Cicada Mania

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June 28, 2008

Do cicadas bite or sting?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 12:03 pm

If you believe you’ve been bitten and you’re concerned, the best thing to do is to consult a doctor, not this webpage. :)

Technically cicadas don’t bite or sting; they do however pierce and suck. They might try to pierce and suck you, but don’t worry, they aren’t Vampires nor are they malicious or angry — they’re just ignorant and think you’re a tree. Just remove the cicada from your person, and go about your business. Cicadas also have pointy feet, egg-laying parts (ovipositors) and other sharp parts that might feel like a bite.

Cicadas don’t have jaws (mandibles) like a wasp, mantis or ant, built to tear and chew flesh. Cicadas don’t have stingers, like bees and wasps, meant to deploy venom and paralyze or otherwise harm their victim. See a video of a Japanese hornet to see what I mean.

Cicadas obtain sustenance by drinking tree fluids, which are relatively watery compared to human blood. Drinking human blood would probably kill a cicada.

Caution: Don’t hold cicadas in a closed fist — you can hurt the cicadas, and they might try to drink from your hand meat.

Here is a video of a cicada that has confused my thumb for a juicy tree limb:

Magicicada trying to take a drink from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

See if you can spot the cicadas’ sucker in this illustration:

Illustration from Marlatt

Here’s a photo of a cicada’s mouth parts:

cicada mouth part

There is also a chance that if you believe you’ve been bitten by a cicada, you might have been bitten by a Cicada Killer Wasp. The Cicada Killer Wasp is a large wasp that hunts cicadas, and usually can be found around cicadas or often attached to a cicada. Cicada Killer Wasps normally avoid humans, but if you mess with one, it might attack.

Tip of the day: If you want to avoid cicadas, don’t use power tools, drills, saws, lawn mowers, weed wackers, leaf blowers, etc. in their presence. Cicadas think the sound made by these tools and machines are other cicadas. Female cicadas want to mate with the male cicadas they think they’re hearing, and male cicadas want to compete. If you can, use these tools in the morning or close to dusk when the temperatures are cooler, and cicadas are less active.

85 Comments

  1. their were a bunch of cicadas at the Dairy Queen in Hillsboro Illinos.

    Comment by Brie — June 4, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  2. i was jumping on my trampoline when a cicada landed on my leg and it felt like it stung me

    Comment by Richard — June 7, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  3. I’m sitting in a chair in my booth at the Columbia, MO Pirate Fest. A cicada landed on my hand about 10 minutes ago and since I wasn’t freaked out about it, I just watched it for a while, and sure enough, after a few minutes it began to probe my skin for liquid. I’d never seen that before & was quite surprised. I poked it, it moved to another spot, implied
    I poked it, it moved & tried it again. It was then I decided to send it on it’s way & do some research. So I’ve learned something new today.

    Comment by Mary — June 12, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  4. Today on my way out of the house, I saw a cicada on my house on my garage door. I started to freak out, so I showed my mom. She thought it was a cicada but wasn’t sure. When we got home my mom found it in the garage and after reading these comments I’m scared to go in there because I have never been stung or whatever by anything before. It almost got into my house, so I am really scared now!!! :|

    Comment by Molly — June 17, 2011 @ 8:42 am

  5. Don’t worry. They’re not so bad.

    Comment by Dan — June 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  6. One flew into my house today…It landed in the sink. It’s trapped there now, but I’m terrified of them. What’s the best way to capture and get it back outside?

    Comment by Jess — July 18, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

  7. Use a pillow case, but remove the cicada before you go to sleep tonight.

    Comment by Dan — July 19, 2011 @ 5:35 am

  8. I found a cicada about 10 minuites ago and I thought it was stining me, but apparently it thought I was a tree.

    Comment by Lindsey — August 1, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  9. I have a cicada stuck in my home in a crawl space I cannot reach. Any ideas on how to lure it out? The noise it makes at night while trying to sleep is horrible.

    Comment by John — August 18, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  10. Try using a light source to lure it out.

    Comment by Dan — August 18, 2011 @ 4:42 am

  11. I don’t care if the thing tries to eat me because it thinks I’m a tree, or if it bites, or if it tries to fight me because it thinks I’m a giant competetive male! Does it matter WHY it attacks you? :) It’s a giant, screaming bug that is attacking you! I went outside last night to check out what was banging against my window when all of a sudden a giant bug divebombed me sounding like it was screaming. My husband thought it was a bat, I didn’t know what to think at first, but I screamed like a little girl and ran! I thought it was a locust, but now I realize it must have been a cicada. There’s nothing else it could have been and no reason to make this up (not like I’m googling screaming bugs for the heck of it)lol. And seriously, if the thing can pierce a TREE, I’m pretty sure it can pierce SKIN and I bet that would hurt! My experience was exciting to say the least, especially after it kept attacking the front door. Oh, and I wasn’t using any lawn equipment, and I didn’t speak or anything when I went outside to see what was making the noise against the window, and I’m 99% sure the thing saw me and then dived in my direction. It turned away from the window and flew towards me!

    Comment by MaryAnn — August 23, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  12. I had a very similar experience to MaryAnn. I live in central Alabama. On the evening of august 24, a bug kept hitting my patio door with gusto. It sounded like it was really trying to get inside. I turned on the patio light to see what was making all of the racket, but didn’t see what it was….just something big and black. Later, after the noise had settled down, I opened the door to see a large (thumb sized) black bug with a hard shell on the door mat. I kicked it with my shoe to get it off the rug. The thing literally made a screaming “eee,eee,eee” noise. It sounded like a human or animal….I swear to it. It startled me so much, I scream, too, and slammed the door shut. I wish I had captured it and taken a picture. The next morning, it was gone. I thought it might have been a baby bat (except it had a hard shell) or a large beetle…I didn’t see any wings. FREAKY!

    Comment by Ami — August 26, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  13. I live in Florida and they drive me nuts! My cats LOVE to catch these things, bring them in the house and play with them until they no longer buzz lol…Tonight, one of the cats came in with one hanging out of his mouth, played with it for 15-20 minutes, and then ate it, ick. I noticed him limping, which was why I was wondering if they bite. Guess he must have gotten poked! Good to know though! Thanks for the info everyone!

    Comment by Lisa — August 30, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  14. Last night while sitting by a bonfire at dusk, a cicada flew into and got tangled in my hair. As I frantically tried to untangle it, it bite/or stung me in the forehead-it felt like a bee sting, or having gotten into itch weed, that stings! I didn’t see it actually, but felt it-and being I’ve handled many before w/no problem-I didn’t expect the painful stinging sensation. It got untangled and flew off without me seeing it, all I heard before and after was the fast whirring of wings like a hummingbird when they get close. It for sure did something, as it hurt for a few hrs., and then I developed a very painful headache on that side, even my jaw and teeth hurt on that side like when you have a sinus infection. Idk, but maybe when they spazz out from being held captive in tangled hair they pull out the big guns. I’m here to tell you that they do inflict much pain.

    Comment by rochelle jarvis-cloutier — September 13, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

  15. I live in GA and I’ve never been stabbed by a cicada. We have them all over the place starting from about late May until early August and I find the nymph shells everywhere. But the point is.. They never bother us much. We have the really big ones too.

    Comment by Rachel — April 20, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  16. I am at school with a bug catcher full of cicadas.I have played with these things since I can remember.One has punctured me, it felt like getting a mesquito bite.I’m 11 people, stop being such wimps.

    Comment by Elizabeth — May 1, 2012 @ 5:08 am

  17. I used to play with these things when I was a kid and they never punctured me, I think people are exaggerating. During the 17 year ones in Illinois I used to grab handfuls of them and I am terrified of spiders, june bugs, any type of roach, and centipedes. These are kind of cute.

    Comment by robin stachniik — May 27, 2012 @ 12:55 am

  18. Its a good thing I found this site. I NEVER knew cicadas “bite”. I would always pick these insects up or off tree ever since I was young. And still do but won’t anymore. I’ve held these insects many many times. If you touch the behind part (don’t know what its call, the butt??) of these insects it would start to buzz. I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood.

    Comment by M — June 14, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  19. It’s only likely to happen if you hold a cicada in your hand for a very long time, so long that it begins to get thirsty from not being on a plant where it can drink, or if the cicada has been kept in a cage for a long time away from living plant material. You will never be pricked by a cicada that you just pick up and put on your hand briefly if you just caught it from the vegetation.

    Comment by Dave — June 21, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  20. Here’s a thought…wear a garden glove, then pick it up, or let it grab on. Then you can look through its wings…they’re clear, basically. Really fascinating creatures.

    Comment by MrsJH — August 4, 2012 @ 10:37 am

  21. I found a cicada in a parking lot where I work, picked it up and it started screaming bloody murder. I left it in a co-worker’s cash register drawer because i knew he was afraid of bugs and told him that there were reports of huge mutant virus flies that scream at you before they kill you. Having said that ive picked them up and held them before, never had a problem with one trying to drink the sap out of me.

    Comment by Patch — August 11, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

  22. i was juskoutside when my dog was sniffing at somthing and my dad told me to see what he was sniffing at so i went and looked but i couldn`t see anything and then i saw a whole bunch of bugs i did not know where they came from but i asked my parents what it was and they said it was a cicada i started freaking out so i just ran inside to look up if they bite or sting so then when i finished reading i did this

    Comment by madison — May 27, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  23. Was at Smith Mountain Lake in VA catching Cicada’s for fishing (amazing bait by the way). I would catch them and hold them in my hand sometimes 5 or 6 for prolonged periods. I would feel a bite or sting frequently. I thought it was just their legs grabbing hold. That night I woke up with bites like a mosquito or small hives. I literally have a hundred all over the palms of my hand. It is extremely uncomfortable. I have barely been able to sleep for 2 nights and have a doctors appointment today. It is not Poison Ivy (I get that too). I wish I could post a picture. I have had similar looking marks from catching bristle worms in the ocean. In any event, I have caught cicadas when they were around my whole life and never had this issue.

    Comment by Tom P — June 10, 2013 @ 8:44 am

  24. Go see a doctor and let us know how it turns out.

    Comment by Dan — June 10, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  25. Once I see a cicada, I become afraid. They are very mean and they do attack, because one got after me one time and I ran. I’m very afraid of them!

    Comment by Regina — December 26, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  26. I was using my trimmer in some high grass outside. This large heavy bug landed on the back of my arm. I flicked it off and went about my business. But it found the same spot on my arm again. I swatted it off then moved to another location. It found me AGAIN! so swatted really hard and in the corner of my eye I saw in fall in the grass. It looked dead so I picked it up by the wing and set it on my car trunk and took pictures. I saw the proboscis and got concerned. My research landed me on this website. I think this particular creature was going for the kill.

    Comment by Marshall — June 15, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

  27. I found your site by a Googling “do cicadas bite”. This afternoon, I went out into my yard to go float in my pool. (I live in Virginia Beach.) Before I got in, I noticed some large brown insects on the stairs of the pool. I went to look for the net to clean them out and got distracted by some plants in the garden that had gotten knocked down by hurricane/tropical storm Arthur last week and while I was bending over to check a plant, I felt something sharp on my backside. Instinctively, I brushed the area with my hand and something very large and brown flew away. I really did not get a good look at it, but decided to go in and clean the area that was bitten. When I came back out on my screen porch, I noticed the cicadas were singing and did a search to see if these were annual or cyclic/periodic. I found out that this area of VA does not seem to get periodic cicadas – so figured these must be annual and looked up a picture of the tibicen lyricen that seemed to be the species which sings at dusk. The picture appears similar to the insects on the pool stairs and the fact that I was wearing a brown swimsuit could mean they thought I was a tree! :)

    Comment by Marguerite — July 7, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

  28. VA gets the periodical cicadas, just not this year. :)

    Comment by Dan — July 7, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

  29. Yes – but not VA Beach. I checked the brood maps and we seem to be exempt. Perhaps it’s the sandy soil. :-) Either way, I’m glad for it. I am not a fan of the ambush.

    Comment by Marguerite — July 8, 2014 @ 4:05 am

  30. Oh my goodness, I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head at some of these comments. Coming summer of 2015: the Attack of the killer cicadas! LoL. It’s sad there are so many people who don’t understand this insect. I guess I take for granted my rural upbringing.

    Comment by Leslie — June 19, 2015 @ 7:15 am

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