Cicada Life Cycle: Unveiling Nature’s Mysterious Insects

Cicadas are fascinating insects known for their unique life cycle and distinctive mating call. Their life cycle involves several stages, from egg to nymph to adult, and can span a range of years depending on the species.

In the first stage, a female cicada lays her eggs in young, tender tree branches after mating [(source)). Once the eggs hatch, tiny nymphs emerge and burrow themselves into the ground. Here, they feed on fluids from various plant roots and grow through a series of molts.

Cicada Life Cycle Overview

Life Cycle Stages

Cicadas go through three main stages in their life cycle:

  • Egg: Female cicadas lay their eggs on tree branches, using a sharp, knife-like structure on their abdomen to cut a slit in the soft branch for depositing their eggs1.
  • Nymph: Eggs hatch into nymphs, which drop to the ground and burrow underground, where they feed on plant roots2. As they grow, nymphs shed their exoskeletons multiple times.
  • Adult: After completing development, nymphs emerge from the soil, molt one last time, and become winged adults2. Adult males attract females using their loud courting sounds, generated by a special body part called a tymbal3.

Developmental Period

Cicadas have varying developmental periods depending on the species. There are two main types:

  1. Periodical cicadas: They remain underground as nymphs for 13 or 17 years, and their appearance above ground synchronizes among large populations4.
  2. Annual cicadas: They emerge from the ground every year, with a shorter developmental period, usually 2-5 years4.
Type Underground Period Emergence
Periodical cicada 13 or 17 years Synchronized
Annual cicada 2 to 5 years Yearly

Cicada species have adapted to various environments and have unique life cycle characteristics, but all share these main stages and developmental periods.

Periodical and Annual Cicadas

Periodical Cicadas

Periodical cicadas are a unique group of cicadas found in North America. They have an unusual life cycle, with some species emerging only every 17 years, while others emerge every 13 years1. Notable examples include the Brood X cicada, which is a 17-year species. Some key features of periodical cicadas are:

  • Distinct reddish-orange eyes
  • Emergence in massive quantities during specific years
  • Males “sing” by vibrating a membrane to attract mates2

Annual Cicadas

Annual cicadas, on the other hand, belong to a broader group of over 3,000 species. They are found all around the world and have a more frequent lifecycle, with some cohorts spending several years underground3. Here are some distinguishing characteristics of annual cicadas:

  • Green to brown bodies with black markings
  • Emerge in midsummer every year
  • Larger size compared to periodical cicadas4

Comparison Table

Feature Periodical Cicadas Annual Cicadas
Occurrence 13 or 17 years Every year
Eye color Reddish-orange Varies
Emergence pattern Massive, synchronized5 Gradual, yearly6
Geographic distribution North America Worldwide

Underground Life

Feeding on Plant Roots

Cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground, feeding on plant roots. In this stage, they are known as nymphs. Specifically, they:

  • Suck sap from roots, providing nutrients for growth
  • Feed on various species of trees and shrubs

An essential note is that periodical cicadas may stay underground for up to 17 years in some species, while other cicada species require 3-8 years to complete their development.

Molting and Growing

As nymphs grow, they go through a series of instar stages. During each stage:

  • Cicadas molt their exoskeletons
  • Grow and develop new exoskeletons

After their final molt, the now mature cicadas emerge from the ground, ready to begin their short adult lives above ground.

Soil Temperature Effects

The emergence of cicadas is highly influenced by soil temperature. They prefer to come out when the ground has reached a specific consistency. For instance:

  • A warm soil temperature triggers cicada emergence
  • Periodical cicadas typically emerge once soil temperatures are consistently above 64°F (18°C) at a depth of about 8 inches (20 cm)

In conclusion, soil temperature plays a significant role in determining when cicadas will leave their underground habitats and start the next phase of their life cycle.

Emergence and Mating

Mating Calls

  • Male cicadas produce mating calls using a special body part called a tymbal.
  • Vibrating the tymbal creates a shrill noise to attract female cicadas1.

Attracting a Mate

  • Only male cicadas “sing” by vibrating a membrane on the sides of their body2.
  • Female cicadas respond to the calls by flicking their wings3.

Comparison Table: Male and Female Cicada Mating Behavior

Male Cicada Female Cicada
Mating Calls Vibrates tymbal Responds to male’s call
Sound Shrill noise Flicks wings
Role Attracting a mate Choosing a mate

Egg-Laying and Nymph Life

Egg-Laying Process

Female cicadas lay their eggs inside small tree branches. They etch a groove in the bark of a tree limb and deposit their eggs there (source).

Egg-laying features:

  • Location: Tree branches
  • Method: Groove etched in the bark of a tree limb

The eggs take around six to eight weeks to develop before they hatch into nymphs (source).

Nymph Development

Once they hatch, the cicada nymphs fall to the ground and start their life beneath the soil. Nymphs go through four instars, or life stages, before becoming adults (source).

Nymph characteristics:

  • Initial appearance: Small, white, and mushy
  • Life stages: Four instars

They tunnel underground in search of nutrients, feeding on fluids from tree roots (source).

Teneral adult: After the final nymph instar, the cicada nymph will molt one last time, emerging as a teneral adult. Teneral adults are soft and pale, but their exoskeleton will harden and darken over time.

Comparison table of nymph stages:

Stage Appearance Activity
Egg Inside tree branches Develop for 6-8 weeks
Nymph (Instars 1-4) Small, white, mushy Tunnel and feed on tree root fluids
Teneral Adult Soft, pale Harden exoskeleton, darken over time

Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Common Predators

Cicadas face various predators throughout their life cycle. Some examples of these predators include:

  • Birds
  • Mammals (such as squirrels and raccoons)
  • Reptiles (like snakes and lizards)
  • Insects (spiders, ants, and wasps)

Protective Strategies

Cicadas have evolved various protective strategies to avoid these predators:

  1. Camouflage: Their natural coloration helps them blend with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them.
  2. Swarming: In certain species like locusts, cicadas form swarms, which can help in overwhelming and confusing predators.
  3. Buzzing: Cicada males produce loud buzzing sounds which may serve as a defensive mechanism, as it can deter some predators.

Cicadas do not possess a highly effective defense against all their predators, which is evident from their high predation rates. However, these strategies help them survive in their environment and reproduce effectively.

Significance and Impact

Cicadas in Science

Cicadas are fascinating insects that play important roles in ecosystems. They contribute to the breakdown of organic matter, serving as food for various animals, and their emergence influences plant life. They are well-known for their unique life cycle, which varies across different cicada species. Some periodical cicadas, for example, emerge every 13 or 17 years in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the United States. During this period, they feed on the xylem, a component within plants that transports water and nutrients.

Cicada research has contributed significantly to the fields of insect biology, natural history, and ecology. Scientists have identified over 3,000 cicada species worldwide and organized them into several distinct broods. Studies on cicadas have paved the way for understanding insect physiology, reproductive behavior, and evolution.

Cicadas in Literature and Culture

Cicadas have been deeply ingrained in human culture and traditions. They are widely referenced in literature, mythology, and folklore. Cicadas are celebrated for their symbolism of rebirth, transformation, and immortality, primarily due to their long life cycles and distinct molting process.

Some examples of cicada influence in literature and culture include:

  • In ancient Greece and Rome, cicadas were considered sacred creatures and often depicted in art and literature.
  • Various Native American cultures view cicadas as symbols of renewal and transformation.
  • In East Asian cultures, cicadas are a symbol of summer and a metaphor for fleeting beauty and impermanence.
Feature Science Literature & Culture
Significance Ecological roles and research Symbolism, mythology, and art
Geographic Distribution Global, including the United States Widely referenced across cultures
Influence on Human Culture Understanding of insect biology Cultural traditions and beliefs

Overall, cicadas are an essential part of global ecosystems, representing an intriguing subject for scientific study and a rich source of cultural inspiration.

Footnotes

  1. Ask A Biologist 2 3

  2. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 2 3 4

  3. US EPA 2 3

  4. Clemson University Home & Garden Information Center 2 3

  5. US EPA

  6. Clemson University Home & Garden Information Center

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cicadas from Utah

 

Subject: Bug on apple/pear trees
Location: Utah, USA
June 11, 2014 6:01 pm
This bug “clicks” 4 times in succession and bugs on trees across the yard answer in kind. It’s quite loud and I only noticed them in the last couple of weeks. It is late Spring now and has been sunny for several weeks. The bugs are on the branches of my two apple and one pear tree and are about 3/4 to 1″ long? All three trees have fruit that is about 1/3 of the way to harvest and don’t appear to have any damage. The bugs can fly and are quite large.
Signature: Kind of scared of large flies

Cicadas
Cicadas

Dear Kind of scared of large flies,
We have been away from the office for ten days, and on Friday the 13th, we were trying to prepare your submission for posting when our shuttle to the airport arrived early, so our response has been delayed.  These are Cicadas, and though they resembles large flies, they are not related to flies.  Cicadas are among the most “vocal” insects in the world, though the sound that they produce does not emanate from vocal cords.  According to Cicada Mania:  “Cicadas are insects, best known for the sounds made by male cicadas. The males make this sound by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Small muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out of shape — like a child’s click-toy. The sound is intensified by the cicada’s mostly hollow abdomen. Female cicadas also make a sound by flicking their wings, but it isn’t the same as the song cicadas are known for.”  According to BugGuide:  “Males sing loudly during the day to attract mates.”
  You do not need to fear the Cicadas, and they will not harm your fruit, and though they might feed on the plants, according to BugGuide:  “Despite their numbers and large size, cicadas do little damage to crops or trees.”  We are uncertain of the species as “There are 166 species of cicadas in the United States and Canada” according to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Subject: Blue Cicada
Location: Queensland, Gold Caost Hinterland
November 25, 2012 5:12 am
Hi we found this next to a tree in our front yard (dead unfortunately)and have not been able to find a photo on the web showing the deep colour on the wings and thought that someone out there may enjoy the photo. Cheers
Signature: Blue Moon

Bladder Cicada

Dear Blue Moon,
Though there is a Cicada in Australia that is commonly called the Blue Moon because of its deep blue coloration, it has clear wings.  You can see an example on Cicada Mania.  Because of the wings on your individual, we believe it is a Bladder Cicada,
Cystosoma saundersii,  which we also found on Cicada Mania as well as in our own archives. There are additional photos and information on the Brisbane Insect website.  We are not certain what caused the bluish coloration of your individual.  Perhaps it is a combination of the lighting conditions in the shade as well as the result of metamorphosis that occurred just prior to its demise.

Letter 3 – Cotton Green Cicada

 

mall green cicada
Location: Northeastern Louisiana
July 23, 2011 5:27 pm
Dear Bugman,
I uploaded this information to your site in June, but never got a response, so something must have gone wrong with the upload. I found this cicada in my pool skimmer, it was already dead. It was a lime green color and much smaller than the regular annual cicada. It didn’t look like a periodical and didn’t have red eyes. The first image is the day I found it, when it was still brilliant. The second image was a day later and he had faded in color. I found the common the other cicada and used him as a comparison for size. Hope you can shed some light.
Signature: BugBunny

Cotton Green Cicada

Dear BugBunny,
Each year, beginning in May, the amount of mail we receive each day increases to the point that we are not physically capable, with our current staff, of answering even a fraction of the identification requests we receive.  We try to post at least five new submissions each day, and we answer considerably more requests that do not get posted to the site.  Generally those get just a name and they are emailed directly to the querant.  Additionally, this past June, we were on holiday for a week, and during that time, no mail was answered.  Our backlog of unanswered requests is truly vast, and we hope you do not take it personally that we never responded to your original request.  This identification proved a bit of a challenge for us, but we believe we have the correct answer for you.  With North American insects, we often begin trying to identify an unknown species on BugGuide, and we were unable to find any matching images there, however, we did find a Cicada with an intriguing name that was not pictured on BugGuide.  The name
Okanagana viridis caught our eye because the species name refers to “green” and we learned that the common name is the Cotton Green Cicada.  BugGuide lists the range as:  “western Mississippi, n. Louisiana, s. Oklahoma, parts o Arkansas and ne. Texas” and the habitat as:  “Forested areas along watersheds and edge forests to the Black belt Prairie remnants.”  It flies in June and July and BugGuide also has this comment:  “Not Common.”  We then did a web search for that name and we discovered the website Cicadas of the United States and Canada East of the 100th Meridian and scrolling down the page provided this image which looks like a match to your Cicada.  The site includes the song of the Cotton Green Cicada and also provides this information:  “A bright green, glossy cicada.  Song is a continuous, thin buzz lasting around 30 seconds.  Calls from very high in deciduous trees.  Found in rare lowland forest patches of south-central states.

Cotton Green Cicada (right) compared to Tibicen species

Thank you so much for the information.  Yes I do believe this is it.  I didn’t find anything about the size of the cotton green cicada on the BugGuide site.  The one I found was much smaller than the common cicada.  I have lived here for 60 years and I have never seen one of these cicadas.  I am always looking for unusual bugs to share with my family and with all my exploring, this is the first one of these I have found.  Thanks again.

Letter 4 – Brood X is coming! May 1st and Seceda Bugs

 

Dear Bugman,
Hi. I’m getting married May 1, 2004 in lovely N. Virginia and am planning an outside reception. Someone mentioned recently that the secadas are due to come out this year and they start right around that time. Please advise if you think this is the case or if there are certain treatments you can have done or certain candles or lights you can have to turn them away. Please help me 🙂 BTW – what exactly is a secada?
Many thanks.
MK

Dear MK,
According to our sources, Brood X of the 17 Year Cicada or Periodical Cicada, Magicicada septendecim, is due to emerge this year. They are noisy, but will not attack your wedding guests. Nothing will keep them away. Here is information I am reprinting from the National Geographic website:

“Get ready, Brood X is coming. This May billions of black, shrimp-size bugs with transparent wings and beady red eyes will carpet trees in the U.S. from the eastern seaboard west through Indiana and south to Tennessee. By the end of June they’ll be gone, not to be heard from or seen again for 17 years. “Many people view them with horror or as an aberration and don’t appreciate that they are a natural part of our eastern forests,” said John Cooley, a cicada expert at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The bugs belong to the largest group, or brood, of periodical cicadas-insects that spend most of their lives as nymphs, burrowed underground and sucking sap from tree roots. They emerge once every 17 years, transform into adults, do the business of reproduction, and then die.”

Thanks. The Washington Post and NYT have both printed recent articles.
Thanks again.

Letter 5 – Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas Mating, Emerging and Laying Eggs Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada

 

Brood XIII Periodical Cicadas Mating, Emerging and Laying EggsBrood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada
Cicada Photos
Dear Sir,
Feel free to post any of these images taken in Lyons,IL May-June 2007. Mating Cicadas Emerging adult Female beginning to deposit eggs Female ready to deposit eggs Thank you,your site is awesome!
Joe Balynas
Lyons,IL U.S.A.

Hi Joe,
Our site would be nothing without awesome photo documentation like yours.

Letter 6 – Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada

 

Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada
Chicago Periodical Cicadas 4 U!
Hi guys!
I’ve finally got some good cicada pix for you. I will send them in a separate email so you will for sure get this message. Sometime mail with attachments don’t go through. Please respond if you do get this so I know that you know pix are on their way. I usually do this every time I send a photo with an email just so I know cuz I’m OC that way. The meds really help, let me tell you.
Most sincerely,
Joanne M. Pleskovich
ps – they are copyrighted ONLY because photos tend to get nicked off the web. Please know I am giving you permission to use them for what ever you want as long as my name stays with them. You can keep this email as proof in case of future litigation. Ha ha! me so funny!

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for sending your wonderful Periodical Cicada emergence images. It took a bit of time to reformat all your images to conform to our site and still maintain your copyright information, though there has been a bit of cropping. Thanks again for the amazing documentation.

Letter 7 – Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas from Lisa’s Mom near Chicago

 

Cicadas
Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas from Lisa’s Mom near Chicago
Here are some pictures. I’ll send a few more in another email. The sound is wonderful. Like trillions of tiny tambourines or fairy bells. Not too loud here. I sent a few pix with the biggest groups I found. Mostly they are not like that at all. And I rarely see them on any tree trunks. Only on the plants on the ground or lower leaves of the trees. I think they start there and then fly up to the treetops.
Mom

Hi Sue,
We have been waiting for our readership to send in Periodical Cicada images, but to our dismay, only one has arrived. Thankfully, we now have your awesome images of this unforgetable phenomenon. For more information on the Periodical Cicadas, visit Sue’s new website.

Letter 8 – Cicadas

 

I added a few other pictures. Not sure what they all are but hopefully you can use them somewhere! Let me know if you can view these pictures and if you like them. I have a some more pics of other bugs. I didn’t want to over load you with a bunch of pictures you didn’t want. You have my permission to use them as you please if any of them are worth posting! Take care
Bruce Rose
Huntingtown, MD

Thanks, Bruce,
for the wonderful photo of the periodical cicada, or 17-Year Locust.

Letter 9 – Carpenter Ants devour newly emerged Annual Cicada

 

Carpenter Ants Devour Emerging Cicada
July 29, 2009
Dear Bug Man:
Thought you might be able to use one of these photos in your “food chain’ category. My son called me over to an old oak tree, to see a group of carpenter ants eating what he thought was a large caterpillar. When I got there, I could see it was an emerging cicada. I don’t know if the cicada died as a result of not being able to emerge fully from it’s nymphal skin, and the ants were just scavenging the carcass. Or, if the ants started attacking it shortly after it crawled up the tree. No idea what type of cicade this one is, but parts of it were a lovely turquoise green. This was the only cicada on the whole tree–no other shells or nymphs were around. Was this cicada’s biological clock working OK?
Chris O.
Wildwood Park, near Toledo, OH

Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada
Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada

Hi Chris,
Thanks so much for sending us your wonderful food chain documentation of Carpenter Ants devouring an Annual Cicada that was in the process of metamorphosis.  We suspect the Carpenter Ants attacked the Cicada while it was helpless and unable to escape.  The Cicada’s biological clock was right on time, as they emerge during the summer.  This is an Annual Cicada, and unlike the Periodical Cicadas that emerge every 14 or 17 years, the Annual Cicadas emerge each year.

Letter 10 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Help needed to identify a very noisy insect!
January 6, 2010
Looks like a large green cicada and is approx. 7cm in length. However it has solid coloured wings unlike any cicada I have seen previously and has a swollen abdomen. Was making a very loud vibration noise that I initially thought was coming from an electricity transformer. Unfortunately where it was I couldn’t get a full photo.
Sarah
Sydney Australia

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Hi Sarah,
As you letter indicated, this is not an ideal photograph for identification purposes.  At first we thought this must be a Katydid, and the Brisbane Insect website has a few photos of a False Leaf Katydid in the genus Mastigaphoides, family Pseudophyllinae, that didn’t look quite right.  In attempting to locate additional online photographs, we stumbled upon a wonderful Conservation Report website on Leaf Mimic Animals.  We suddenly remembered the Bladder Cicada, Cystosoma saundersii, and we found images that look correct on the Brisbane Insect website which states “The male Bladder Cicadas have the greatly enlarged abdomen, largely hollow. This is the resonating chamber to amplify the loudness of their songs.
”  You may also listen to the call of the Bladder Cicada on the Brisbane Insect Website.

Hi Daniel,
Yes, that’s it, a Bladder Cicada! Thankyou so much for helping to identify it.
It has been driving my neighbour & I mad for the last week trying to workout
what was making the sound, as it started spot on 8.30pm every evening (right
when it gets dark) and would make a very loud, annoying vibrating noise for 30
mins -2hrs. Last night it had moved from being up near the roof, most likely in
a tree (hence I thought it was coming from something electrical), to her
carport, so we were able to locate it & determine the source!
Thanks,
Sarah

Letter 11 – Cactus Dodger Cicada

 

Desert Cicada
February 26, 2010
Hi, WTB,
From early June, 2009, a very fresh looking Desert Cicada.  It voided when picked up.  Northern Sonoran Desert, southern Arizona, about 3,000′.
Best,
Denny

Cactus Dodger

Hi Denny,
We are nearly certain your interesting desert Cicada is Cacama valvata, which we quickly located on BugGuide.  We like that it is called a Cactus Dodger.

Cactus Dodger

Thanks for the ID.  I had not heard the name Cactus Dodger, but I like it, also.

Cactus Dodger

Letter 12 – Bug of the Month December 2010: Green Grocer is first Australian Cicada of the Season

 

Ed. Note: December 1, 2010
Since summer is approaching in the Southern Hemisphere, we are beginning to get more identification requests from Australia.  There are many different species of Cicadas in Australia and they are given very unusual common names.  We hope that we receive numerous photographs of Australian Cicadas this year and hopefully, making this Green Grocer that was sent in about a week ago the Bug of the Moth will encourage other submissions of Cicadas.

Large Green Flying Insect
Location: Ascot Vale, Melbourne
November 22, 2010 11:49 pm
Hello
Can you please help me identify this fly found in my sister’s garden? It was bigger than my thumb and quite fat.
Signature: LC

Green Grocer Cicada

Dear LC,
You have netted a Green Grocer Cicada,
Cyclochila australasiae, one of many species of Cicada found in Australia that have fascinating and colorful common names.  According to Oz Animals:  “The Green Grocer Cicada is a common cicada along eastern Australia. It has a loud high pitched call and is one of the loudest insects in the world. The most common form is green, and another fairly common form is the yellow form (the Yellow Monday). Less common colour variations are dark tan (Chocolate Soldier) and turquoise blue (Blue Moon). Most forms have red eyes, although the Blue Form has purple blue eyes. The Masked Devil is an orange brown form with a black mask across the eyes that is more common at higher altitudes.”  Now that winter is fast approaching in North America, our northern hemisphere identification requests are tapering off, but each year at this time, we get numerous requests from Australia and other southern hemisphere locations.  Your letter is the first Cicada image from Australia this season.

Letter 13 – Diminutive Cicada from Brazil

 

Smallest cicada from Brazil/ Blog of brazilian cicadas

Tiny Cicada on the beach in Brazil

Smallest cicada from Brazil/ Blog of brazilian cicadas
Location: Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil
December 19, 2010 12:11 pm
Hi Bugman, how are you??
After searching like hell the ID of the last cicada i posted here, i’m quite sure it is a Fidicina pronoe, based on this document (http://www.scielo.br/pdf/aseb/v26n1/v26n1a18.pdf). I’m here to post a picture of the smallest cicada i have ever found in Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil. It is a Carineta fasciculata, and it is less than 1/2 inch long (about 1 cm, or even less). I believe this could be the world’s smallest cicada, but i need you to confirm that. Can you??
Thank you very much!!
PS: Please publish my blog’s address!!! I have a lot of pictures of Brazilian cicadas, so you can have some fun visiting it! The only problem is that it’s only in portuguese, but i’ll try to translate it to english! Thank you again!
http://cigarrasbrasileiras.blogspot.com/
Signature: Franco (Cicada Lover)

tiny Cicada

Dear Franco,
Thank you so much for doing the research on your Cicada species.  In California, we have seen very tiny Cicadas, about a centimeter long, in the desert in Joshua Tree National Park, but we would have to do some research to be able to answer your question about the world’s smallest Cicada.  We will gladly link to your blog, but we hope the increased traffic doesn’t crash your server.

tiny Cicada from Brazil

Correction from Franco
January 25, 2011
Hey Daniel, i’m sorry, but i misidentified the cicada i posted. It is not a Carineta fasciculata, but it is a Taphura sp (i say so because i found a picture of a real Carineta fasciculata, and it is very bigger than the one i posted). How can i say now that it is a Taphura sp? Based on its diminutive size, on pics i saw on the internet and on a document (http://pgentomologia.ffclrp.usp.br/pdf/2008/Douglas%20Bottura.pdf ) that refers to Taphura sp as a very common species in Brazil. Attached to this letter i send you  new pics of a Taphura sp (did you note the resemblance with Beameria venosa?), including its measure (9mm!!!).
Have a nice year!!!

Brazilian Cicada: Taphura sp

Thanks for the information Franco.

Thanks for posting my update, but i forgot to tell that the green cicada i attached to the e-mail (the upper pic) is not a Taphura sp, but a Carineta fasciculata. Taphura sp is just the picture below (with the scale).
Thanks again and sorry for that mistake.

We will create a new post.

Letter 14 – Cockroach preys upon molting Cicada

 

Cockroach Eating Cicada
Location: Central Kentucky
August 4, 2011 9:56 pm
I thought you would enjoy this picture I took one night of a cockroach munching on a cicada while the cicada was molting. Cockroaches are certainly opportunistic.
Signature: Amelia

Wood Cockroach eats molting Cicada

Hi Amelia,
Thank you so much for sending this amazing documentation.  We don’t normally think of Cockroaches as being predators, but this lends credence to the popular concept that they can and will eat most anything.  It appears that the Cockroach might be a Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach based on the markings around the pronotum.  Check BugGuide for a comparison.

Eric Eaton provides and alternate theory
Yep, a male Parcoblatta pennsylvanica.  I’m thinking the cicada is already dead (got stuck while molting) or it is just the exuviae itself.  Roaches are rarely, if ever, predators.
Eric

Letter 15 – Comparison between Cicada Exuvia

 

Tibicen and Magicicada exuviae, side-by-side
Location: Mid-Missouri
September 13, 2011 12:49 pm
Here’s a size comparison of the eclosed exuviae of our Brood XIX 13-year Magicicada and the later Tibicen. Found in somebody’s yard, mid-July. Magicicadas were gone by then…
Signature: Lisa, aka ”Mycologista”

Cicada Exuvia Comparison: Periodical Cicada (left) and Annual Cicada

Hi again Lisa,
Thanks for this nice size comparison.  Since the Periodical Cicadas emerge in May or June, and the Annual Cicadas emerged in mid Summer, it is isn’t often one has the opportunity to see the two side by side.

Letter 16 – Brood II Periodical Cicada

 

Subject: Brood II Periodical Cicada
Location: Manassas, VA
August 20, 2013 6:01 am
Hi Bugman-
These pictures were taken in the Manassas National Battlefield Park (in Manassas, VA) on June 15th. There were quite a few cicadas still around at that time, but not as many as previous weekends. The cicada and exoskeleton were on different trees, so it is unlikely they are ”related”.
Hope you enjoy the pics!
Signature: Katherine

Periodical Cicada
Periodical Cicada

Hi Katherine,
Thanks for your photos.  Are you the same Katie from Manassas who sent us the Brood II metamorphosis images this past June?

Periodical Cicada Exuvia
Periodical Cicada Exuvia

Nope! That wasn’t me. I was on your site looking to identify another bug and noticed you had very few pictures of our cicadas.
Katherine

Interesting coincidence.

 

Letter 17 – Cicada from Uganda

 

Subject: Beetle? Kampala Uganda
Location: Kampala, Uganda
October 26, 2014 11:00 pm
Hello,
Attaching two pictures (hopefully they go through…my internet is bad!)
Found this guy on my shoe this morning. I’m in Wakiso District Uganda, just outside of Kampala. Can you help me identify him/her?
Cheers!
Signature: Beth

Cicada
Cicada

Hi Beth,
This is not a beetle, but a Cicada, a group of insects known for the loud sounds they produce, often from the tops of trees.  Your individual is  dead ringer for the individual in this Wikimedia Commons image also from Uganda.

Cicada
Cicada

Letter 18 – Brood XXIII Update: Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs

 

Subject: periodical cicada update – laying eggs
Location: Jackson TN USA
May 24, 2015 12:27 pm
Now that our week of rain has slowed down the cicadas are calling and mating. Here is a female I spotted out by my clothes line laying eggs in a bush. The calling is so loud around our house you actually have to speak louder than normal outside to be heard.
Signature: Jess

Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs
Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs

Dear Jess,
Thanks so much for providing an update on your Periodical Cicada submission from last week.  We suspect that Brood XXIII may have a very limited distribution as we have not received any other submissions for this significant event.

Letter 19 – Decapitated Cicada Head

 

Subject: What is this thing?
Location: Wisconsin
July 31, 2016 12:58 am
I found this on top of my girls car in the middle of summer in Wisconsin, we both are absolutely puzzled!
Signature: -Erik

Decapitated Cicada Head
Decapitated Cicada Head

Dear Erik,
This is the head of a Cicada, and we have received similar decapitated Cicada heads in the past, but what is really unusual is what we discovered when we tried to name your image file for our archives.  Someone named Erik submitted a similar severed Cicada head in 2010.  We have long suspected that birds are behind these mysterious remains.  Cicadas are quite fatty and nutritious, but the head is hard, and perhaps not as tasty. 

Letter 20 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Subject: What is this insect?
Location: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia
October 16, 2016 2:39 pm
Hi, my names Jess. I found an insect in my garden and I don’t know what it is. It has a leafy exterior and a very large behind. It has six legs and big brown eyes. When disturbed it make a similar noise to a small frog, kind of. I haven’t seen it fly but it has wings.
Signature: Jess Burton

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Dear Jess,
Australia is home to hundreds of different species of Cicadas, and this Bladder Cicada,
Cystosoma saundersii, is one of the more unusual looking ones.  According to the Queensland Government site:  “The bladder cicada is a large cicada up to 5 cm long that is green in colour, and with leaf-like wings. The most distinctive feature of males is their large abdomen (from which they have gained the name ‘bladder’), which is hollow and acts as an echo-chamber to amplify their calls.”  Much like your observation, the site also states:  “The large, hollow abdomen of male bladder cicadas helps them to produce a distinctive and deep, frog-like sound. Their calls last up to half-an-hour, and can be heard from dusk to early evening.”  According to Climate Watch:  “Breeding: mating occurs from September. The female cuts small slits in the branches of a plant into which she lays her eggs. The eggs hatch into nymphs, drop to the ground and burrow into the soil where they feed on sap in the roots of plants. They remain underground for several years (possibly six or seven!) until fully grown, then emerge as adults at night from September. They climb up trees and shed their complete brown shells before flying off to find mates. After so long underground, they live for only a few weeks more.”

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Letter 21 – Dog Day Harvestfly

 

Subject:  Large Green Fly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Brooklin, Ontario, Canada
Date: 08/16/2018
Time: 11:37 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This giant was just happily sitting on the wall outside of my son’s daycare.
He was HUGE! At least 2 inches tall. What was it?
How you want your letter signed:  JS

Dog Day Harvestfly

Dear JS,
Though it is commonly called a Dog Day Harvestfly because of its end of summer flight time and because it resembles a giant fly, the Annual Cicada is not a true fly.  Cicadas are also well known because of the cacophony they produce from tree tops.

Lovely! Thank you Daniel! 🙂

Ed. Note:  There has been some chatter on Facebook accusing us of making up the common name Dog Day Harvestfly.  According to BugGuide, of the genus Neotibicen:  The name ‘Dog Day Cicada’ is most often applied in particular to Neotibicen (Tibicen) canicularis. Other common names encountered:  Harvestflies, Dryflies, Jarflies.”  BugGuide also note on the page for :  “Other Common Names Dogday Harvestfly, Harvestfly, Northern Dog-Day Cicada, & Common Dog-Day Cicada” with the explanation “DOG-DAY: a reference to the hot ‘dog days’ of late summer when this species is heard singing; at this time in the northern hemisphere the Dog Star (Sirius) is above the horizon in the Big Dog constellation (Canis Major).  NOTE: Dog-days of summer indeed do refer to Sirius, the dog star, and although it is above the horizon, it is not visible in summer in the northern hemisphere. This is because it is up during the daytime. Canis major is a “winter” constellation. Canis Major CANICULARIS: from the Latin ‘canicula’ (a little dog, the Dog Star, Sirius) HARVESTFLY: another reference to the late season song of this species, heard during harvest time.”

Letter 22 – Decapitated Brood VIII Periodical Cicadas

 

Subject:  Cicadas being decapitated
Geographic location of the bug:  Western Pennsylvania
Date: 05/25/2019
Time: 09:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have found several dozen cicada decapitated very close to their malted skins. What is causing the decapitation?
* Note I lined the bodies up in pic…
How you want your letter signed:  Dirk Rupert

Decapitated Cicadas

Dear Dirk,
Your image is the first one we are posting this year of the emergence of the Brood VIII, the population of Periodical Cicadas, incorrectly called 17 Year Locusts, which has just begun to emerge in western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia according to Cicada Mania.  For years we have been posting images of decapitated Cicada heads, but our images have been of the heads left behind when a predator has eaten the body.  Your case is different because the perpetrator did not eat the nutritious body, so it wasn’t hungry.  We suspect a house cat might be responsible for your mystery.

Letter 23 – Citrus Cicada

 

Subject:  Strange insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Las Vegas, NV
Date: 07/27/2019
Time: 03:23 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Not sure what bug this is, is it some kind beetle?
How you want your letter signed:  Dear, Ryan

Citrus Cicada

Dear Ryan,
We located your Cicada on Bird and Hike where it is identified as
Diceroprocta apache, the Desert Cicada but on BugGuide, the common name is listed as Citrus Cicada.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cicadas from Utah

 

Subject: Bug on apple/pear trees
Location: Utah, USA
June 11, 2014 6:01 pm
This bug “clicks” 4 times in succession and bugs on trees across the yard answer in kind. It’s quite loud and I only noticed them in the last couple of weeks. It is late Spring now and has been sunny for several weeks. The bugs are on the branches of my two apple and one pear tree and are about 3/4 to 1″ long? All three trees have fruit that is about 1/3 of the way to harvest and don’t appear to have any damage. The bugs can fly and are quite large.
Signature: Kind of scared of large flies

Cicadas
Cicadas

Dear Kind of scared of large flies,
We have been away from the office for ten days, and on Friday the 13th, we were trying to prepare your submission for posting when our shuttle to the airport arrived early, so our response has been delayed.  These are Cicadas, and though they resembles large flies, they are not related to flies.  Cicadas are among the most “vocal” insects in the world, though the sound that they produce does not emanate from vocal cords.  According to Cicada Mania:  “Cicadas are insects, best known for the sounds made by male cicadas. The males make this sound by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Small muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out of shape — like a child’s click-toy. The sound is intensified by the cicada’s mostly hollow abdomen. Female cicadas also make a sound by flicking their wings, but it isn’t the same as the song cicadas are known for.”  According to BugGuide:  “Males sing loudly during the day to attract mates.”
  You do not need to fear the Cicadas, and they will not harm your fruit, and though they might feed on the plants, according to BugGuide:  “Despite their numbers and large size, cicadas do little damage to crops or trees.”  We are uncertain of the species as “There are 166 species of cicadas in the United States and Canada” according to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Subject: Blue Cicada
Location: Queensland, Gold Caost Hinterland
November 25, 2012 5:12 am
Hi we found this next to a tree in our front yard (dead unfortunately)and have not been able to find a photo on the web showing the deep colour on the wings and thought that someone out there may enjoy the photo. Cheers
Signature: Blue Moon

Bladder Cicada

Dear Blue Moon,
Though there is a Cicada in Australia that is commonly called the Blue Moon because of its deep blue coloration, it has clear wings.  You can see an example on Cicada Mania.  Because of the wings on your individual, we believe it is a Bladder Cicada,
Cystosoma saundersii,  which we also found on Cicada Mania as well as in our own archives. There are additional photos and information on the Brisbane Insect website.  We are not certain what caused the bluish coloration of your individual.  Perhaps it is a combination of the lighting conditions in the shade as well as the result of metamorphosis that occurred just prior to its demise.

Letter 3 – Cotton Green Cicada

 

mall green cicada
Location: Northeastern Louisiana
July 23, 2011 5:27 pm
Dear Bugman,
I uploaded this information to your site in June, but never got a response, so something must have gone wrong with the upload. I found this cicada in my pool skimmer, it was already dead. It was a lime green color and much smaller than the regular annual cicada. It didn’t look like a periodical and didn’t have red eyes. The first image is the day I found it, when it was still brilliant. The second image was a day later and he had faded in color. I found the common the other cicada and used him as a comparison for size. Hope you can shed some light.
Signature: BugBunny

Cotton Green Cicada

Dear BugBunny,
Each year, beginning in May, the amount of mail we receive each day increases to the point that we are not physically capable, with our current staff, of answering even a fraction of the identification requests we receive.  We try to post at least five new submissions each day, and we answer considerably more requests that do not get posted to the site.  Generally those get just a name and they are emailed directly to the querant.  Additionally, this past June, we were on holiday for a week, and during that time, no mail was answered.  Our backlog of unanswered requests is truly vast, and we hope you do not take it personally that we never responded to your original request.  This identification proved a bit of a challenge for us, but we believe we have the correct answer for you.  With North American insects, we often begin trying to identify an unknown species on BugGuide, and we were unable to find any matching images there, however, we did find a Cicada with an intriguing name that was not pictured on BugGuide.  The name
Okanagana viridis caught our eye because the species name refers to “green” and we learned that the common name is the Cotton Green Cicada.  BugGuide lists the range as:  “western Mississippi, n. Louisiana, s. Oklahoma, parts o Arkansas and ne. Texas” and the habitat as:  “Forested areas along watersheds and edge forests to the Black belt Prairie remnants.”  It flies in June and July and BugGuide also has this comment:  “Not Common.”  We then did a web search for that name and we discovered the website Cicadas of the United States and Canada East of the 100th Meridian and scrolling down the page provided this image which looks like a match to your Cicada.  The site includes the song of the Cotton Green Cicada and also provides this information:  “A bright green, glossy cicada.  Song is a continuous, thin buzz lasting around 30 seconds.  Calls from very high in deciduous trees.  Found in rare lowland forest patches of south-central states.

Cotton Green Cicada (right) compared to Tibicen species

Thank you so much for the information.  Yes I do believe this is it.  I didn’t find anything about the size of the cotton green cicada on the BugGuide site.  The one I found was much smaller than the common cicada.  I have lived here for 60 years and I have never seen one of these cicadas.  I am always looking for unusual bugs to share with my family and with all my exploring, this is the first one of these I have found.  Thanks again.

Letter 4 – Brood X is coming! May 1st and Seceda Bugs

 

Dear Bugman,
Hi. I’m getting married May 1, 2004 in lovely N. Virginia and am planning an outside reception. Someone mentioned recently that the secadas are due to come out this year and they start right around that time. Please advise if you think this is the case or if there are certain treatments you can have done or certain candles or lights you can have to turn them away. Please help me 🙂 BTW – what exactly is a secada?
Many thanks.
MK

Dear MK,
According to our sources, Brood X of the 17 Year Cicada or Periodical Cicada, Magicicada septendecim, is due to emerge this year. They are noisy, but will not attack your wedding guests. Nothing will keep them away. Here is information I am reprinting from the National Geographic website:

“Get ready, Brood X is coming. This May billions of black, shrimp-size bugs with transparent wings and beady red eyes will carpet trees in the U.S. from the eastern seaboard west through Indiana and south to Tennessee. By the end of June they’ll be gone, not to be heard from or seen again for 17 years. “Many people view them with horror or as an aberration and don’t appreciate that they are a natural part of our eastern forests,” said John Cooley, a cicada expert at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The bugs belong to the largest group, or brood, of periodical cicadas-insects that spend most of their lives as nymphs, burrowed underground and sucking sap from tree roots. They emerge once every 17 years, transform into adults, do the business of reproduction, and then die.”

Thanks. The Washington Post and NYT have both printed recent articles.
Thanks again.

Letter 5 – Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas Mating, Emerging and Laying Eggs Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada

 

Brood XIII Periodical Cicadas Mating, Emerging and Laying EggsBrood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada
Cicada Photos
Dear Sir,
Feel free to post any of these images taken in Lyons,IL May-June 2007. Mating Cicadas Emerging adult Female beginning to deposit eggs Female ready to deposit eggs Thank you,your site is awesome!
Joe Balynas
Lyons,IL U.S.A.

Hi Joe,
Our site would be nothing without awesome photo documentation like yours.

Letter 6 – Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada

 

Brood XIII: Emergence of a Periodical Cicada
Chicago Periodical Cicadas 4 U!
Hi guys!
I’ve finally got some good cicada pix for you. I will send them in a separate email so you will for sure get this message. Sometime mail with attachments don’t go through. Please respond if you do get this so I know that you know pix are on their way. I usually do this every time I send a photo with an email just so I know cuz I’m OC that way. The meds really help, let me tell you.
Most sincerely,
Joanne M. Pleskovich
ps – they are copyrighted ONLY because photos tend to get nicked off the web. Please know I am giving you permission to use them for what ever you want as long as my name stays with them. You can keep this email as proof in case of future litigation. Ha ha! me so funny!

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for sending your wonderful Periodical Cicada emergence images. It took a bit of time to reformat all your images to conform to our site and still maintain your copyright information, though there has been a bit of cropping. Thanks again for the amazing documentation.

Letter 7 – Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas from Lisa’s Mom near Chicago

 

Cicadas
Brood XIII: Periodical Cicadas from Lisa’s Mom near Chicago
Here are some pictures. I’ll send a few more in another email. The sound is wonderful. Like trillions of tiny tambourines or fairy bells. Not too loud here. I sent a few pix with the biggest groups I found. Mostly they are not like that at all. And I rarely see them on any tree trunks. Only on the plants on the ground or lower leaves of the trees. I think they start there and then fly up to the treetops.
Mom

Hi Sue,
We have been waiting for our readership to send in Periodical Cicada images, but to our dismay, only one has arrived. Thankfully, we now have your awesome images of this unforgetable phenomenon. For more information on the Periodical Cicadas, visit Sue’s new website.

Letter 8 – Cicadas

 

I added a few other pictures. Not sure what they all are but hopefully you can use them somewhere! Let me know if you can view these pictures and if you like them. I have a some more pics of other bugs. I didn’t want to over load you with a bunch of pictures you didn’t want. You have my permission to use them as you please if any of them are worth posting! Take care
Bruce Rose
Huntingtown, MD

Thanks, Bruce,
for the wonderful photo of the periodical cicada, or 17-Year Locust.

Letter 9 – Carpenter Ants devour newly emerged Annual Cicada

 

Carpenter Ants Devour Emerging Cicada
July 29, 2009
Dear Bug Man:
Thought you might be able to use one of these photos in your “food chain’ category. My son called me over to an old oak tree, to see a group of carpenter ants eating what he thought was a large caterpillar. When I got there, I could see it was an emerging cicada. I don’t know if the cicada died as a result of not being able to emerge fully from it’s nymphal skin, and the ants were just scavenging the carcass. Or, if the ants started attacking it shortly after it crawled up the tree. No idea what type of cicade this one is, but parts of it were a lovely turquoise green. This was the only cicada on the whole tree–no other shells or nymphs were around. Was this cicada’s biological clock working OK?
Chris O.
Wildwood Park, near Toledo, OH

Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada
Carpenter Ants devour emergent Cicada

Hi Chris,
Thanks so much for sending us your wonderful food chain documentation of Carpenter Ants devouring an Annual Cicada that was in the process of metamorphosis.  We suspect the Carpenter Ants attacked the Cicada while it was helpless and unable to escape.  The Cicada’s biological clock was right on time, as they emerge during the summer.  This is an Annual Cicada, and unlike the Periodical Cicadas that emerge every 14 or 17 years, the Annual Cicadas emerge each year.

Letter 10 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Help needed to identify a very noisy insect!
January 6, 2010
Looks like a large green cicada and is approx. 7cm in length. However it has solid coloured wings unlike any cicada I have seen previously and has a swollen abdomen. Was making a very loud vibration noise that I initially thought was coming from an electricity transformer. Unfortunately where it was I couldn’t get a full photo.
Sarah
Sydney Australia

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Hi Sarah,
As you letter indicated, this is not an ideal photograph for identification purposes.  At first we thought this must be a Katydid, and the Brisbane Insect website has a few photos of a False Leaf Katydid in the genus Mastigaphoides, family Pseudophyllinae, that didn’t look quite right.  In attempting to locate additional online photographs, we stumbled upon a wonderful Conservation Report website on Leaf Mimic Animals.  We suddenly remembered the Bladder Cicada, Cystosoma saundersii, and we found images that look correct on the Brisbane Insect website which states “The male Bladder Cicadas have the greatly enlarged abdomen, largely hollow. This is the resonating chamber to amplify the loudness of their songs.
”  You may also listen to the call of the Bladder Cicada on the Brisbane Insect Website.

Hi Daniel,
Yes, that’s it, a Bladder Cicada! Thankyou so much for helping to identify it.
It has been driving my neighbour & I mad for the last week trying to workout
what was making the sound, as it started spot on 8.30pm every evening (right
when it gets dark) and would make a very loud, annoying vibrating noise for 30
mins -2hrs. Last night it had moved from being up near the roof, most likely in
a tree (hence I thought it was coming from something electrical), to her
carport, so we were able to locate it & determine the source!
Thanks,
Sarah

Letter 11 – Cactus Dodger Cicada

 

Desert Cicada
February 26, 2010
Hi, WTB,
From early June, 2009, a very fresh looking Desert Cicada.  It voided when picked up.  Northern Sonoran Desert, southern Arizona, about 3,000′.
Best,
Denny

Cactus Dodger

Hi Denny,
We are nearly certain your interesting desert Cicada is Cacama valvata, which we quickly located on BugGuide.  We like that it is called a Cactus Dodger.

Cactus Dodger

Thanks for the ID.  I had not heard the name Cactus Dodger, but I like it, also.

Cactus Dodger

Letter 12 – Bug of the Month December 2010: Green Grocer is first Australian Cicada of the Season

 

Ed. Note: December 1, 2010
Since summer is approaching in the Southern Hemisphere, we are beginning to get more identification requests from Australia.  There are many different species of Cicadas in Australia and they are given very unusual common names.  We hope that we receive numerous photographs of Australian Cicadas this year and hopefully, making this Green Grocer that was sent in about a week ago the Bug of the Moth will encourage other submissions of Cicadas.

Large Green Flying Insect
Location: Ascot Vale, Melbourne
November 22, 2010 11:49 pm
Hello
Can you please help me identify this fly found in my sister’s garden? It was bigger than my thumb and quite fat.
Signature: LC

Green Grocer Cicada

Dear LC,
You have netted a Green Grocer Cicada,
Cyclochila australasiae, one of many species of Cicada found in Australia that have fascinating and colorful common names.  According to Oz Animals:  “The Green Grocer Cicada is a common cicada along eastern Australia. It has a loud high pitched call and is one of the loudest insects in the world. The most common form is green, and another fairly common form is the yellow form (the Yellow Monday). Less common colour variations are dark tan (Chocolate Soldier) and turquoise blue (Blue Moon). Most forms have red eyes, although the Blue Form has purple blue eyes. The Masked Devil is an orange brown form with a black mask across the eyes that is more common at higher altitudes.”  Now that winter is fast approaching in North America, our northern hemisphere identification requests are tapering off, but each year at this time, we get numerous requests from Australia and other southern hemisphere locations.  Your letter is the first Cicada image from Australia this season.

Letter 13 – Diminutive Cicada from Brazil

 

Smallest cicada from Brazil/ Blog of brazilian cicadas

Tiny Cicada on the beach in Brazil

Smallest cicada from Brazil/ Blog of brazilian cicadas
Location: Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil
December 19, 2010 12:11 pm
Hi Bugman, how are you??
After searching like hell the ID of the last cicada i posted here, i’m quite sure it is a Fidicina pronoe, based on this document (http://www.scielo.br/pdf/aseb/v26n1/v26n1a18.pdf). I’m here to post a picture of the smallest cicada i have ever found in Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil. It is a Carineta fasciculata, and it is less than 1/2 inch long (about 1 cm, or even less). I believe this could be the world’s smallest cicada, but i need you to confirm that. Can you??
Thank you very much!!
PS: Please publish my blog’s address!!! I have a lot of pictures of Brazilian cicadas, so you can have some fun visiting it! The only problem is that it’s only in portuguese, but i’ll try to translate it to english! Thank you again!
http://cigarrasbrasileiras.blogspot.com/
Signature: Franco (Cicada Lover)

tiny Cicada

Dear Franco,
Thank you so much for doing the research on your Cicada species.  In California, we have seen very tiny Cicadas, about a centimeter long, in the desert in Joshua Tree National Park, but we would have to do some research to be able to answer your question about the world’s smallest Cicada.  We will gladly link to your blog, but we hope the increased traffic doesn’t crash your server.

tiny Cicada from Brazil

Correction from Franco
January 25, 2011
Hey Daniel, i’m sorry, but i misidentified the cicada i posted. It is not a Carineta fasciculata, but it is a Taphura sp (i say so because i found a picture of a real Carineta fasciculata, and it is very bigger than the one i posted). How can i say now that it is a Taphura sp? Based on its diminutive size, on pics i saw on the internet and on a document (http://pgentomologia.ffclrp.usp.br/pdf/2008/Douglas%20Bottura.pdf ) that refers to Taphura sp as a very common species in Brazil. Attached to this letter i send you  new pics of a Taphura sp (did you note the resemblance with Beameria venosa?), including its measure (9mm!!!).
Have a nice year!!!

Brazilian Cicada: Taphura sp

Thanks for the information Franco.

Thanks for posting my update, but i forgot to tell that the green cicada i attached to the e-mail (the upper pic) is not a Taphura sp, but a Carineta fasciculata. Taphura sp is just the picture below (with the scale).
Thanks again and sorry for that mistake.

We will create a new post.

Letter 14 – Cockroach preys upon molting Cicada

 

Cockroach Eating Cicada
Location: Central Kentucky
August 4, 2011 9:56 pm
I thought you would enjoy this picture I took one night of a cockroach munching on a cicada while the cicada was molting. Cockroaches are certainly opportunistic.
Signature: Amelia

Wood Cockroach eats molting Cicada

Hi Amelia,
Thank you so much for sending this amazing documentation.  We don’t normally think of Cockroaches as being predators, but this lends credence to the popular concept that they can and will eat most anything.  It appears that the Cockroach might be a Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach based on the markings around the pronotum.  Check BugGuide for a comparison.

Eric Eaton provides and alternate theory
Yep, a male Parcoblatta pennsylvanica.  I’m thinking the cicada is already dead (got stuck while molting) or it is just the exuviae itself.  Roaches are rarely, if ever, predators.
Eric

Letter 15 – Comparison between Cicada Exuvia

 

Tibicen and Magicicada exuviae, side-by-side
Location: Mid-Missouri
September 13, 2011 12:49 pm
Here’s a size comparison of the eclosed exuviae of our Brood XIX 13-year Magicicada and the later Tibicen. Found in somebody’s yard, mid-July. Magicicadas were gone by then…
Signature: Lisa, aka ”Mycologista”

Cicada Exuvia Comparison: Periodical Cicada (left) and Annual Cicada

Hi again Lisa,
Thanks for this nice size comparison.  Since the Periodical Cicadas emerge in May or June, and the Annual Cicadas emerged in mid Summer, it is isn’t often one has the opportunity to see the two side by side.

Letter 16 – Brood II Periodical Cicada

 

Subject: Brood II Periodical Cicada
Location: Manassas, VA
August 20, 2013 6:01 am
Hi Bugman-
These pictures were taken in the Manassas National Battlefield Park (in Manassas, VA) on June 15th. There were quite a few cicadas still around at that time, but not as many as previous weekends. The cicada and exoskeleton were on different trees, so it is unlikely they are ”related”.
Hope you enjoy the pics!
Signature: Katherine

Periodical Cicada
Periodical Cicada

Hi Katherine,
Thanks for your photos.  Are you the same Katie from Manassas who sent us the Brood II metamorphosis images this past June?

Periodical Cicada Exuvia
Periodical Cicada Exuvia

Nope! That wasn’t me. I was on your site looking to identify another bug and noticed you had very few pictures of our cicadas.
Katherine

Interesting coincidence.

 

Letter 17 – Cicada from Uganda

 

Subject: Beetle? Kampala Uganda
Location: Kampala, Uganda
October 26, 2014 11:00 pm
Hello,
Attaching two pictures (hopefully they go through…my internet is bad!)
Found this guy on my shoe this morning. I’m in Wakiso District Uganda, just outside of Kampala. Can you help me identify him/her?
Cheers!
Signature: Beth

Cicada
Cicada

Hi Beth,
This is not a beetle, but a Cicada, a group of insects known for the loud sounds they produce, often from the tops of trees.  Your individual is  dead ringer for the individual in this Wikimedia Commons image also from Uganda.

Cicada
Cicada

Letter 18 – Brood XXIII Update: Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs

 

Subject: periodical cicada update – laying eggs
Location: Jackson TN USA
May 24, 2015 12:27 pm
Now that our week of rain has slowed down the cicadas are calling and mating. Here is a female I spotted out by my clothes line laying eggs in a bush. The calling is so loud around our house you actually have to speak louder than normal outside to be heard.
Signature: Jess

Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs
Periodical Cicada Laying Eggs

Dear Jess,
Thanks so much for providing an update on your Periodical Cicada submission from last week.  We suspect that Brood XXIII may have a very limited distribution as we have not received any other submissions for this significant event.

Letter 19 – Decapitated Cicada Head

 

Subject: What is this thing?
Location: Wisconsin
July 31, 2016 12:58 am
I found this on top of my girls car in the middle of summer in Wisconsin, we both are absolutely puzzled!
Signature: -Erik

Decapitated Cicada Head
Decapitated Cicada Head

Dear Erik,
This is the head of a Cicada, and we have received similar decapitated Cicada heads in the past, but what is really unusual is what we discovered when we tried to name your image file for our archives.  Someone named Erik submitted a similar severed Cicada head in 2010.  We have long suspected that birds are behind these mysterious remains.  Cicadas are quite fatty and nutritious, but the head is hard, and perhaps not as tasty. 

Letter 20 – Bladder Cicada from Australia

 

Subject: What is this insect?
Location: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia
October 16, 2016 2:39 pm
Hi, my names Jess. I found an insect in my garden and I don’t know what it is. It has a leafy exterior and a very large behind. It has six legs and big brown eyes. When disturbed it make a similar noise to a small frog, kind of. I haven’t seen it fly but it has wings.
Signature: Jess Burton

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Dear Jess,
Australia is home to hundreds of different species of Cicadas, and this Bladder Cicada,
Cystosoma saundersii, is one of the more unusual looking ones.  According to the Queensland Government site:  “The bladder cicada is a large cicada up to 5 cm long that is green in colour, and with leaf-like wings. The most distinctive feature of males is their large abdomen (from which they have gained the name ‘bladder’), which is hollow and acts as an echo-chamber to amplify their calls.”  Much like your observation, the site also states:  “The large, hollow abdomen of male bladder cicadas helps them to produce a distinctive and deep, frog-like sound. Their calls last up to half-an-hour, and can be heard from dusk to early evening.”  According to Climate Watch:  “Breeding: mating occurs from September. The female cuts small slits in the branches of a plant into which she lays her eggs. The eggs hatch into nymphs, drop to the ground and burrow into the soil where they feed on sap in the roots of plants. They remain underground for several years (possibly six or seven!) until fully grown, then emerge as adults at night from September. They climb up trees and shed their complete brown shells before flying off to find mates. After so long underground, they live for only a few weeks more.”

Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada
Bladder Cicada

Letter 21 – Dog Day Harvestfly

 

Subject:  Large Green Fly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Brooklin, Ontario, Canada
Date: 08/16/2018
Time: 11:37 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This giant was just happily sitting on the wall outside of my son’s daycare.
He was HUGE! At least 2 inches tall. What was it?
How you want your letter signed:  JS

Dog Day Harvestfly

Dear JS,
Though it is commonly called a Dog Day Harvestfly because of its end of summer flight time and because it resembles a giant fly, the Annual Cicada is not a true fly.  Cicadas are also well known because of the cacophony they produce from tree tops.

Lovely! Thank you Daniel! 🙂

Ed. Note:  There has been some chatter on Facebook accusing us of making up the common name Dog Day Harvestfly.  According to BugGuide, of the genus Neotibicen:  The name ‘Dog Day Cicada’ is most often applied in particular to Neotibicen (Tibicen) canicularis. Other common names encountered:  Harvestflies, Dryflies, Jarflies.”  BugGuide also note on the page for :  “Other Common Names Dogday Harvestfly, Harvestfly, Northern Dog-Day Cicada, & Common Dog-Day Cicada” with the explanation “DOG-DAY: a reference to the hot ‘dog days’ of late summer when this species is heard singing; at this time in the northern hemisphere the Dog Star (Sirius) is above the horizon in the Big Dog constellation (Canis Major).  NOTE: Dog-days of summer indeed do refer to Sirius, the dog star, and although it is above the horizon, it is not visible in summer in the northern hemisphere. This is because it is up during the daytime. Canis major is a “winter” constellation. Canis Major CANICULARIS: from the Latin ‘canicula’ (a little dog, the Dog Star, Sirius) HARVESTFLY: another reference to the late season song of this species, heard during harvest time.”

Letter 22 – Decapitated Brood VIII Periodical Cicadas

 

Subject:  Cicadas being decapitated
Geographic location of the bug:  Western Pennsylvania
Date: 05/25/2019
Time: 09:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have found several dozen cicada decapitated very close to their malted skins. What is causing the decapitation?
* Note I lined the bodies up in pic…
How you want your letter signed:  Dirk Rupert

Decapitated Cicadas

Dear Dirk,
Your image is the first one we are posting this year of the emergence of the Brood VIII, the population of Periodical Cicadas, incorrectly called 17 Year Locusts, which has just begun to emerge in western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia according to Cicada Mania.  For years we have been posting images of decapitated Cicada heads, but our images have been of the heads left behind when a predator has eaten the body.  Your case is different because the perpetrator did not eat the nutritious body, so it wasn’t hungry.  We suspect a house cat might be responsible for your mystery.

Letter 23 – Citrus Cicada

 

Subject:  Strange insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Las Vegas, NV
Date: 07/27/2019
Time: 03:23 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Not sure what bug this is, is it some kind beetle?
How you want your letter signed:  Dear, Ryan

Citrus Cicada

Dear Ryan,
We located your Cicada on Bird and Hike where it is identified as
Diceroprocta apache, the Desert Cicada but on BugGuide, the common name is listed as Citrus Cicada.

Reader Emails

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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Lifeless, NOT Dead: Cicada Exuvia from Texas

 

Subject:  Potato bug? Beatle?
Geographic location of the bug:  Houston, Texas
Date: 08/21/2022
Time: 04:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This guy was on the ground, dead.  It’s as big as my thumb.  Big.
How you want your letter signed:  Curious Michael

Cicada Exuvia

Dear Curious Michael,
This is the exuvia or cast off exoskeleton of a Cicada, and lifeless would be a more accurate description because it is not dead. The immature Cicada spends several years underground as a nymph feeding on fluids from the roots of trees, shrubs and other plants.  When they near maturity, they dig to the surface and molt for the last time, eventually flying off as a winged adult leaving the exuvia behind.  Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

12 thoughts on “Cicada Life Cycle: Unveiling Nature’s Mysterious Insects”

  1. While out on my 2nd floor deck, my cats alerted me to some fluttering down below in the garden. I could see leaves moving, but not the cause. After scanning the area with a pair of binoculars, I saw a cicada flitting its wings wildly and flopping like a fish out of water. It was still quite alive as a hoard of ants attacked. This was unsettling to watch, but I resisted the urge to change Mother Nature’s course and didn’t “rescue” the cicada. Thanks for posting your picture and commentary so that I could hop online and confirm what I had witnessed.

    Reply
  2. It is a bladder cicada Cystosoma saundersi- where do you hear it in Sydney? The southern limit was thought to be Gosford, but we have a colony in Burwood.
    David.

    Reply
  3. and unlike some beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, I’ve never read about any toxic species of cicada. Therefore if I were in a dire situation (which the world is fairly likely to be in, one of these years) I wouldn’t hesitate to throw down the first cicada I saw, within reasonable circumstances.

    Reply
  4. Hi. You won’t believe this but I think that I’ve just found a dead Green Grocer Cicada clinging to my balcony’s screen door. That would not, ordinarily, be remarkable except that I live in Millbrae, CA. How did it get here? (Please don’t ask me to send you a photograph for confirmation since I’m not sure how to do that on an I-Pad and, I tossed it into the hedge prior to doing a web search. Sorry … .)

    Reply
    • Without a photo, we cannot speculate. The Green Grocer is an Australian species and to the best of our knowledge, it has not been introduced to California, but that is a possibility.

      Reply
  5. Yes I heard two last night (24/10/17) in low shrubs on Weldon St Croydon, right next to Burwood & I was very surprised. As an avid amateur entomologist I’ve heard & seen them north of the central coast area at Taree, Cessnock etc but first time last night in Sydney..!

    Reply
  6. Whilst visiting the Central Coast, my son found one of these rare little creatures last night 25/11/17 at Erina !! We come from a leafy suburb in Sydney but I’ve never seen a cicada like this before, Wow!
    Everyone at the party suggested it was just a newly hatched green grocer, it took some googling & at first we identified it as a katydid (but it didn’t have the long cricket like legs and it had a pretty cicada face) then we discovered it was a beautiful bladder cicada!
    With the help of human haulage, I guess they might be moving & surviving so far south due to global warming?… I do hope a family move in around our neighbourhood soon!
    Surprising how nature never stops adapting and is so beautifully amazing!!!
    Thanks for your website, so much to explore : )

    Reply
  7. Whilst visiting the Central Coast, my son found one of these rare little creatures last night 25/11/17 at Erina !! We come from a leafy suburb in Sydney but I’ve never seen a cicada like this before, Wow!
    Everyone at the party suggested it was just a newly hatched green grocer, it took some googling & at first we identified it as a katydid (but it didn’t have the long cricket like legs and it had a pretty cicada face) then we discovered it was a beautiful bladder cicada!
    With the help of human haulage, I guess they might be moving & surviving so far south due to global warming?… I do hope a family move in around our neighbourhood soon!
    Surprising how nature never stops adapting and is so beautifully amazing!!!
    Thanks for your website, so much to explore : )

    Reply
  8. That’s interesting. We had an outdoor cat that’s favorite summer time activity was chomping down cicada’s in three bites. I’d never seen anything like it. He didn’t play with the noisy, flappy bug, he ate it with great gusto.

    Reply
  9. I have seen a 4-5 inch deep blue cicada in Bo Kaeo, Thailand that was so loud it frightened me. It sounded like a machine, but was a big bug- an incredibly beautiful blue moon cicada

    Reply

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