire life in these underground burrows before moulting their shells and emerging as adults to mate and lay eggs.

The length of the development process of the cicadas varies, but periodic broods emerge in synchrony depending on the year and soil temperature. They wait for the ideal breeding conditions, which occur when the ground thaws to 65°F (18°C) in the designated year of a brood. It's unclear why these cicadas have such distinct and oddly timed cycles, though some scientists believe it's to avoid predators.

Although as many as 1.5 million cicadas can congregate in a single acre, they do not cause destructive plagues like some locusts. Cicadas, unlike locusts, do not eat vegetation but instead drink the sap from tree roots, twigs, and branches. Large swarms of cicadas can overpower and damage young trees by feeding and laying eggs in them, but older trees usually escape without major damage because cicadas don't stay around for long. Adults die off four to six weeks after they emerge.

Lifespan of Cicadas

Most cicada species are classified as annual cicadas, though this is a bit of a misnomer because these insects live for much longer than a year. Their life span, which ranges from two to five years, is determined by how long it takes them to mature in size and weight. Because these cicadas do not have synchronised life cycles, they emerge at different times throughout the summer.

Periodical cicadas are the insects that make headlines when they appear in large numbers. These cicadas are members of the genus Magicicada and include four species that live for 13 years and three that live for 17 years.

Periodical Cicadas

Periodical cicadas are the longest-living insects found in the region north of Mexico.

The majority of cicadas found north of Mexico have one thing in common: they spend far more of their time underground as nymphs than they do above ground as adults.

Periodical cicadas are about 1-12 inch long, have reddish eyes, black bodies, and live for 13 or 17 years.

Dog Day Cicadas

The dog day cicadas are fairly easy to identify because they are about two inches long and have greenish to brownish bodies with black markings.

Different Types of Life Cycles

There are three types of cicada life cycles, here they are:

  1. Annual: Cicadas with annual life cycles, such as Greengrocers in Australia and Swamp Cicadas in the United States emerge every year.

  2. Periodical: Cicadas species with periodical life cycles emerge together after long periods of time, such as Magicicada septendecim, which emerges every 17 years (Find out where they'll emerge next). Magicicada periodical cicadas are classified into Broods, which correspond to the number of years they will live. Roman-numeral Broods organise only periodic cicadas.

  3. Protoperiodical: Cicada species with proto periodical life cycles may emerge every year, but every so many years, like certain Okanagana, they emerge in large numbers, depending on factors such as proximity to other species and rainfall accumulations (Chatfield-Taylor 2020).

How Many Cicadas Locusts are there?

Cicadas come in over 190 variants in North America, and over 3,390 variations worldwide. This figure rises year after year as scientists find and report new species. Cicadas exist on every continent but Antarctica.

The Largest Cicada:

The Megapomponia imperatoria, which is native to Malaysia, is the world's largest species of cicada. Mega Tibicen auletes, also known as the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada, is the largest species in North America.Other remarkable large cicadas include the Bear Cicada of Japan as well as the Tacua speciosa of Southeast Asia.

The Loudest Cicadas:

According to researcher John Petti, the world's loudest cicada is the Brevisana brevis, an African cicada that can reach 106.7 decibels when recorded at a distance of 50cm (20").

The Mega Tibicen pronotalis walkeri (formerly Tibicen walkeri) is North America's loudest cicada, reaching 105.9 decibels at 50cm.

At close range, however, Australian cicadas such as the Double Drummer (Thopha saccata) are said to reach 120 (deafening) decibels. At 50cm, it is unknown how many decibels Thopha saccata can produce.

Why are Cicadas so Loud?

Males belt out the high-pitched song as a mating call. Each species has a distinct song that only attracts females of the same species. Several different species can coexist as a result of this. Cicadas are the only insects capable of making such a distinct and audible sound.

Cicadas in Medicine

Cicadas have been used in traditional medicine, ritual and economic symbols, and as a source of food. Their song was once thought to predict weather changes. Male cicadas were caged in China for their song. The insect cicada appears in many cultures' mythology, literature, and music, including that of American Indians.

Are Cicadas Dangerous?

  • Cicadas are known to be not poisonous

  • Cicadas do not sting and they do not bite

  • Cicadas are not good flyers and may accidentally fly into you. 

  • Cicadas are helpful to other animals that eat them for protein, for example, snakes, squirrels, some birds, and spiders.

  • Humans can consume cicadas.

FAQs on Cicada

1. What is a Cicada Insect? Do Cicadas Really Sleep For 17 Years?

Answer. Let’s know the Cicada meaning. The Cicadoidea are a superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera. They belong to the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, which also includes smaller jumping bugs like leafhoppers and froghoppers.

Cicadas can sleep, or at least the insect version of sleep known as torpor, but they are not asleep for 17 years. However, once above ground, cicadas spend their time screaming (the males) and reproducing. Myth 2: All cicadas have a life cycle of 17 years.

2. Are Cicadas Good For Anything? What Can I Feed a Cicada?

Answer. Cicadas that occur on a regular basis are associated with deciduous trees and shrubs. Cicadas are generally beneficial. They aerate the soil, prune trees, and when they die, their corpses provide a useful source of nitrogen for growing trees.

When cicadas emerge, they are devoured by anything with an insectivorous diet.

Some, such as crickets, cockroaches, and mealworms, eat things that are already in most people's homes. Others, such as tarantulas, mantids, and assassin bugs, eat foods that are easily obtained from stores. Cicadas, on the other hand, are unlikely to fall into the easy category.