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August 13, 2017

How long do cicadas live? Longest life cycle?

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

Which cicada has the longest life cycle?

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

  • Cyclochila australasiae: 6-7. 6

  • Chremistica ribhoi: 4. 7

  • 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.


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)
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)


  1. Julie Blow says:

    I live in St. Louis, MO and we are expecting the 17 yr cicadas this spring. Can you narrow their timing for me, please? I have a daughter who lives in Seattle who was here 13 years ago and will not come this summer if they are around! Once they emerge, how long will they be around? In some research I have found 3-4 weeks; in other, all summer.

    I want to see my daughter and granddaughter! Please help them plan their trip!

    1. Dan says:

      Last Brood XIX they started emerging in the first week of May and died off by middle of June. They emerge when the soil gets warm, which is generally after a string of days with temps in the high 70s.

  2. I live in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Yesterday I saw my first one. It was crawling on my driveway. I stomped on it so hard that I hurt my foot and leg. I also saw seven shells that they have crawled out of. Okay, I know they don’t bite and can’t hurt you, BUT I just don’t like them or many other bugs. If one were to land on me I would flip out! It has warmed up here. I knew they were coming, so day before yesterday I went to the grocery and stocked up. I am retired so I do not have to go out of the house to a job. My plan now is to stay inside the house until they are gone. I have a few questions about them. Once they are out of their shell do they go straight to a tree? Do they stay in one tree the whole time or do they fly around and visit other trees? I have a covered patio, but the sides are open. If they don’t fly around and mainly stay in trees then I am thinking MAYBE I could sit on the patio. I don’t want any to land on me. I have also heard that the sound of a running lawn mower attracts them. Is this true? Do they fly around everyday or stay up in the trees? I have six fruit trees in the yard I planted two years ago. Will the hurt my trees. I am not about to go outside and see if any are in those trees! Please help me by answering my questions. I just don’t like them! Thank you, Debbie Collins

    1. bontea says:


  3. Lyn says:

    I live in Croatia Europe and they have been extremely noisy in large numbers due to pine trees. They arrived end of June and are still active. I read 8-10 weeks. Ugh. Is this the norm. Thank you

  4. Anisa George says:

    Is 17-20 years very long to live compared to other insects? Are there any other insects that live this long?

    1. Dan says:

      From what I’ve read, Splendour beetles (Buprestidae) live the longest.

  5. Ben Jones says:

    AS a kid we used to catch Cicadas in the early evening and cut their wigs off with scizzors so they couldn’t fly. Then we would throw them one at a time into our farm pond. They would buzz on the surface for a few seconds then usually a large mouth bass would scoop them up for supper.

    1. t says:

      you’re cruel

  6. Wolfe says:

    What happens if they are stepped on?
    How do we know which ones are females?

    They seems to be coming out of my corner covers of my house 🥺

    1. Dan says:

      @Wolfe, they’ll usually die if they’re stepped on.

      The females don’t sing, but other than that, here’s a guide.

  7. Janet Parker says:

    The magicicada in Burke county are everywhere! They are getting on my swimming pool cover. I don’the know when to open my ingroutdoor pool for they are on top of the cover. Even though I live in city limits I live at the end of a cul-de-sacred with woods and 1 field beside me, I can hear baby coyotes whining during the day when the magicicaďas sing the loudest ( I know it can’take be puppy’s on all 3 side of the woods, IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY! They must like water because there is a creek on both sides of my property. WHEN WILL THEY GO AWAY?

    1. Trena says:

      I live near Dayton Ohio and they are horrible around my house! Im looking for the same question to be answered; how long will they stay out?! Ugggg

      1. Dan says:

        About 3 weeks

  8. Patty says:

    I have a large number of cicadas in my Red Maple. It is a fairly healthy tree but I am still worried about it, I have tried spraying them with the water hose and they go away but come right back. How many times do the females lay eggs? What happens after they lay eggs? Hopefully not stupid questions but this tree was planted by my late husband and it means a lot to me I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to spray with pesticides because of the hummingbirds so I’m trying to be patient until these things are gone. The tree is about 13 years old.

    1. Patty says:

      I meant to say the same female. Can she lay eggs over and over again?

  9. Teresa says:

    How long will they be visiting us this summer?🐝

    1. Dan says:

      3 to 4 weeks.

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