Do Cicadas Die in the Rain? Exploring Insect Survival

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Cicadas are large insects known for their loud courting sounds, produced by male cicadas to attract females. With their distinct black bodies and red-brown eyes, these creatures have intrigued many, leading to questions about their behavior and lifespan, such as the impact of rainfall on their survival.

Rainfall naturally affects the environment where cicadas thrive. These insects spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on tree roots, and then emerge to the surface as adults once every 13 or 17 years. Understanding the relationship between cicadas and rain plays an important role in grasping their overall lifecycle.

There is a common belief that cicadas die in the rain, but this isn’t entirely true. While heavy rainfall might cause some challenges for cicadas, such as making it difficult for them to fly or disrupting their usual mating patterns, most cicadas have enough resilience to withstand these conditions. However, in extreme cases of heavy rainfall or prolonged exposure to water, some cicadas may not survive. In general, these fascinating insects are well-adapted to various environmental factors, including coping with rain.

Cicadas and Rain: A Relationship

Rain’s Impact on Cicada Behavior

Cicadas are insects that experience significant life stages underground as nymphs and above ground during mating1. When rain affects their environment, it influences their behavior and life cycle. For example, excessive rain may cause cicadas to seek shelter2. Some ways they can do this are:

  • Hiding under leaves and branches.
  • Taking cover behind tree bark and other natural structures.

Effects of Rain on Emergence and Mating

The emergence of periodical cicadas, which occur every 13 or 17 years3, can be affected by rainfall. When the soil becomes too saturated, they may have difficulty tunneling4.

Cicada Emergence Rain Impact
Optimal conditions Damp soil, making it easier for nymphs to emerge.
Excessive rain Overly saturated soil, hindering emergence.

Considering mating, male cicadas are known for their loud songs, which attract females for mating5. Rain can impact the male cicadas’ ability to sing, and as a result, their mating success6.

In summary, rain has important implications for the behavior and life cycle of cicadas. It can influence their emergence from the ground, mating success, and overall behavior.

Cicada Life Cycle and Broods

Stages of the Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas undergo an incomplete metamorphosis process that involves three main stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Nymphs hatch from the eggs, tunnel underground, and feed on plant roots for several years before emerging as adults.

  • Egg: Female cicadas lay eggs in tree bark.
  • Nymph: The nymphs feed on plant roots while living underground.
  • Adult: Nymphs emerge as adults, mate, and die shortly after.

Brood Types and Emergence Patterns

Two primary types of cicadas exist: periodical cicadas and annual cicadas. Periodical cicadas include 13-year and 17-year varieties, while annual cicadas emerge every year but have a shorter 2-5 years life cycle.

Comparison Table:

Characteristic Periodical Cicadas Annual Cicadas
Life Cycle Duration 13 or 17 years 2 to 5 years
Emergence Pattern Mass emergence every 13 or 17 years Emerges every year
Body Color Black body Greenish or brownish body

Examples of Broods

  • Brood X: A group of 17-year cicadas that emerge en masse in certain regions of the United States.
  • Magicicada: A genus of periodical cicadas that includes both 13-year and 17-year species.

In conclusion, cicadas have unique life cycles and emergence patterns that differ between periodical and annual varieties. Understanding these patterns helps us appreciate the fascinating biology of these insects.

Survival Tactics and Predation

Mating and Breeding Strategies

Cicadas have evolved unique mating strategies relying on their sound-producing organs. Males “sing” by vibrating membranes on their bodies to attract females for mating (source). After mating, females lay eggs by making slits in tree branches (source).

Protection Mechanisms

  • Exoskeleton: Cicadas possess a strong exoskeleton that offers some protection against predators.
  • Camouflage: Some cicadas, like the annual or dog-day cicadas, have green or camouflaged coloration (source).
  • Molt: Cicadas molt, shedding their old exoskeleton, which can help them escape certain predators.

Predators and Threats

Cicadas face numerous predators, including:

  • Birds, benefiting from the emergence of cicadas as a food source (source)
  • Mammals
  • Insects

A comparison table of cicada types and their characteristics:

Feature Annual Cicadas Periodical Cicadas
Coloration Green or camouflaged Black body
Habitat Trees and surrounding areas Trees and surrounding areas
Eyes Normal Red
Life Cycle Up to 5 years underground (source) 13 or 17 years underground (source)

These survival tactics and predation methods are key elements defining cicadas’ behavior and their place in the ecosystem.

Physical Traits and Evolution

Cicada Size and Appearance

Cicadas are large-bodied insects with unique characteristics:

  • Large compound eyes
  • Small antennae
  • Different color variations for camouflage
  • Sizes varying between 1 to 1.5 inches long, including wings1

Annual cicadas typically have greenish or camouflaged coloration2. Periodical cicadas, on the other hand, possess black bodies with reddish-orange features like eyes, legs, and wing margins3.

Molting and Development of Exoskeleton

Cicadas undergo notable developmental stages:

  • Nymphs live underground, feeding on roots
  • Long lifespan: 2 to 5 years for some species
  • Periodical cicadas spend 13 or 17 years underground4

Molting is a crucial part of the cicada lifecycle, coinciding with their transition from nymph to adult. Once fully grown, cicadas leave the soil to molt for the last time, shedding their nymphal skin and developing a hardened exoskeleton. Males, equipped with a vibrating membrane, use their evolved singing abilities to attract females5.


Heat affects cicadas’ activity. They typically sing and fly during spring or in late afternoon and evening6.

Comparison Table

Features Annual Cicadas Periodical Cicadas
Color Greenish or camouflaged Black body with reddish-orange details
Lifespan Up to 5 years underground Spend 13 or 17 years underground
Time of Singing Late afternoon and evening7 During spring8

Experts and Their Findings

Gene Kritsky

Gene Kritsky is a renowned cicada expert from Mount St. Joseph University. He explains that a cicada’s body is similar to a musical instrument:

  • Body structure: Resonating chamber for sound amplification
  • Mating call: Loud noise produced by the male cicadas; females are silent

Rain, however, does not seem to have a direct impact on cicada mortality.

Cicada Expert

Cicada experts have discovered numerous fascinating facts about these insects:

  • Cultural significance: Symbol of rebirth, health, wealth, and happiness in some Asian cultures
  • Species: Over 3,000 species found worldwide

Entomologists’ Contributions to Cicada Research

Entomologists from various universities, such as the University of Maryland and Purdue University, have contributed significantly to cicada research. They’ve learned about the insects’ life cycle and behavior:

Life Span Behavior
13 – 17 years (Periodical cicadas) Underground nymph feeding
Up to 5 years (Annual cicadas) Emergence every year

Still, the direct impact of rain on cicadas remains inconclusive, and more research is needed to explore this relationship.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat

Cicadas in North America

Cicadas are widely distributed across North America, ranging from the eastern United States to parts of Mexico. These insects are found in diverse habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. Some species have more specific geographic ranges:

  • 17-year cicadas: These are mainly found in the eastern United States, such as New York
  • 13-year cicadas: Commonly emerge in Georgia and other southern states

Cicada Emergence in U.S. States

Periodical cicada populations are divided into broods, which emerge in different years and geographical areas. There’s a brood emerging in some part of the United States every year (Illinois Extension). For example:

  • Brood X: This brood is one of the largest and emerged in multiple states in 2021, including New York, Georgia, and several others
Brood Name States Approximate Year of Emergence
Brood X New York, Georgia 2021
Brood IX North Carolina 2020
Brood VIII Pennsylvania 2019

Cicada emergence patterns may vary due to weather conditions. While rain itself doesn’t kill cicadas, extended periods of cold and wet weather can slow down their activity and make it difficult for them to complete their life cycle.

Common Misconceptions

Cicadas vs Locusts

  • Cicadas and locusts are often mistaken for one another.
  • They are, in fact, different insect species.

Here’s a comparison table to highlight their differences:

Cicadas Locusts
Belong to the order Homoptera Belong to the order Orthoptera
Don’t swarm in large groups Swarm in large groups, causing devastation to crops
Not a threat to agriculture Significant pest to agriculture
Known for their loud mating calls Not known for loud noises
Shed their exoskeletons after emerging from the ground Do not shed exoskeletons in the same way

The Cicada Sting Myth

There’s a common myth that cicadas sting people. Allow me to clarify:

  • Cicadas do not sting.
  • They have no venom or stingers.
  • Female cicadas possess an ovipositor, which is used for laying eggs.

For example, a female cicada may use her ovipositor to pierce plant stems and deposit her eggs. This process is known as oviposition and is not harmful to humans.

In summary, the myth that cicadas sting is false. Their loud noise and large size may cause alarm, but they are not harmful insects.

Cicadas In Pop Culture and News

Cicadas in Media and Art

Cicadas have been significant in various cultures since ancient times1. In many Asian cultures, they represent re-birth, health, wealth, and happiness2.

  • Inspiration for art, music, and theater
  • Over 3,000 cicada species found worldwide3

Cicadas in News Outlets

Cicada emergence typically occurs in late May, making them an exciting event covered by news outlets like CNN4.

  • Periodical cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years5
  • Cicada lifespan is brief, adults die shortly after mating6


Cicada activity generally follows this schedule:

  1. Female cicada lays eggs: Eggs hatch six to seven weeks later7
  2. Nymphs fall to the ground: The nymphs burrow into the soil
  3. Development: Cicadas feed and grow underground8
  4. Emergence: Nymphs come out of the ground and molt into adults9

Pros: Fascinates people, part of nature’s cycle

Cons: Can produce loud noises10, may damage young trees

Animals Affected

Cicadas can impact various animals:

  • Predators: Birds, small mammals and other insects
  • Threat: Do not inherently harm humans or pets

Comparison Table: Cicada Types

Type Physical Description Lifespan11
Annual cicada Green or camouflaged in color Up to 5 years
Periodical Black body 13 or 17 years


  1. 2 3

  2. 2 3

  3. 2 3

  4. 2 3

  5. 2 3

  6. 2 3

  7. 2

  8. 2

  9. Ibid.

  10. Fact and Fiction Behind all the Cicada Buzz

  11. Ibid.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Newly Emerged Cicada


Thought you might like this image. As you can see the vibrant color of the cicada’s wings is due to it just hatching. I was just at the right place at the right time. I have more images if you are interested. Also in a much higher resolution. Keep me posted.

Hi Wally,
Your photo is quite beautiful, but since you didn’t provide global coordiates and since the true adult coloration is not evident, it is impossible for us to correctly identify the species.

Update (02/06/2006)
cicada on WTB 9&22Jan
These are both Psaltoda claripennis (Australia) which are emerging around this time around Brisbane. They are around 4cm long (body) about the size of your Tibicen winnemanna.

Letter 2 – Newly Metamorphosed Cicada


Unknown Bug
We live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. A few weeks ago we were camping along side a local river not to far out of town. Around 7:30 that evening I noticed this insect attached to a line on the tent. The insect had attached itself to the back of a wasp and was in the process of sucking the insides of the wasp out. The wasp was minus its wings. In the morning the hungry insect had departed and left the empty carcass of the wasp still attached to the tent line. Nothing left but a hollowed out shell. I unfortunately did not get a shot of what was left but I did get the one attached to this email. Any help in the identity of this bug would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks,
Chris Deakin
Victoria, BC, Canada

Hi Chris,
While your story is interesting, your observation of the occurance is not quite accurate. The pictured insect is a newly metamorphosed Cicada, and what you have mistaken for a meal is not a wasp but the shed skin of the larval Cicada. The photo is quite gorgeous.

Letter 3 – Mortally Wounded Cicada


Sat, Jun 27, 2009 at 12:20 PM
This disgusting bug was up on the top of my roof (2 story). It was making a really loud noise that sounds like electricity. I used the hose on it and it fell to the grass. From far away I could see the grass moving. I continued to hose it. Then I dropped a toy on top of it and heard a crunch. I then got my camera!
Angela in West Richland, WA
West Richland, WA


Hi Angela,
You have probably mortally wounded a harmless Cicada, an insect that produces one of the definitive, iconic sounds of summer. Cicadas are considered to be the loudest insects in the world. We especially like your likening the sound to electricity, like a Tesla Coil, though we do not at all condone your actions after you heard the Cicada calling to a potential mate from your roof.

Letter 4 – newly emerged Cicada


funny looking moth like bug
July 14, 2009
I was at my cousins house in Tenn., and the next day there was a green moth like bug on my Dads truck tire. My Cousin said it was a locust, but it didn’t look like any locust I ever seen, after a while thay shed there body and legs and return into the ground as a worm like form again, I think..
What ever way is good for you.
Church Hill Tennessee, near Hewkins Tenn.

newly metamorphosed Cicada
freshly metamorphosed Cicada

Dear What ever,
This is a newly metamorphosed Cicada.  Some people refer to Cicadas as Locusts, but that is not taxonomically correct.  The winged adult does not return to the ground as a worm, but the cast off skin is from the nymph that matures underground.

Letter 5 – Metamorphosis of a Cicada in Japan


Metamorphis? Parasitism?
Location: Zushi, Japan
October 23, 2010 12:26 am
Nobody seems to be familiar with this sort of thing taking place. We all learn about the metamorphasis of butterflies in grade school, but what is THIS? Metamorphasis? Parasitism? It happened over and over again on my patio wall when I was living in Japan. Proabably about forty of these hatchings all in the same week. I’m really curious. I have more pictures of the series that show the completed ”moth” (?) after it emerges.
Signature: Jenna

Metamorphosis of a Cicada

Hi Jenna,
Your photo is a nice documentation of the metamorphosis if a Cicada.  The wingless nymphs live underground feeding from the roots of plants.  When they are ready to mature, they dig to the surface, molt into winged adults, and complete the life cycle by mating and perpetuating the species.

Letter 6 – Metamorphosis of a Cicada


Insect emerging from ’shell’
Location: Burgundy area of France
January 7, 2011 8:53 am
This beastie had planted itself on a tent while it emerged from its hard shell. I’d like to know what species of insect it is and what foliage it might have more naturally lived on.
Signature: Pat

Metamorphosis of a Cicada

Dear Pat,
You have been fortunate enough to witness the metamorphosis of a Cicada.  The Cicada nymph lives underground for years, as many as 17 in the case of the North American Periodical Cicadas, and when they mature, they dig to the surface and molt for the final time, emerging as winged adults.  An Australian species of Cicada is considered to be the world’s loudest insect.  When they are plentiful, the sound produced by hundreds of Cicadas can produce a head-splitting din.

Letter 7 – Molting Cicada Photo makes Local News!!!


Cicada emerges
Location: Roanoke Virginia USA
June 23, 2011 8:50 am
I wanted to share this beautiful emergence of a cicada. I caught it right in the middle of molting. Thanks again for the awesome site!!
Signature: neanderpaul

Cicada Molting

Dear neanderpaul,
Thanks so much for submitting this gorgeous photo.  Many of our readers write in wanting to identify the shed exoskeletons of Cicadas, and it is nice to have your marvelous documentation of the actual molting process.  Your Cicada is one of the Annual Cicadas that appear each year, most likely a member of the genus


Cicada Molting

Thanks so much for responding! It is VERY rewarding to get a complementary response especially when I know how busy you are and how many emails you must get. We do have these every year. The cicada killers make quite a living here! lol! I submitted a pic in ’07 of a wheel bug that still appears on your site. I really hope you post this cicada pic. It is so cool to have a pic featured on such a cool site! Thanks again so much for your site and for responding!
Best wishes,
Paul Mays
aka neanderpaul

Update:  August 29, 2011
My Cicada pic made it onto the local CBS news! Thanks for publishing it as that is how the reporter found it!
I now have some pics of a beautiful Garden spider. So huge and intimidating. He has a cicada all wrapped up for later. 🙂
And could “crop 1 Garden Spider 011” be her mate? He was WAY smaller but I know males often are. He was in the same web.
Best wishes!
Paul Mays
aka neanderpaul

Golden Orbweaver eats Cicada

Hi Paul,
Thanks for the update and the great news about your previous photo.  We will be creating a new posting for your Golden Orbweaver images.


Letter 8 – Mountain Cicada


Loud flying bug
Location: Oregon Cascades near Tombstone Pass/Cone Peak
August 8, 2011 12:45 pm
We saw quite a few of these while hiking in the Cascades last week. We’re about a month behind as far as weather is concerned. Aprox 4000 ft elevation, sunny day, wildflower fields surrounded by old growth forests with over 10 species of trees. They sound kind of like rattlesnakes when they fly (scared the bejezzus out of my friend). Can’t seem to find any info on them but my 10 year old daughter is very interested in knowing what they are.
Signature: Thanks so much! Corrie and Kayley

Mountain Cicada

Dear Corrie and Kayley
All indications are that this is a Mountain Cicada,
Okanagana bella, or a closely related species in the same genus.  Your elevation at the time of the sightings is an excellent indication that our identification is correct.  You can compare your image to those posted on BugGuide.

Letter 9 – Newly emerged Cicada


Location: South East Texas (Sour Lake), USA
May 13, 2012 3:20 pm
Found this beauty hanging on our chicken coop today. I don’t know how long it was out, but it appeared to be still drying. It’s such a beautiful color and there are several areas around the head of a coppery-gold.
Signature: HereFishyFishy

Newly Emerged Cicada

Dear HereFishyFishy,
This newly emerged Cicada is still clinging to the exuvia or cast off skin of its nymph form.  It is most likely in the genus
Tibicen.  As it dries and hardens, it will lose its neon coloration.

Letter 10 – Molting Cicada


Subject: Molting Cicada
Location: Stillman Valley, Illinois
July 17, 2012 8:15 am
Hello Bugman,
Long time fan Amy here. I was very fortunate to capture these images of a cicada shedding it’s shell, a sight I’ve never actually witnessed..though the cicada call has always brought to mind images of a beautiful summer I felt quite fortunate to catch this one in the act in my front flower bed. I was also wondering if anyone has had a chance to try the Japanese Beetle remedy that I submitted earlier this year. We haven’t seen too many of these critters this year here in the midwest, maybe it’s just too hot for them too.
Wishing the best for you guys out west,
Amy Berogan
Signature: Amy Berogan, Stillman Valley, Illinois

Molting Cicada

Hi Amy,
Thanks so much for sending us your molting Cicada photo.  We have not heard back from anyone regarding your holistic Japanese Beetle remedy.  Interestingly, there were no Japanese Beetles in Ohio during our brief stay in June and we haven’t heard anything from Daniel’s mother who lives there regarding Japanese Beetles that yearly defoliate many plants in her garden.

Letter 11 – Molting Cicadas from Ecuador


Subject: Molting Cicadas
Location: Santa Lucia, Ecuador
December 16, 2012 6:09 pm
I was down in Ecuador this summer and I finally had a chance to go through my pictures. I feel lucky that I got to see not one, but two cicadas in the molting process and thought you might enjoy the pictures, especially during a season of mostly dormant insect activity.
Signature: Polymersn

Cicada Metamorphosis

Dear Polymersn,
Though we cannot identify these Cicadas to the species level, we are thrilled to post your stunning photos as excellent representatives of the universality of Cicada metamorphosis.

Molting Cicada


Letter 12 – Metamorphosis of an Annual Cicada


Subject: Critter emerging from skeletal shell
Location: Sturbridge,Ma.
September 11, 2014 5:40 am
This critter was observed attached to a maple tree right at sunset so the lighting was tricky. I observed it for 25 minutes before darkness took over. I posted the picture on Facebook but no one was able to identify it. I was not sure if this guy was just shedding it’s shell or going through a transition stage.
Signature: Michael Edick

Metamorphosis of an Annual Cicada
Metamorphosis of an Annual Cicada

Dear Michael,
This is a spectacular image of the metamorphosis of an Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen.  For several years, the Cicada Nymph has been living underground feeding on nourishment from the roots of trees and shrubs.  When maturity time approaches, it digs to the surface, climbs up a tree or other vertical feature and molts for the final time, emerging as a winged adult and leaving behind the exoskeleton of the nymph or exuvia.  You are probably familiar with the clamor produced by male Cicadas in the treetops during the dog days of summer.  When they are plentiful, the loud buzzing sound is quite a cacophony.  One common eastern species is known as the Dog Day Harvestfly.

Letter 13 – Newly Emerged Annual Cicada


Subject:  Cicada ?
Geographic location of the bug:  North west Tn. Just North of Jackson Tn
Date: 08/19/2019
Time: 11:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found this in my dogs mouth last night, August 18th 2019.  Is it a freshly hatched cicada? They are singing and flying all over but have never seen one at this stage before.  Magnificent color and size.  Then again it could be an alien species for all I know.
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks, Frankie Brown

Newly Emerged Annual Cicada

Dear Frankie,
You are correct.  This is a newly emerged Cicada.  Did its wings ever expand, allowing it to fly away?  Insects are most vulnerable during and immediately after metamorphosis as their exoskeleton has not yet hardened.  We are going to tag this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award, though we have mixed feelings about the rescue.  If your dog injured the Cicada, it might not have been able to fly once its exoskeleton hardened, and since Cicadas are quite nutritious, you did deprive your dog of a healthy treat.  Living in Southern California now, our editorial staff misses the sound of Cicadas during the dog days of summer.

No it’s wings had not formed.  My dog had just picked it up and don’t believe it to be hurt.  You can see on the sides where the wings would form in time.  The strangest thing was feeling it throbbing like a pulse in my hand.  It was very freaky feeling.  I dropped it over the fence and told it to fly, be free.  It is a heavily feed on item by all animals when they are emerging right now.  I saw two crows drop in my yard and know they gota few lol.  Thanks for the verification.  Been in the south all my life and have never seen one like this.  Beautiful color also.  Thanks again,
Frankie Brown

The cicada was not hurt by my dog.  She was right beside me and I noticed she picked something up out of the grass.  I gently pried her mouth open because she was quite proud of what she had found.  Took it in the house to show my wife, made a few pictures for my gardening group, knew they would be interested.  I am a Master Gardener here in Jackson.  We are about bugs, bees, plants, anything in your yard that you can enjoy.  I also have a leafcutter bee tube on my fence.  I have 5 full reeds of cocoons and hope to winter them over for the next season.  They have done a great job pollinating my garden, strawberries, grapes, and blueberries not to mention various flowers.  Their specialty is garden veggies so I am told by the folks at Crown Bees.  Yes, after a few photos I walked to the fence and dropped it over where it would be safe and told it to fly, be free until we meet again.  I promise it was not hurt.  You can tell by the photo that it had no wings.  You can see jutting out from it’s sides where they will develop.  This thing was fresh!  Wasn’t sure it was not some alien creature but with all the cicada out here I would have bet the farm.  Had never seen one at that stage and my master gardener website is blowing up about it.  People are as excited as I was, and had never seen one either.  They enjoy my posts about the things I do and find in my back yard.  Thanks for the reassurance and I promise he was not hurt.  She picked it up gingerly and luckily I was watching in fascination as well.  Girl, what kind of green monster have you found?
Thanks again,
Frankie Brown


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Awww… poor harmless cicada.

    when I was a kid, I was sent to “Nature Day Camp” every summer (I think my mom was just looking for a way to get me out of the house… Oh, and that was about the only day camp option in the nerd-town that I grew up in.)

    We would collect the cicada skins/shells that could be found clinging to tree trunks, or sometimes on the ground, and we would attach them to our shirts and display them proudly! The shells were hooked just enough that they easily clung to a t-shirt. As a result, I have always had a fondness for cicadas, particularly because of their great “song of summertime”.

  • I adore cicadas, they are so primitive looking and mellow, and they have such an interesting life cycle! I had one pierce my skin once, I think he was looking for sap, boy was he surprised!


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