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Homepage: The Cicada FAQ

➡ Skip to FAQs specifically about Magicicada Periodical Cicadas.

Cicada Facts

These answers are about all cicadas, regardless of species and location.

How come I have cicadas in my neighborhood, but the Are they coming to your town? page indicates that I shouldn't?

That's because the Are they coming to your town? page only applies to Magicicada/Periodical/17&13 year cicadas which are a specific Genus of cicada. You've found another type of cicada, probably a Tibicen, Diceroprocta, or Okanagana (in the U.S.A.).

Try our USA and Canada Cicada Search or our Genus and Species page for other types of cicadas.

Will the cicadas kill my trees, shrubs and flowers?

Possibly. Especially if your plant is pathetic and weak. Cicadas don't kill flowers and shouldn't damage shrubs, but they can do damage to young, wimpy trees like ornamentals.

Cicadas don't cause damage to trees by chewing leaves like other insects to. Instead the damage is caused because they lay their eggs in grooves in the branches of trees. Cicadas are technically parasites of the trees, and they need the trees to survive throughout their entire life cycle, so killing trees is not in the cicadas best interest.

The weakest limbs of a tree are often temporarily damaged or killed off, the result of which is called flagging, as the leaves of the branch will turn brown and look like a flag. They are doing the trees a favor by pruning their weakest branches.

Young trees, ornamental trees and fruit trees will be more prone to damage as they are typically smaller and weaker than older native hardwood trees. I recommend placing netting around these trees and picking the cicadas off by hand, if you're concerned. Spraying them off the trees with a hose seems to work as well. I don't recommend filling a bucket with cicadas and dumping them in your neighbors yard, as they can fly back to your yard, and your neighbor will become enraged.

Certain cicada species in Australia will damage sugar cane and grape vines, but not in North America.

Grooves made by a cicada:

grooves

An image of Flagging caused by cicadas:

Periodical Cicada Flagging 3

Do cicadas eat garden vegetables?

Unlike grasshoppers and caterpillars, cicadas lack mouthparts that can chew, so they can't eat leaves, fruits or vegetables.

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?

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". See Green Methods for more ideas.

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 can become poisoned from ingesting too many treated cicadas. 3) Collateral damage -- you end up killing other insects like honey bees and butterflies.

Once there were cicadas in my area, but now there are none. Why?

Pesticides, construction, extreme weather conditions and tree removal are all good reasons.

How do they make that noise?

Only the males make the songs cicadas are known for. They have membranes in their abdomen called tymbals that vibrate very quickly when pulled by tiny muscles, creating their amazing songs. Every species of cicada has a unique call.

Go to our Cicada Audio page to listen to cicada songs.

There are two other much quieter ways some cicadas make sound. 1) Both male and female (depending on the species) use wing flicks to produce sound. You can mimik the sound of a wing flick and lure some male cicadas like Magicicada cicadas. 2) Some cicadas also use stridulation to make sounds, like crickets do. 3) Platypedia sp. cicadas, common in the western U.S., lack timbal organs and communicate through crepitation.

What is the life span of a cicada?

That depends on the Genus and species of the cicada. The Magicicada Genus of North America has a 17 or 13 year life cycle (the largest of any insect). Other Genera of cicadas have life cycles of a variety of years (never more than 17 and usually a primary number). The Tibicen or "dog day" cicada has a life cycle of only a couple of years and which is one of the reasons why we see them each year.

How many kinds of cicadas are there?

Over 170 species of cicadas live in North America alone. The two best known cicadas in North America are the Magicicada, AKA "the 17 year locust", and the Tibicen, AKA "the Dog Day cicada". There are over 3,500 varieties of cicadas found around the world (including all species, subspecies, and documented but unnamed types).

"I have seen many living cicadas missing an abdomen. Why are they still alive?"

Most cicadas are missing abdomens because of fungal infections and predators. They keep on crawling because of the natural will to mate and survive -- off course they'll die soon and never breed because their sex organs are gone.

What is the life span of a non-Magicicada cicada?

It is thought that annual cicadas like Tibicens have 2 to 7 year life cycles. Unlike periodical cicadas, annual cicadas do not have synchronized, periodical emergences, so some emerge every year. Okanagana rimosa has a 9-year life span and may be protoperiodical.

Are there periodical cicadas other than Magicicadas?

There is a cicada in India called Chremistica that emerges in synch with the World Cup (that is known as the World Cup cicada). There may be others. Gaeana festiva emerge en masse and might be a periodical cicada according to Michel Boulard.

Can pets (dogs and cats) or other animals sense cicadas below ground?

Yes, animals can sense cicadas underground, especially when they are tunneling towards the surface. When cicadas dig they make enough sound that animals can hear them.

Do cicadas sing at night?

Cicadas only sing at night in the presence of artificial light, or during extreme heat or overcrowding. Otherwise, when you hear a creature singing at night it is most likely a katydid, cricket or a frog.

Read our article 'Do cicadas sign at night?' for more information.

FAQs specifically about Magicicada Periodical Cicadas

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

This was false and an urban legend until in 2008 when Roy Troutman began to offer rewards for blue-eyed cicadas for scientific research. Roy is no longer offering the reward as he has obtained the cicadas needed for his research.

Why do they stay underground for 13 or 17 years?

There are a number of theories. Most likely they've developed this periodicity to avoid predators. The argument against that theory is that a fungus, Massospora cicadina, has evolved to attack periodical cicadas.

Climate events, such as the most recent Ice Age, are also believed to be a factor.

Read more about this topic in the blog post Cicadas and Prime Numbers and the paper by Prof. Douglas Galvao, Emergence of Prime Numbers as the Result of Evolutionary Strategy.

How come I don't have periodical cicadas in my area, but the the information on your website indicates that I should?

That's because the Are the Periodical Cicadas coming to your town? page indicates areas where Magicicada might emerge - in other words, there's a chance they'll emerge in your area, but it is not certain that they will. You won't find them in everybody's back yard. If you don't have many deciduous trees in your neighborhood, you probably won't find any. Pesticides, development (new homes, stores, roads, graveyards), extreme weather conditions and tree removal are also factors. There are no guarantees.

Read more about this topic in the blog post Where's the cicadas?

What are 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). Each of these groups emerge in the same geographic area their parents emerged. These groups, each assigned a specific Roman numeral, are called broods. 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.

Read Understanding Broods Using Analogies for more insight.

How long does a Magicicada emergence last?

The emergence time for an entire Brood (which often covers many states) can last as long as 8 weeks. Locally, an emergence typically lasts 4-6 weeks from the time the first nymph crawls from the ground, until the last adult dies. Factors like weather can slow the progress of an emergence. Individual adults can live a few weeks, but they often don't get to live that long, as many are born crippled, they get infected with mold, they run out of energy, they get eaten, etc. People also ask how long they keep singing for -- males can continue to sing for a few weeks, but typically they die sooner than that -- either because they're eaten, or because they've exhausted their internal energy stores, mating, sining and flying around.

When do I get to see Magicicada cicadas?

You might hear them first. This depends on where you live, but here's a helpful chart to determine when they'll be appearing next. There are maps on the magicicada.org site.

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

Yes, cicadas are attracted to the sound of lawnmowers, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, etc. Female cicadas think that these machines are males singing, and male cicadas show up to join the other males in what we call a "chorus".

What is the taxonomy of the Magicicada genus

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Arthropoda (arthropods)
Subphylum: Hexapoda (hexapods)
Class: Insecta (insects)
Subclass: Pterygota (winged insects)
Infraclass: Neoptera (wing-folding insects)
Order: Hemiptera Linnaeus, 1758 (true bugs)
Suborder: Auchenorrhyncha (hoppers)
Infraorder: Cicadomorpha
Superfamily: Cicadoidea
Family: Cicadidae Latreille, 1802 (cicadas)
Subfamily: Cicadettinae Buckton, 1889
Tribe: Taphurini Distant, 1905
Subtribe: Tryellina Moulds, 2005
Genus: Magicicada Davis, 1925