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May 16, 2021

The 20 most frequently asked questions about cicadas

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 8:39 pm

Magicicada septendecim Brood VII 2018

I’m going to use this list for a video…

What do cicadas eat?

Cicadas “eat” plant sap, specifically xylem. So, technically they don’t eat anything, they drink it. Bacteria in their gut digests it into nutrients the cicadas recieve nourishment from. More about what cicadas eat.

What is a cicada?

A cicada is an insect belonging to the order Hemiptera (true bugs), suborder Auchenorrhyncha, superfamily Cicadoidea and families Cicadidae (the vast majority of cicadas) or Tettigarctidae (only two species). They are best known for the song most males make, and for the long period of time they spend underground. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica. Same answer for the question “what is a cicada bug” or “what are cicadas” or “what is cicadas” or “what is cicada”?

How long do cicadas live?

The answer depends on the species. Three species of Magicicada live 17-years (documented up to 22). A species of Okanagana is suspected to live as long as 19 years. But some cicadas can live as few as two years, like Diceroprocta apache. Read more about how long cicadas live. If you mean, how long do they live above ground — anywhere from a few seconds (if a bird gets them) to about a month, depending on the species.

Where will the cicadas be in 2021?

If you mean the 17-year periodical cicadas, they’ll be parts of Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (extinct or nearly so), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. Read a lot more about Brood X. Worldwide cicadas will be found on every continent other an Antartica!

Where do cicadas live?

Most of their lives cicadas live underground, growing larger by drinking tree sap from plant roots. Most cicadas have short lives above ground, living on and amongst the plants (usually trees) whose roots they drank from.

How long do cicadas last?

Cicada individuals last above ground anywhere from a few seconds to about a month at max (maybe longer in captivity). This depends on the species. A periodical cicada emergence typically lasts about 5 to 6 weeks — the key is they don’t all emerge at once. Some annual cicadas can be found 4 months a year in the same location, like Neotibicen tibicen.

How long will the cicadas be here in 2021?

Assuming we’re taling about Brood X periodical cicadas, about 5 to 6 weeks — could be shorter depending on the weather. They’re less active the first and last week, so 3 to 4 weeks of crazy cicada behavior max.

How often do cicadas come out?

Magicicada cicadas come out once every 17 or 13 years. Brood X is every 17 years. There are 12 Broods of 17 year cicadas, and 3 Broods of 13 year cicadas. Mathematically speaking, each year there is an approximately 78% chance a Brood is emerging somewhere in the US. If we’re taking about other types of cicadas, they’ll be around late-spring and throughout the summer. Other species range from just 2 years, to as many as 19!

How how to pronounce cicada?

You can pronounce cicada however you like, but the most popular ways are ci-KAY-duh or si-KAH-duh. I prefer si-KAH-duh because that’s how they say it in Australia and that’s how William T. Davis pronounced it, and he had the largest collection of cicadas in North America.

Magicicada septendecim Brood VII 2018

How long will cicadas stay 2021?

If you mean Brood X, they’ll be around 4-6 weeks — 3 weeks of peak screaming cicada behavior. Other types of cicadas are typically around 1-4 weeks depending on the species.

What do cicadas do?

Depends on the species, but cicadas are best known for the long time the spend underground, and then the month or so they spend screaming above ground. Specifically, underground they dig tunnels, create cells, drink from roots, and grow. Above ground they emerge from the ground, molt, harden and inflate their wings, crawl, fly, scream, mate, lay their eggs in plant branches, and die.

How many cicadas are coming in 2021?

Trillions, Billions. Not all in one place. You might find a few dozen to thousands in your yard or local park.

What eats cicadas?

Depends on the species, the answer is everything with a mouth will eat a cicada. Yes people too. Some will eat so many cicadas, that they get tired of eating them, which is a strategy of cicada survival called predator satiation! Certian species of cicadas, like summertime Morning Cicadas are the favorite prey of Cicada Killer Wasps. There’s even a fungus that consumes cicadas, backend first: Which fungus attacks Magicicadas? Massospora cicadina.

How long do cicadas live above ground?

Depends on the species, but about a month in captivity based on observations made by friends, and slightly less or dramatically less in nature. Dramatically less because everything is trying to eat them.

What do cicadas sound like?

Depends on the species, but they sound like old TV or radio static, a broken air conditioner, a U.F.O. from a science fiction movie, a car alarm, a broken alarm clock, a power tool… Visit the cicada sounds page and listen for yourself.

Where are cicadas found?

Cicadas are found on every continent but Antarctica. There’s few countries and islands where you won’t find them, like Greenland or Bermuda, but most of the world has at least one species. In the USA, periodical cicadas are found in most states east of the Rocky mountains. Visit the Brood page to see where.

What do cicadas look like?

They’re insects, and like most insects, as adults, they have wings (4), six legs, an abdomen, a thorax and a head. Their head features five eyes (2 large compound eyes, and 3 tiny simple eyes), antennae, and a beak for drinking. Here’s a picture:

Magicicada septendecim Brood VII 2018

How do cicadas make noise?

Most male cicadas make sound by rapidly vibrating a membrane called a tymbal. It’s like a tiny drum. See a picture of a tymbal. Some females & males make sounds by flicking their wings. There’s also a third way cicadas make sounds.

How big are cicadas?

Periodical cicadas are about 1 to 1.5 inches long. Other species are as small as a half-inch or as long as 3 inches with 8-inch wingspans.

Why do cicadas come out?

Cicadas come out of the ground to mate with other cicadas and create the next generation of cicadas. That is it.

September 3, 2018

Looking for adult cicadas at night

Filed under: Community Science | FAQs | Neotibicen — Tags: , , — Dan @ 8:25 am

Nighttime is often the best time to find cicadas.

Nymphs, generally speaking, emerge soon after sunset. When I look for nymphs, I wait until sunset and start looking around tree roots and on tree trunks. Sometimes it takes hours, but usually, I find one (or many).

Cicada Nymph:
Neotibicen auletes nymph

Adult cicadas are easiest to find on hot, humid nights in well-lit areas like parking lots and the sides of buildings. You will find them clinging to illuminated walls and crawling on sidewalks. They end up on the ground, often because they fly into the wall and stun themselves. On a hot humid night — 85F or above — I’ll find an excuse (usually frozen desserts) to check the walls of the local supermarket for cicadas.

Cicadas, like many insects, are attracted to (or confused by) lights. There are many theories as to why insects are attracted to lights, and the reasons why probably vary by species. My guess (and this is just a guess) is that cicadas can’t tell day from night, or daylight (sun) from artificial lights, and so they think they’re using light to navigate away from a dark area (a tree trunk, dense brush), and then get very confused because they never seem to get anywhere once they reach the source of the light. I wish I could ask a cicada why.

Prime nighttime cicada location: a well-lit building and macadam parking lot:
Nighttime prime cicada location

Cicadas can damage their skin and innards by fling into and bouncing off walls:
Nightime N linnei with wound

A Neotibicen tibicen clinging to a cinderblock wall:
Nighttime N tibicen on wall

A Megatibicen auletes crawling on an illuminated sidewalk:
Megatibicen auletes in Manchester NJ

If you go looking for cicadas at night, make sure you have permission to be where you plan to look. Don’t trespass, and have respect for other people’s property.

May 13, 2018

What is the largest cicada?

Filed under: FAQs — Tags: , , — Dan @ 8:41 am

The largest known cicada is the Megapomponia imperatoria (Westwood, 1842) of south-east Asia. The specimen in the photo below was captured in Malaysia and it’s wingspan measured 20 centimters/7.9 inches. Other species might be larger in terms of weight, but I’m not sure.

Megapomponia imperatoria
Photo of a Megapomponia imperatoria (formerly Pomponia imperatoria) by Michel Chantraine.

Other very large cicadas include the Bear Cicada of Japan (Cryptotympana facialis), and Tacua speciosa of south-east Asia.

Tacua speciosa (Illger, 1980) photos from Malaysia. The author of the image wishes to be anonymous.
Tacua speciosa from Malaysia by anonymous photographer.

The largest cicada in North America is the Megatibicen auletes:

Megatibicen auletes, the largest cicada in North America
Northern Dusk-Singing Cicadas aka Megatibicen auletes. Photo by me.

These very large cicadas are loud, but not the loudest. Learn about loud cicadas.

August 13, 2017

How long do cicadas live?

Filed under: FAQs | Life Cycle — Dan @ 12:09 pm

The most famous cicadas — North American periodical cicadas — typically live 17 or 13 years. These cicadas only represent about 0.2% of all cicadas, most of which live shorter lives.

Magicicada septendecim cicadas live 17 years.
Magicicada septendecim cicadas live 17 years.

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.

How long do cicadas live as adults?

Short answer: about a month.

How long a cicada lives as an adult depends on the species, but the answer could be from a matter of seconds, if the cicada dies due to predation or an accident, to more than a month. Cicadas are primarily subterranean plant (mostly tree) parasites and only enter their above-ground, adult form to mate/reproduce.

A particular species of cicada — like Neotibicen tibicen tibicen — might appear to last for two or three months, because their song can be heard for that length of time, but that’s likely because they emerge over the course of a month, not all on the same day, extending length of time their species is present above ground.

No matter what the species, adult cicadas perish within a season or two, and do not live multiple years in their adult form, like other types of insects. They won’t try to move inside your house once winter approaches to find warmth and shelter.

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)

January 11, 2017

Frequently asked questions about cicada insects

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 1:01 am

FAQs

This is a list of all the cicada “frequently asked questions” on our site.

Cicada Biology

  1. Can Cicadas See?
  2. Do cicadas pee?
  3. Do cicadas stink?
  4. How many types of cicadas are there?
  5. How to tell if a Cicada is a Male or Female?
  6. Is there such thing as an albino cicada?
  7. Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or damaged wings?
  8. What is the largest cicada?

Cicada Sounds, Singing, “Noise”

  1. Do cicadas sing at night?
  2. How do cicadas make sounds / noise?
  3. What cicada is the loudest?
  4. When do cicadas sing?

Cicada Behavior

  1. Do cicadas bite or sting?
  2. What do cicadas do?
  3. Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery?
  4. How long do cicadas live?
  5. What do Cicadas Eat?
  6. What is the purpose of cicadas?
  7. Where do cicadas live?

Cicada Predators aka What Eats Cicadas

  1. 10 Facts about Cicada Killer Wasps
  2. Can pets or other animals sense cicadas below ground?
  3. What Eats Cicadas?

Studying or Observing Cicadas

  1. How do I photograph cicadas at night?
  2. Is it possible to raise cicadas?
  3. Keeping cicadas for a short period of time
  4. Where can I buy cicadas online?

Human / Cicada Interaction

  1. Are cicadas safe to eat?
  2. How do you pronounce Cicada?
  3. How to say in different languages?
  4. What do cicadas symbolize?
  5. What is the root of the word cicada?
  6. What Might Cause Cicadas to go Extinct?

17 & 13 Year / Magicicada / Periodical / “Locusts”:

  1. What are the black spots on the back of a Magicicada cicada?
  2. Can you see letters like W & P on a cicada’s wings?
  3. Did Someone Offer a Reward for White or Blue-eyed Cicadas?
  4. How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?
  5. How Long Does a Periodical Cicada Emergence Last?
  6. What are Broods?
  7. What are Stragglers?
  8. What is Predator Satiation?
  9. Are cicadas locusts?
  10. Which fungus attacks Magicicadas?
  11. Why do Magicicada stay underground for 13 or 17 years?

About Cicada Mania

  1. About Cicada Mania
  2. Email: cicadamania@gmail.com

May 21, 2016

Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or damaged wings?

Filed under: FAQs | Molting — Dan @ 5:00 pm

You might notice that some cicadas have shriveled-up or otherwise damaged wings. Most of the time, wings become damaged during the molting process (ecdysis), specifically while their wings harden (sclerotize). Their wings and body are most vulnerable when they are still soft.

Hang Time

Some reasons why a cicadas’s wings might not get the chance to inflate and harden:

  1. If a cicada molts and its wings are not able to hang downward they won’t inflate with fluids and form properly.
  2. Cicadas often trample each other in the rush to find a place on a tree to molt.
  3. Harsh weather, like wind and rain, knock them to the ground or bend their wings when they’re soft.
  4. Pesticides
  5. Malnutrition.
  6. Physical weakness or defects.
  7. Fungi infection.
  8. Predator attacks.


Reasons 1 and 2 are due to humans reducing cicada habitat (forests & fields) and replacing the habitat with buildings, streets, sidewalks, etc. Yes — you are the problem :). But — you are also the solution. The best paper on this is “Faulty Eclosion in Crowded Suburban Periodical Cicadas: Populations Out of Control” by JoAnn White; Monte Lloyd; Jerrold H. Zar (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1937659?seq=1).

Stuck

Just 10 Magicicada (American periodical cicadas) generations ago, the U.S. was mostly forest. Back then it was easy to find a vertical surface to molt on, or a plant stem to hang from. Today most forests have been replaced with agriculture, buildings, lawns, roads, sidewalks, parking lots, etcetera — so it has become increasingly difficult for periodical cicadas to find a good place to hang.

Magicicada can afford to lose a large number of their population due to wing malformations and other critical defects because there are simply so many of them — this loss falls in line with their predator satiation strategy.

However, if Magicicada cicadas lose too much habitat, they will go extinct (brood XI went extinct about 60 years ago). Lawns, roads, sidewalks, and other features of our human habitat create surfaces that are insalubrious for cicada molting.


Here’s a good photo by Jim Occi:

Adult Brood II Magicicada septendecim from Westfield NJ by Jim Occi


In the video below, you will see a cicada molting. Note that its wings are able to hang downward and inflate to form properly shaped wings. If the cicada tried to molt on a vertical surface, the odds are its wings would be crumpled.


In the image below, there is a Neotibicen tibicen (not a periodical cicada) that sclerotized (hardened) before completely shedding its nymphal skin.

Marvin. Didn't make it all the way out of its old skin. :(
Although adorable, this Neotibicen will never sing or fly.

May 19, 2016

Keeping cicadas for a short period of time

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 12:44 pm

We previously discussed raising cicadas from egg to adult. How about keeping adult cicadas for an hour, a day or more?

If you plan on keeping cicadas for a few hours, many containers will do. Just keep them in the shade, make sure the container is ventilated (has holes so air can flow in and out), and add a moist paper towel for a source of water & moisture.

I prefer to use Butterly Pavilions, which are small, expandable, portable enclosures. You can reuse them for other insects once the cicadas have gone.

Any Longer than a few hours, and you should make sure the cicadas have a source of fluids — the best source is a tree branch.

Temporary Cicada Enclosure

Cicada researcher & enthusiast Elias Bonaros shared his secrets for keeping adult cicadas alive. His record is 28 days for a Neotibicen auletes.

I usually used oak branches for above two species. I placed them into a butterfly pavilion. I used a small spring water bottle into the enclosure and placed the end of the branch into it. Be sure to place some paper towel or cotton in the open spaces at the mouth of the bottle because I had some specimens walk into the bottle and drown! Our beloved cicadas are not too bright.

I have never tried the sapling although that would seem the best as the tree can generate its own xylem pressure.

I change the branch every day vs every other day. Every third day is not good.

Takes a lot of work.

Another idea is to surround a branch of a live tree with netting, and place them in that — the same type of netting you would use to keep them off a branch will keep them on it.

The advantage of a Butterfly Pavilion is you can keep the cicada inside your home or lab.


May 18, 2016

Is it possible to raise cicadas?

Filed under: FAQs | Life Cycle — Dan @ 7:19 am

Is it possible to raise cicadas? It is, but it requires patience and commitment.

Potted Plants

The master of raising cicadas is a Japanese amateur cicada biologist named Shougo Murayama. Shougo has raised more than 1,000 cicadas of six or more species from eggs to adults in his backyard by growing them in see-through pots in clay soil with Aloe or Yucca plants. You can visit his website for more information (tip: use Firefox for better display of the text & then cut and paste it into Google translate). According to Shougo Murayama’s website, the cicadas he raised had 2 to 5-year life cycles.

David Logan of New Zealand successfully raised Kikihia ocharina cicadas from egg to adult. The details of this study can be found in the article Nymphal development and lifecycle length of Kikihia ocharina from 2006. It is important to note that K. ocharina have a short 3-year lifespan, and Logan raised the nymphs in pots with live plants. Logan’s study includes a section about the care of the cicada’s egg before they hatch; hatching can take months, so this part is important. Logan placed the twig with eggs in a vial which he blocked with a moist material.

Logan conducted another study in 2014, this time with Amphipsalta zelandica (Boisduval), proving his methods work.

Richard Karban raised 15-year-old Magicicada nymphs to adulthood using peach trees as hosts for his study of how periodical cicadas keep track of time. This is not quite the same thing as raising cicadas from eggs, but it shows they can be raised outside of their natural habitat. Karban observed a high rate of mortality from the difficult process of transferring cicadas to new roots.

Most people who visit this website (Cicada Mania) are looking for American periodical cicada (Magicicada) information. Raising Magicicada would be quite a commitment. You’ll need an environment that mimics the Magicicada’s natural habitat, including the right soil & host plans, and you’ll need to maintain for at least 13 years (for the 13 year species, 17 years for the 17).

If you’re serious and live in the United States, a cicada with a short lifecycle like Diceroprocta apache will require less of a commitment.

Should you decide to raise cicadas, be sure to read the resources mentioned in this article, and consider the following tips:

  1. Expect 95% of the cicadas to die
  2. Care of the eggs is critical
  3. Use host plants and soil preferred by the species
  4. Use a species that has a short life cycle
  5. Use see-through pots so you can see the cicadas as they develop

I might consider doing this experiment myself, but I would definitely choose a species with a short life-span. I might place some grasses in the pot, in addition to a larger host plant, to give 1st instar nymphs more tiny roots to choose from. I have a (perhaps irrational) fear of a house guest dumping a cup of coffee into my cicada host plant and killing the entire experiment.

Thanks to Chris Simon of The Simon Lab at UConn for pointing me to many of these references.

References:

Logan, DP. 2006. Nymphal development and lifecycle length of Kikihia ocharina (Walker)(Homopetera:Cicadidae). The Weta, 31:12-22.

Logan, DP, Rowe CA, Maher BJ. 2014. Life history of chorus cicada, an endemic pest of Kiwifruit (Homopetera:Cicadidae). New Zealand Entomologist. 37:2:96-102.

Karban, R, Black CA, Weinbaum SA. 2000. How 17-year cicadas keep track of time. Ecology Letters. 3: 253-256.

March 2, 2016

What do cicadas symbolize?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 4:34 am

You might ask, what do cicadas symbolize? What are cicadas a metaphor for?

2005-dantibicen-7

Cicadas, for many, represent personal change, renewal, rebirth, and transformation.

Unlike a butterfly, moth, or other insects that undergo complete metamorphosis, cicadas have no pupal state. They transform from one fully-functioning state (instar) to another — one viable form, in a small amount of time, changing to another. The cicada’s transformation is similar to that of human beings. If a person wants or needs to make a change in their life, they don’t enclose themselves in a pod and emerge the next spring (I suppose some might) — more likely they remain in their human form as they change.

A lot of people use cicadas to symbolize their own personal transformation, in art, song, poetry, or even a tattoo. The cicada inherently symbolizes what they were (nymph) and all the glory of what they have become (adult form).

Cicadas can also be a symbol for a musician or singer since they sing.

Since cicadas sing mostly during summer months, they are a symbol of summer and a precursor to the harvest.


Watch some cicada transformations:

September 26, 2015

What is the root of the word Cicada?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 11:58 pm

The Latin root of the word cicada, is cicada!

Looking back a bit farther, the Sanskrit word for cicada is चिश्चिर, which is pronounced cizcira. Not too big a leap from cizcira to cicada.

There are other similar Sanskrit and Latin words, for instance, 17 in Sanskrit is saptadaz, while 17 in Latin is septendecim. Sapta/septen, daz/decim — you can see the similarities.

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