Cicada Mania

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October 11, 2005

Cicada Larvae Pictures

Filed under: Eggs | Nymphs — Dan @ 8:35 pm

So, what do cicada larvae look like? Technically they’re called nymphs, not larvae. When cicadas progress from one stage of development to another, they molt, rather than pupate. Each stage of development is called an instar. Most, if not all, cicadas go through five instars. The adult phase is the fifth instar.

First, here’s what their eggs look like:

Cicada Eggs
Photo by Roy Troutman.

When the eggs hatch, the cicadas don’t look like a grub or maggot as you might expect; instead they look like tiny termites or ants, with 6 legs and antennae. At this point, they’re called first instar nymphs.

Here are some first instar cicadas:

First instar cicada nymphs
Photo by Roy Troutman.

Here is a first and second instar cicada in the soil:

Elias's 1st and 2nd Instar Magicicada nymph
Photo by Elias Bonaros.

Here is a first, second, third and fourth instar:

Cicada Nymphs
Photo courtesy of Chris Simon.

If you are interested in participating in cicada nymph research, visit The Simon Lab Nymph Tracking Project page for more information. You must have had periodical cicadas on your property in the past 13 or 17 years to find the nymphs — not including the Brood II area since those nymphs came out of the ground this year.

14 Comments

  1. julia guthrie says:

    I’m still unsure about the process. The cicada nymphs, which fall to the ground below the tree where the eggs were laid, then burrow into the ground at that spot? they look like white ants? Is that correct? I have seen the holes that the cicadas burrowed out of this year, and they aren’t always near a tree? Does this mean that the nymph ‘ants’ crawl for a bit before they dig into the ground. Why don’t we see them doing this, is it b/c they are too small?
    I have so enjoyed the Brood this year in the woods next to my home in e. tennessee mtns. I can hear them begin in the morning and when I open the door it is an instant link to Nature, and wonderful distraction. They are now subsiding quickly. I will miss them.

    1. Dan says:

      They are incredibly small. Less than a quarter of an inch and nearly translucent. Because they’re so small and light they can be carried by the wind. Floating more than falling to the ground. Cicadas don’t stay where they land and the first burrow — they tunnel throughout their 17 years underground, which explains why you don’t see them emerge where you think you might. Tree roots often spread out well past the canopy of the tree, so cicadas can emerge a long way from the tree trunk.

  2. Marty B says:

    What happens to the nymphs if the tree (whose roots they’re feeding on) dies?

    1. Dan says:

      Mostly they die unless they’re able to tunnel to the roots of another tree.

  3. Alma R Goral says:

    while straining my compost I came across white plastic looking larva or eggs about one inch flat no legs or heads I am assuming they were eggs they were so tough I could hard destroy them I had to chop them up. Are they cicada eggs? Thanks Alma

    1. Dan says:

      No.

      You won’t find cicada eggs in the soil. First, they’re very tiny — less than 1/4 of an inch long and transparent. Second, the female cicada deposits the eggs in a groove she makes in branches the same year she mates. They hatch that same year and basically look like tiny white ants.

  4. Katherine Thomas says:

    My ears are super sensitive. One cicada will almost drive me batty. I’m in northwest Florida. Panhandle. Very close to South Georgia. My new trick. Super power Waterhouse and I spray the tops of my oak trees. Do you hear that. Crickets… LOL

  5. Helena Smith says:

    Howdy from Georgia. We have had cicades for 16 years. So many and so loud it effects our sleep and peace and quiet. Between the whippoorwill that decided to live in my back yard and the cicades…..-sleepless in Georgia

  6. Angie in Michigan says:

    Hello,
    I have had 3 cicadas appear in the last 2 nights, in SW Michigan.
    I have not seen one since we were chased out of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago IL because of a 17 yr hatching when I was much younger, possibly 1987 or around then. The trees were pulsing with layers of these flying things! There had to be millions of them. Was I witness to a certain ‘brood’?
    I tend to do pest control here, but don’t recall ever seeing these holes or the crusts of the 4th stage of life, or seeing these huge flying parasites here before. I was looking for information on how many larvae each cicada might lay, and if you have information on this area, what might we expect from this hatching? We have several dying trees around our patio, but I have only found these 3 up close to the house next to the patio. Should we protect the trees we want to keep, and if so, how?

    1. Angel Lynn says:

      Cicadas are not parasites they have no mouth and if anything they are the food that feed larger insects and animals!!

      1. Dan says:

        Technically, they’re plant parasites.

  7. G.G. says:

    hi! i love this site! cicadas fascinate me, but i thought i was the only one!! thank you!!!

  8. Dan says:

    I posted a PDF on the homepage which can be used for coloring.

  9. Zoe says:

    Great site! However, I’m looking for simple illustrations I can give to kids to color. I have a good info sheet but
    I thought a coloring page (especially for the young ones) might make them seem a little more familiar.

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