The Cicada FAQ (Frequently Answered Questions):
Magicicada Periodical Cicada Questions
These questions are about Magicicada periodical cicadas that emerge in 17 & 13 year cycles in the United States.
- Is it true that someone has offered a reward for white or blue-eyed cicadas?
- Why do they stay underground for 13 or 17 years?
- What is a Brood?
- How come I have cicadas in my neighborhood, but your chart said I shouldn't? or How come I don't have cicadas in my neighborhood, yet your chart indicates that I should?
- There are supposed to be cicadas in my area. How come I don't see any?
- How long does a Magicicada emergence last?
- How many kinds of Magicicadas are there?
- When do I get to see Magicicada cicadas?
- If these cicadas appear every 17 years, then why is it that they are listed to appear in some areas like every 4 years?
- Are there 7-year cicadas?
- What are stragglers?
- Why are there so many periodical cicadas?
- Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers, power saws and other machinery?
- Which fungus attacks Magicicadas?
- Are there periodical cicadas other than Magicicadas
General Cicada Questions
These questions are about all cicadas, regardless of species and location.
- What is the life span of a non-Magicicada cicada
- Is there such thing as an albino cicada?
- How can I tell a male from a female?
- I found a poor cicada with nasty shriveled up wings. Why does it have nasty shriveled up wings?
- What purpose do they serve?
- Can they see?
- You can see letters on a cicada's wings: either W or P. W means there will be war, P means there will be peace. Is this true?
- Do cicadas pee, and if so, why?
- How do you pronounce Cicada?
- Where can I find Cicada Sounds on the Web?
- Are cicadas locusts?
- Will the cicadas damage my trees, shrubs and flowers?
- Do cicadas eat garden vegetables?
- How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?
- Do cicadas bite or sting?
- I dug up a white grub / larvae in my back yard. Is it a cicada?
- Are cicadas toxic or poisonous?
- Is it safe for my pets to eat cicadas?
- Is it safe for my kids to eat cicadas?
- Once there were cicadas in my area, but now there are none. Why?
- How do they make that noise?
- What do they eat?
- What is a deciduous tree?
- What are the life stages of a cicada?
- What is the life span of a cicada?
- How many kinds of cicadas are there?
- Are cicadas katydids?
- What wasp eats the cicada?
- Where can I buy cicadas online?
- What is the Latin root word for cicada?
- "I have seen many cicadas missing an abdomen, due to damage from outside forces (i.e., me) still survive. From time to time, I see many heads with attached wings still climbing the trees. Why are they still alive, and what goal are they trying to accomplish?"
- Are cicadas June Bugs?
- What eats cicadas when they're underground?
- Do cicadas stink?
- Can pets (dogs and cats) or other animals sense cicadas below ground?
Also, see the Cicada Alphabet, which features a list of cicada related terms for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.
Magicicada (Periodical) Cicada Answers
These answers are about Magicicada periodical cicadas that emerge in 17 & 13 year cycles in the United States.
Question: Is it true that someone has offered a reward
for a white or blue-eyed North American periodic cicadas?
Answer: 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.
Question: Why do they stay underground for 13 or 17 years?
Answer: There are a number of theories. Most likely they've developed this rhythm to avoid predators. Climate events -- perhaps the Ice Age -- are also factor.
Question: How come I don't have
cicadas in my area, but the are they coming to your town? page indicates that I should?
Answer: That's because the Are they 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, extreme weather conditions and tree removal are also factors. There are no guarantees.
Answer:: 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 year groups co-emerge every 289 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.
Question: There are supposed
to be cicadas in my area. How come I don't see any?
Answer: 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, construction, extreme weather conditions and tree removal are also factors. There are no guarantees.
Question: How long does a Magicicada
Answer: 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 up to four 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.
Question: How many kinds of Magicicadas
Answer: There are seven species of Magicicada. The 17 year varieties: septendecim, cassini, septendecula, and the 13 year varieties: neotredecim, tredecim, tredecassini and tredecula. Each species is slightly different in coloring, song or other attributes.
Question: When do I get to see
Answer: 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.
Question:If these cicadas appear
every 17 years, then why is it that they are listed to appear almost every year?
Answer: Good question. Magicicadas emerge in what's known as Broods -- which you can think of as families or tribes. Each Brood emerges in 17 (or 13) year cycles. There can be more than one Brood in a state or even the same area, which is why you have emergences happening every 4 years or less in certain areas. Broods never get a chance to interbreed, so they're usually genetically different than other broods, and are often comprised of different species (Magicicada is a Genus name not a species).
Question:Are there 7-year cicadas?
Answer: Maybe, but when people say 7-year cicadas, they probably mean 17 year cicadas. Magicicadas emerge in 17 (or 13) year cycles. Some annual cicadas might have 7 year cycles, but they do not synchronize as a group.
Question:What are stragglers?
Answer:Periodical cicadas often emerge 1 or 4 years early or late. When periodical cicadas don't emerge on schedule we call them stragglers. (People hear the word straggler and assume it means something that lags behind, but that is a laggard. Straggler simply means something that has deviated from an expected date/time.)
Question:Why are there so many periodical cicadas?
Answer:Their strategy is called "predator satiation". They reproduce by the millions in order to fill predators up. The idea is that all the squirrels, birds, possums, snakes, lizards, raccoons, varmints, teenagers and other predators will be so full of cicadas and tired of eating them, that a just enough cicadas will escape and get to mate and reproduce.
Question:Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery?
Answer: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".
Question:Which fungus attacks Magicicadas?
Answer:The fungus that attacks Magicicadas is Massospora cicadina.
General Cicada Answers
These answers are about all cicadas, regardless of species and location.
Question: Is there such thing as an albino cicada?
Answer: No. When most cicadas first emerge they are white in color. Gradually, their bodies become a darker color. Some take longer than others to change. Some die before the change can occur.
Question: How can I tell a male from a female?
Answer: If it is singing, it's a male. The next best way is to flip them over and look at their belly. If the belly is streamlined and comes to a point like a sharpened pencil, it's a female. If the belly is fat and cigar-like and the end kind of looks like the top of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., it's a male.
Question: I found a poor cicada with nasty shriveled up wings. Why does it have nasty shriveled up wings?
Answer: There are a number of possibilities including malnutrition and fungus.
Question: What purpose do they serve?
Answer: Cicadas serve a number of purposes. They aid their host trees by aerating the soil when they emerge, as well as trimming weaker branches then they lay their eggs. They also form a vital link in the food chain between trees and literally hundreds of carnivores and omnivores, including: squirrels, birds, toads, raccoons, possums, other insects, people, and even fungi!
Question: Can they see?
Answer: They sure can! Get under a tree of periodical cicadas and they'll make a unique "ratcheting" sound to announce your presence. Most people assume that periodical cicadas can't see because they're abysmal flyers (compared to graceful butterflies) and because they're slow to move when approached. Periodical cicadas don't bother to escape when confronted, and the reason is they don't have to -- since they emerge in HUGE numbers, some of their species are bound to survive no matter what. They devote their energy and limited time above ground to calling and mating, rather than running away from each and every possible predator.
Question: You can see letters
on a cicada's wings: either W or P. W means there will be war, P means there will
be peace. Is this true.?
Answer: It's very true that you can see the shapes of letters in a cicadas wings. Consider this an "old wives tale" or "urban legend". If you're worried about war, consider that there is a war going on somewhere in the world at all times.
Question: Do cicadas pee, and
if so, why?
Short Answer: Because, like humans, they have to.
Answer: YES! Courtesy of Les Daniels, author of the Great Lakes Cicada site:
"I've experienced this several times where I was on the receiving end of this artificial rain. When many cicadas congregate on warm days, they feed on the tree fluids and often urinate 'piss' while doing so. This bug urine is called 'honey dew.' The little buggers have pelted me several times while I was observing a little 'too' close. It isn't uncommon.
Lastly, the 'honey dew' does not stain, or stink. In fact, it feels like rain drops."
Question: How do you pronounce
Answer: According to the dictionary: si-kah-da or si-kay-da. Either way is good.
Question: Where can I find Cicada
Sounds on the Web?
Answer: Visit our Cicada Audio page.
Question: How come I have cicadas
in my neighborhood, but the Are they coming to your town? page indicates that I shouldn't?
Answer: 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.).
Question: Are cicadas locusts?
Answer: NO! True locusts belong to the same family of insects as grasshoppers, in fact they look just like a grasshopper, in fact they are grasshopers. The confusion stems from the fact that both Locusts and Magicicada emerge in periodic swarms. Locusts are far more destructive, destroying all plant life in their path. Cicadas just fly around trees and kill a few weakling branches here and there.
the cicadas kill my trees, shrubs and flowers?
Answer: 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:
An image of Flagging caused by cicadas:
Question: Do cicadas eat garden vegetables?
Answer: Unlike grasshoppers and caterpillars, cicadas lack mouthparts that can chew, so they can't eat leaves, fruits or vegetables.
Question: How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?
Answer: 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.
Question: Do cicadas bite or sting?
Answer: No. Cicadas aren't equipped to bite or sting. They do have prickly feet and a beak which can pinch or scratch. If they confuse you with a tree branch they might try to drink fluids from you or lay some eggs in you, which you would definitely feel.
dug up a white grub in my back yard. Is it a cicada?
Answer: Maybe. Just about every insect goes through a larval phase, and they pretty much all look alike to the novice. Unlike beetle larvae, cicada larvae or nymphs are not long-bodied like grubs. If it was sucking on a root, looks just like a nymph and is soft and white, then it's probably a cicada.
Question: Are cicadas toxic or
Answer: No, but just in case, try not to eat too many. They will become toxic if you spray them with pesticides - so don't. An I bet eating too many would give you the gout.
Question: Is it safe for my pets
to eat cicadas?
Answer: Pets may choke on cicadas, or gorge themselves and become ill. Cicadas tainted with pesticide could kill your pets. Keep an eye on your pets -- don't panic if they eat a few, but check to see if they vomit or choke. Big stupid dogs love them.
Question: Is it safe for my kids
to eat cicadas?
Answer: For legal reasons (so you can't sue me when your kid turns blue after eating a pail full of these bugs) I won't say yes or no. Asian peoples (and a few Cicada Mania readers) have enjoyed eating cicadas for centuries. Like pets, your children may choke on them or gorge themselves and become ill. Please consult your child's doctor if you're concerned.
Question: Once there were cicadas
in my area, but now there are none. Why?
Answer: Pesticides, construction, extreme weather conditions and tree removal are all good reasons.
Question: How do they make that
Answer: Only the males make the noise. They have membranes on their abdomen called tymbals that vibrate very quickly when pulled by tiny muscles, creating the amazing songs. Every species of cicada has a unique call. Females can make a clicking noise with their wings, but it's nothing like the noise the males make.
Question: What do they eat?
Answer: Most cicadas subsist solely on the fluids of living trees. This fluid is called xylem. In early stages of their life, they will live off the fluids of small plants like grasses, but they move to tree root systems as they grow older. Adults live off both the fat stored in their bodies as well as fluids from trees. If you capture a cicada, giving the creature a broken branch to suck on won't nourish it. The best thing to do is place netting around a live branch of a small tree and place the cicada in that.
Question: What is a deciduous
Answer: Essentially, a tree that loses its leaves each fall, like maples, oaks and fruit trees.
Question: What are the life stages
of a cicada?
Answer: (1) The Egg. They look like rice. (2) The Larvae. Once they hatch they look like a cross between wiggly rice and a termite. They suck on the branch they hatched on for a while, they fall to earth and begin digging in search of a root. (3) The Nymph. Once they've been sucking on the root for a while they become nymphs. Once the time is right, the nymph crawls to the surface, and crawls up the nearest tree. (4) the Adult. Once they crawl from the ground and anchor themselves to what they think is a tree (I've seen them on barbecues, stone wall and garden hoses) they molt, leaving their nymph skin behind. Their wings dry and they start looking for a mate. Once they mate, they die. Your dog eats the remains.
Question: What is the life span
of a cicada?
Answer: 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 Geniuses 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.
Question: How many kinds of cicadas
Answer: Dozens of varieties 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". Hundreds of varieties of cicadas live around the world.
Question: Are cicadas katydids?
Answer: NO. These are katydids.
Question:What eats the cicada?
I have found a bee-like insect that I don't know the name of. But someone has
told me that they eat cicada's? Do you happen to know the name?
Answer: The "Cicada Killer Wasp" -- yes, that's its real name!
http://ww2.lafayette.edu/~hollidac/cicadakillerhome.html. Besides the Cicada Killer Wasp, just about anything else will eat them as well.
Question: What is the Latin root
word of cicada?
Answer: I've read two different claims: 1) cicada is derived from the Latin word for cicada, and 2) cicada is derived from the Latin word for slave.
Question: "I have seen many living
cicadas missing an abdomen. Why are they still alive?"
Answer: 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.
Question: Are cicadas June Bugs?
Answer: NO. Many people confuse June Bug larvae for cicada larvae.
Question: What eats them when they're underground?
Answer: When they're underground they're often eaten by moles and other furry insectivores, but enough of them escape the moles to survive.
Question: Do cicadas stink?
Answer:Cicadas do stink, but only once they're dead and rotting, like most creatures. When you get a pile of dead, wet cicadas they can kick up a serious funk, like putrefying bacon. It's best to rake up their corpses ASAP, shovel them into a bucket or wheelbarrow, and then bury them, compost them, or use them for catfish or critter bait.
Question: What is the life span of a non-Magicicada cicada
Answer: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.
Question: Are there periodical cicadas other than Magicicadas
Answer: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.
Question: Can pets (dogs and cats) or other animals sense cicadas below ground?
Answer: 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.