Cicada Mania

Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.

Welcome to Cicada Mania, a website dedicated to cicada insects.

What does a cicada look like? Like this Neotibicen linnei aka Linne’s Cicada found in the eastern half of the United States:
Neotibicen linnei

Latest Cicada News and Site Updates (updated November 27, 2022):

  • πŸŽ… 'Tis the season for Cicada Gift Ideas 🎁.
  • πŸ‡³πŸ‡Ώ Cicadas emerged in New Zealand so far 2022-23: Kikihi, Clay Bank, Sand Dune and Variable Cicadas.
  • πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Cicadas emerged in Australia so far 2022-23: Green Grocers, White Drummers, Alarm Clock Squawkers, Small Bottle Cicadas, Brown Bunyip, Spotten Wattle Cicadas, Silver Princess, Bladder, Red Tree-Ticker, Paperbark, and Small Bottle Cicadas.
  • πŸ‡§πŸ‡· Cicadas emerged in Brazil so far 2022-23: Giant Cicada, Green Shield Cicadas, Orellana strepens, Carineta diardi, Orellana bigibba, and Quesada sodalis.
  • 🌏 Keep an eye on the iNaturalist cicada sighting firehose for sightings around the world.
  • A review of our uncharacteristically short cicada season in New Jersey. (9/22)
  • Cicada postage stamps for Australia πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί (9/15)
  • πŸ“ƒ The latest papers: Cicada research published in 2022, so far. (9/13)
  • πŸ› οΈ Site news: The database for the website was corrupted and in the process, any non-ASCII characters (like emoji) were destroyed. Bit by bit I'm fixing the issue.
  • As always, connect to Cicada Mania on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Email, and Flickr. More About Us.

Cicada T-shirts


Magicicada septendecim
Magicicada septendecim aka 17-year Pharaoh Cicada.
tymbals
An illustration of cicada tymbals from C.L. Marlatt's The Periodical Cicada. c shows the muscles and tendons connected to the tymbals, and d & e shows the bending of the tymbal.

What are Cicadas?

Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cicadidae) are true bug insects, best known for the songs sung by most, but not all, male cicadas. Males sing by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Small muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out of shape. The sound is intensified by the cicada's mostly hollow abdomen.

Female and some male cicadas will also make a sound by flicking their wings, but it isn't the same as the sound for which cicadas are known. Listen to some of the songs cicadas sing.


A feeding cicada.
A Magicicada drinking from a tree. Photo by Roy Troutman.

Cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha, superfamily Cicadoidea and families Cicadidae (the vast majority of cicadas) or Tettigarctidae (only two species). There are five subfamilies of Cicadidae: Derotettiginae, Tibicininae, Tettigomyiinae, Cicadettinae, and Cicadinae. Leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and jumping plant lice are close relatives of the cicada. Hemiptera are different from other insects in that both the nymph and adult forms have a beak (aka rostrum), which they use to suck fluids called xylem from plants. This is how they both eat and drink.

The body of a cicada is composed of a head, thorax & abdomen. The head features two antennae, two compound eyes, three simple eyes (ocelli), and a clypeus that connects the beak to the head (the clypeus looks like the grill of a combustion vehicle). The thorax features two sets of wings (forewings & hindwings), six sets of legs, spiracles for breathing, opercula covering the tympana ("eardrums"), and in males of species that have them, tymbals & tymbal covers. The abdomen features tergites (dorsal) & sternites (ventral), more spiracles for breathing, and reproductive organs. Cicadidae and Tettigarctidae have major differences in anatomy, which you can learn about here.


The Root of the Word Cicada

The Latin root od the word for cicada is cicada. Cicadas are called semi in Japan, cigale in France, and cigarra in Spain. Names for cicadas in countries around the world. The pronunciation of the word cicada depends on your local dialect. You can say β€œsi-kah-da” or β€œsi-kay-da”.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas begin life as a rice-shaped egg, which the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb, using her ovipositor. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. These grooves can kill small branches. When the branches die and the leaves turn brown, it is called flagging.

Once the cicada hatches from the egg it will begin to feed on the tree fluids. At this point, it looks like a termite or a small white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. It will typically start with smaller roots of grass plants and work its way up to the roots of its host tree. The cicada will stay underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species. Cicadas are active underground, tunneling, feeding, and not sleeping or hibernating as commonly thought.

After the long 2 to 17 years, cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest available vertical surface (usually a plant) and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid (hemolymph) and their adult skin will harden (sclerotize). Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life.

Adult cicadas also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing (or otherwise vibrate the air or their surroundings), females respond, mating begins, and the cycle of life begins again.

Cicada Life Cycle
Top row, left to right: cicada egg (Roy Troutman), freshly hatched nymph (Roy Troutman), second and third instar nymphs (Elias Bonaros). Bottom row, left to right: fourth instar nymph, teneral adult, adult. (Cicada Mania).

Different Types of Life Cycles

There are three types of cicada life cycles:

  1. Annual: Cicada species with annual life cycles emerge every year, for example, Swamp Cicadas (Neotibicen tibicen) emerge every year in the United States, and Green Grocers (Cyclochila australasiae) emerge every year in Australia.
  2. Periodical: Cicadas species with periodical life cycles emerge together after long periods of time, for example, Magicicada septendecim will emerge every 17 years (Find out where they'll emerge next). Magicicada periodical cicadas are organized into Broods, which correspond to the series of years in which they will emerge. Only periodical cicadas are organized by Roman-numeral Broods.
  3. Protoperiodical: Cicada species with protoperiodical life cycles might emerge every year, but every so many years they emerge together in large numbers, like certain Okanagana depending on factors like proximity to other species and rainfall accumulations (Chatfield-Taylor 2020).

How Many Cicadas Are There?

There are over 190 varieties (including species & subspecies) of cicadas in North America, and over 3,390 varieties of cicadas around the world. This number grows each year as researchers discover and document new species. Cicadas exist on every continent but Antarctica.

The Largest Cicada:

The world's largest species of cicada is the Megapomponia imperatoria, which is native to Malaysia. The largest species in North America is Megatibicen auletes, aka the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada. Other notably large cicadas include the Bear Cicada of Japan (Cryptotympana facialis), and Tacua speciosa of south-east Asia.

The Loudest Cicadas:

The world's loudest cicada is the Brevisana brevis, a cicada found in Africa that reaches 106.7 decibels when recorded at a distance of 50cm (~20"), according to researcher John Petti.

The Megatibicen pronotalis walkeri (formerly known as Tibicen walkeri) is the loudest cicada in North America and can achieve 105.9 decibels, measured at 50cm.

That said, Australian species of cicadas, like the Double Drummer (Thopha saccata) are said to approach 120 (deafening) decibels at close range. It is unknown how many decibels Thopha saccata can create at 50cm.

Double Drummer
Double Drummer aka Thopha saccata

More info about the loudest cicadas.

The Longest Cicada Life Span:

The most well-known cicadas in North America are Magicicada periodical cicadas, aka "locusts", which have amazingly long 17 or 13-year lifecycles. Magicicada have been documented to emerge after 22 years. Read more: How long do cicadas live?