Cicada Mania

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July 5, 2015

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 7:17 pm

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants? Assuming they actually will, there are several solutions.

  1. You can wrap netting, or insect exclusion screens, around small trees or individual tree limbs to keep the cicadas off them. You can get this netting from stores that sell landscaping supplies.
  2. You can spray them off with a hose.
  3. You can manually pick them off with your hand.
  4. You can use insect barrier tape or a sticky solution like “Tanglefoot Pest Barrier”. Not my favorite idea, because it will probably pull their tarsal claws off.
  5. See Green Methods for more ideas.

Here is an example of netting being used to contain cicadas, except in this case the cicadas are being kept next to the tree branch and not away from it:

As you might imagine, if the netting can keep them inside, it will also keep then outside.

We recommend that you don’t bother with pesticides for a number of reasons.

  1. New cicadas will continually fly onto your trees from neighbor’s yards, making pesticides futile.
  2. Your pets could become poisoned from ingesting too many treated cicadas.
  3. Collateral damage — you end up killing other insects like honey bees and butterflies.

What are Broods?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 6:29 pm

It is important to note that when we talk about cicada broods, we are talking about the 17 & 13 year periodical Magicicada cicadas. We are not talking about Tibicen or other species.

All Broods

There are 12 groups of Magicicadas with 17 year life cycles, and 3 groups of Magicicadas with 13 year life cycles. Each of these groups emerge in a specific series of years, rarely overlapping (17 & 13 year groups co-emerge every 221 years, for example). Each of these groups emerge in the same geographic area their parents emerged. These groups, each assigned a specific Roman numeral, are called broods.

Gene Kritsky’s book, Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle, documents the history of the recognition and naming of the broods. The first person to document that different groups of periodical cicadas emerged in different years was Nathaniel Potter in 1839. Benjamin D. Walsh and Charles V. Riley devised the system for numbering the different broods in 1868, and then C. L. Marlatt sorted the 17 year broods out from the 13 year broods, giving us the system we have today.

Visit our Broods page which features a grid of the Brood names, their life span, when & where they’ll emerge next and links to maps.


What Might Cause Cicadas to go Extinct?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 9:48 am

You might ask, “why were their once cicadas in my area, but now there are none?” There are a number of reasons why cicadas might die off in a particular area, or go totally extinct.

1) Destruction of host trees by a blight or destructive insect infestation. Tibicen bermudiana went extinct in the 1950s in Bermuda because of a cedar tree blight. Emerald Ash Borer insects are currently devastating Ash trees in North America. Ash trees are a favorite tree of Magicicada cassini, in particular.

2) Destruction of host trees by humans. Consider that every time a forrest is removed to make room for another neighborhood, factory, strip mall or highway, the cicadas that inhabited those areas died. Each time the human race expands, the cicadas must decline. The paper The Distribution of Brood Ten of the Periodical Cicadas in New Jersey in 1970 by John B. Schmitt documents the reduction of cicada populations in New Jersey, the nations most populous state. Also, the entire Brood XI went extinct in Connecticut as of 1954.

3) Extreme weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding can destroy cicada habitat. While there are cases where cicadas were able to survive some pretty horrific weather, if trees are destroyed, or grasses that are hosts to young cicada nymphs are destroyed, or if flood water sits too long, the cicadas are doomed.

4) Pesticides. It should be obvious that pesticides will kill cicadas.

Can pets or other animals sense cicadas below ground?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 8:51 am

Can pets, including dogs and cats, or other animals sense cicadas below ground? Yes they can. Animals have a better sense of hearing than humans, and they are able to sense the subtle sounds of cicadas tunneling underground.

You might discover animals, including your pet dog, digging up your lawn in advance of a periodical cicada emergence. That is because they can sense the cicadas preparing for the day they will emerge.

Did Someone Offer a Reward for White or Blue-eyed Cicadas?

Filed under: Eye Color,FAQs,Magicicada,Roy Troutman — Dan @ 7:58 am

Is it true that someone has offered a reward for a white or blue-eyed Magicicada cicadas?

This was false and an urban legend until in 2008 when Roy Troutman began to offer rewards for living blue-eyed cicadas for scientific research. All cicadas were released, unharmed.

Important: Roy is no longer offering the reward as he has obtained the cicadas needed for his research. So, don’t bug him, unless you want to tell him that his photos and video are awesome.

White or Blue-eyed Magicicadas cicadas are extremely rare, so finding them can be difficult. I usually find one per emergence, and that is after looking at thousands of cicadas.

Speaking of Roy and White-eyed cicadas, here is a video Roy took of a White-eyed cicada:

And here’s a white and orange-eyed cicada taken by Roy:

Upclose on Marble eyed 17 year cicada

Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery?

Filed under: Behavior,FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 7:41 am

Cicadas on Man Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery? Yes! Cicadas, particularly Magicicada periodical cicadas, are attracted to lawnmowers, weed-wackers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, power drills, etc. If it is loud and vibrates, cicadas will be attracted to it. Why? Most likely because they think your tool is a particularly impressive periodical cicada chorusing center, so males want to join in with the chorus and females want to mate with the particularly impressive males.

So, next time you’ve got the old angle grinder out, don’t be surprised if a cicada lands on your shoulder.


When is a locust not a locust? When the locust is a cicada.

Filed under: FAQs,Identify,Magicicada — Dan @ 6:26 am

Are Cicadas Locusts? The short answer is NO. However, in the U.S.A. we’ve been calling cicadas “locusts” for hundreds of years.

People have seen referring to cicadas, particularly Periodical cicadas, as both flies and “locusts” since the 1600’s, when colonists first documented them.

Gene Kritsky's The Plague and the Puzzle

Gene Kritsky’s book Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle provides a chronology and historical texts of people referring to cicadas as “locusts”. Consider this quote from Pehr Kalm from 1756:

By the Engishmen here they are called Locusts and by the Swedes living here they have gotten the name Grasshoppers. In Latin they could be called Cicada.

It makes some sense that Englishmen would call cicadas Locusts, and Swedes would call them Grasshoppers, because there was only one species of cicada in both England and Sweden. This cicada, Cicadetta montana montana, call is so high-pitched you need electronic assistance to hear it, so most people were not aware of its existence. So, when Englishmen and women encountered cicadas they likely thought “there are a lot of them, they’re big, I’m afraid they’re going to eat my carrots — these must be LOCUSTS”!

Cicadas are indeed not Locusts, Grasshoppers or Flies.


Take a look that the illustration of a true locust below. You’ll notice the true locusts have HUGE rear legs for hopping, long antennae, and relatively long bodies. True locusts chew the plants they consume, while Magicicadas suck fluids from trees.

Locust:

Locust

17-year cicada:

17-year cicada

For more instances of cicadas being confused with other types of insects, read the article These are not cicada insects!

July 3, 2015

How Long Does a Periodical Cicada Emergence Last?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 2:47 pm

People often ask: “how long do cicadas last”, “how long will the cicadas be here”, or “how long do cicadas live above ground”?

People probably ask these questions, sadly, because they are tired of listening to the love songs of these cicadas. Like the saying “it is darkest before the dawn”, however, silence is typically a few weeks away.

The length of a local emergence:

The typical periodical cicada emergence will last between 6 to 8 weeks in a single location, with significant chorusing (singing) lasting about 3 to 4. Cool weather or rain can prolong an emergence.

The research paper Emergence of 13-Yr Periodical Cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): Phenology, Mortality, and Predator Satiation by Kathy S. Williams, Kimberly G. Smith, and Frederick M. Stephen1 contains a wonderful study of the arc of a periodical cicada emergence. The entire emergence event takes place within 8 weeks, from the first emerged cicada to the last dead cicada (see Fig 4 in that document 1). The number of live adults reached its peak within two weeks, and then began to die off in significant numbers two weeks after that, due mostly to natural causes. After that the population of cicadas gradually dwindles due to natural deaths and predation.

Length of the chorusing:

Male cicadas will not begin chorusing at the start of an emergence, for a couple of reasons: 1) the first cicadas to emerge, which are primarily males (Fig 3 in 1), are mostly lost to consumption by predators (Fig 6 in 1), 2) Males can’t sing until their adult bodies are fully sclerotized, and 3) they need a significant number of males present before they will chorus. That said, chorusing typically begins within two weeks 2. Males will continue to chorus until enough cicadas die to no longer sustain the chorus, which is why the chorus lasts less than a month.

Length of the emergence of an entire brood:

An emergence spanning multiple states could last between 8 to 10 weeks from when the first cicadas emerge in the South to when the last cicada dies in the North. For example, Brood XXIII began appearing the second to last week of April in Mississippi, and there were likely some left in southern Illinois up until the last week of June.

References:

1 Kathy S. Williams, Kimberly G. Smith, and Frederick M. Stephen, Emergence of 13-Yr Periodical Cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): Phenology, Mortality, and Predator Satiation, (1993), Ecology, Volume 74, Issue 4 (Jun., 1993), 1143-1152
2 Kathy S. Williams and Chris Simon, The Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution of Periodical Cicadas, (1995), Annu.Rev. Entomol. 40:269-95

Cicada Life Spans and Expectancy

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle — Dan @ 10:42 am

Cicada Life Spans:

Cicada life spans (life cycle length) vary from one year, to as many as 21, depending on the species. Cicadas like Myopsalta crucifera and Parnkalla muelleri of Australia have one year life cycles6. Magicicada septendecim, M. cassini and M. septendecula, of the United States, can live as long as 21 years (read What are Stragglers?).

Some life spans for well known cicadas:

    North America:

  • Magicicada septendecim, M. cassini and M. septendecula: 13 to 2210, but typically 17.
  • Magicicada tredecim, M. neotredecim, M. tredecassini, and M. tredecula: 9 to 17, but typically 13.
  • Diceroprocta apache: 2-5, but typically 3-4 years1.
  • Tibicen genera: 2-7 years2.
  • Okanagana rimosa: 9 years3.
  • Okanagana synodica: possibly 17 to 19 years.5
    Australia:

  • Cyclochila australasiae: 6-7. 6
    India:

  • Chremistica ribhoi: 4. 7
    Japan:

  • Hyalessa maculaticollis: 2-5, but typically 3. 8
    New Zealand:

  • Amphipsalta zealandica: 3-4, but typically 4. 9

Table 3 of the paper Genome expansion via lineage splitting and genome reduction in the cicada endosymbiont Hodgkinia (Campbell et al, 2015) contains a large table of cicada life cycle lengths.

Annual, Periodical, or Protoperiodical

Most cicadas appear on an Annual basis, meaning that every year adults will appear.

It is common for many species to be Protoperiodical as well, meaning that some years will see an abundance of adults, while other years there will be a limited number of that species. Okanagana rimosa, in particular, are Protoperiodical 9.

Some species, like the Magicicada species and Chremistica ribhoi appear on a Periodical basis, meaning that after a specific number of years almost all adults of the species will emerge.

Life Expectancy

Although many cicadas have long life cycles, not many of them make it to adulthood. Nymphal mortality of Magicicada can reach 98% in the first 2 years 4. Imagine if all those cicadas made it to adulthood. 50 times more cicadas! Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Magicicada is just one genus of cicadas (representing about 0.2% of all species), but I have to think that most cicadas, regardless of species, will never make it to adulthood.

References

1 Aaron R. Ellingson, Douglas C. Andersen and Boris C. Kondratieff (2002) Observations of the Larval Stages of Diceroprocta apache Davis (Homoptera: Tibicinidae), , Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, Vol. 75, No. 4, pp. 283-289. Link.
2 Richard Fox, Tibicen spp, (2001) http://lanwebs.lander.edu/faculty/rsfox/invertebrates/tibicen.html
3 Soper RS, Delyzer AJ, & Smith LFR (1976) The genus Massospora entomopathogenic for cicadas. Part II. Biology of Massospora levispora and its host Okanagana rimosa, with notes on Massospora cicadina and the periodical cicadas. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 69(1):89-95.
4 Karban R. 1984. Opposite density effects of nymphal and adult mortality for periodical cicadas. Ecology 65: 1656-61.
5 Campbell et al. 10.1073/pnas.1421386112.
6 Moulds MS (1990) Australian Cicadas (New South Wales University Press, Kensington, NSW, Australia).
7 Hajong SR & Yaakop S (2013) Chremistica ribhoi sp. n. (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) from North-East India and its mass emergence. Zootaxa 3702(5):493.
8 Logan DP, Rowe CA, & Maher BJ (2014) Life history of chorus cicada, an endemic pest of kiwifruit (Cicadidae: Homoptera). New Zealand Entomologist:1-11.
9 Kathy Williams & Chris Simon, The Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution of Periodical Cicadas, (1995), Annu.Rev. Entomol. 40:269-95.
10 David C. Marshall, John R. Cooley, and Kathy Hill, Developmental Plasticity of Life-Cycle Length in Thirteen-Year Periodical Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae), Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 104(3): 443Ð450 (2011)

June 28, 2015

How many kinds of cicadas are there?

Filed under: FAQs,Identify — Dan @ 12:46 pm

How many kinds of cicadas are there? That depends on what you mean by kinds.

There are over 190 species in the U.S.A. and over a dozen in Canada. Australia has hundreds of cicadas and you can find a list of them here.

World wide, there are over 3,390 species, with new species described every year (I counted them all in this book)!

Learn about New Cicada species. A good source of papers about new cicadas is Zootaxa.

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