Squirrels are known for their diverse diet, which primarily consists of nuts, seeds, and fruits. However, their foraging habits extend to other food sources, such as cicadas, when the opportunity arises. The consumption of cicadas by squirrels can be particularly beneficial for them, as these insects are rich in protein and easily available during cicada emergence periods.
Cicadas emerge in massive numbers at specific intervals, providing a readily available source of nutrition for various animals, including squirrels. Although squirrels primarily feed on plant-based foods, they can also consume bird eggs, insects, and other animal matter when available. This flexibility in diet allows squirrels to adapt to different environments and food sources.
Given this information, it’s evident that squirrels do eat cicadas when the opportunity presents itself. This opportunistic feeding behavior allows squirrels to diversify their diet and take advantage of abundant resources when they’re available. The next time you see a squirrel scurrying around during a cicada emergence, remember that it might be on the hunt for these protein-rich insects.
Squirrels, Cicadas and Diet
Squirrels are primarily herbivores, but they sometimes consume insects for protein. Cicadas, also known as “land shrimp,” are large insects that emerge periodically and are eaten by various animals.
Cicadas provide essential nutrients to animals that consume them. Squirrels take advantage of cicada’s availability, feasting on them when they come out. Rich in protein and fat, cicadas complement the squirrels’ diets by adding variety.
Some features of squirrels and cicadas:
- Squirrels: Small mammals, primarily herbivorous, agile tree climbers
- Cicadas: Large insects, periodic emergence, a food source for various animals
Here is a comparison table of the nutritional values of cicada and squirrels’ usual diet:
|Food Source||Protein||Fat||Key Nutrients|
|Nuts & Seeds||Moderate||High||Protein, healthy fats|
Cicadas might appear on the menu of squirrels only when they emerge, which is infrequent. They provide the squirrels with a supplementary source of beneficial nutrients when they are available.
In summary, squirrels are primarily herbivorous but also opportunistic eaters. Cicadas, as a source of protein and fat, are a welcome addition to their diets when they emerge, even though their consumption is limited to specific periods.
Squirrel Diet Variety
Squirrels are known for their diverse diet, which includes a wide range of foods. Some common items they consume are:
- Nuts: Acorns, walnuts, and hazelnuts are favored by squirrels.
- Seeds: Pine cones, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are popular choices.
- Vegetables: Squirrels may nibble on corn, peas, and leafy greens.
- Fruits: Apples, cherries, and berries are attractive to squirrels.
- Flowers: Squirrels enjoy eating flowers like roses and dandelions.
- Mushrooms: They may occasionally forage for edible fungi.
- Grasses: Green grasses are also part of their diet.
In comparison to nuts and seeds, which are energy-rich, other food items may provide fewer calories and less nutrition.
|Food Type||Nutritional Value|
Apart from these food sources, squirrels have also been observed eating insects, eggs, and even young birds. However, their primary diet is predominantly plant-based. Their foraging habits and diet variety allow squirrels to thrive in various habitats, from forests to urban environments.
Predators, Prey and the Balance
Squirrels are small mammals that form an important part of the ecosystem. They serve as both predators and prey, helping to maintain a balance in their environment.
Predators of squirrels:
- Birds, such as owls and hawks
- Mammals, like weasels, foxes, and raccoons
- Larger rodents and other mammals
Squirrels are known to eat a variety of insects like cicadas as part of their diet. Cicadas also serve as food for many predators mentioned above.
During cicada emergence periods, many animals experience a temporary increase in food availability, leading to what’s known as a “cicada feast.” Predators can take advantage of the abundance and rely heavily on these insects during such times.
In conclusion, squirrels and cicadas both play essential roles in balancing the ecosystem by acting as predators and prey. The interactions between these species and various predators ensure a constant cycle of consumption, maintaining the delicate balance in nature.
Cicadas in the Ecosystem
Cicadas play an important role in the ecosystem. They provide various benefits to wildlife and are native to eastern North America. Cicadas are generally not harmful to their environment, unlike locusts1. Females lay eggs on mature tree branches, which usually survive the process2.
Some characteristics of cicadas:
- They serve as a food source for wildlife, such as birds and squirrels
- They help recycle nutrients in the ecosystem by breaking down plant material
- They do not bite people and are not considered a significant nuisance
Cicadas are available in abundance during their emergence periods, which occur every 13 or 17 years3. This abundance provides a valuable food source for various animals, including flying squirrels, grey squirrels, and fox squirrels. However, their numbers don’t last long, as they eventually die off, and wildlife needs to rely on other food sources such as caterpillars and acorns4.
Comparing Caterpillars and Cicadas in the Ecosystem
|Feeding habits||Herbivores||Herbivores (sap feeding)|
|Prey species||Birds, reptiles, rodents, etc.||Birds, squirrels, etc.|
|Impact||Can defoliate trees and plants||Minimal harm to their habitat5|
In conclusion, both cicadas and caterpillars are crucial to North America’s ecosystem as they provide essential benefits to wildlife and contribute to nutrient recycling. Their abundance serves as a valuable food source for various species, including squirrels, which are known to consume both types of insects.
Life Cycle of Cicadas and Attractiveness as Prey
Cicada life cycles vary among species; while most species have a 2-5 year cycle, periodical cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years1. The life cycle begins with a mating ritual, where male cicadas “sing” to attract females2. After mating, females lay eggs in tree grooves. The eggs hatch in six to seven weeks, releasing nymphs that fall to the ground and burrow into the soil2.
Cicadas’ life cycle stages determine their attractiveness as prey for squirrels and other animals. For example:
- Larval stage: Cicada larvae are relatively safe from predators due to their underground existence3.
- Emergence: When nymphs emerge from the ground to molt into adults, they are vulnerable and easy to catch3.
Cicadas have some characteristics that influence their attractiveness as prey:
- Exoskeleton: Cicadas’ exoskeleton can be hard for some animals to digest, leading to constipation4.
- No stingers or parasites: Unlike some insects, cicadas don’t have stingers or carry parasites, making them relatively safe for consumption5.
Comparing cicadas with some other common prey for squirrels:
|Cicadas||Medium||Easy to catch during emergence, but exoskeleton can cause constipation45|
|Tree nuts||High||Easily accessible, nutritious, and tasty6|
|Fruits||High||Easily accessible and nutritious7|
In conclusion, cicadas are an attractive prey for squirrels during their emergence stage. Although they lack harmful features like stingers or parasites, their exoskeletons may cause digestive issues45. Nevertheless, in the right conditions, squirrels might enjoy cicadas as a part of their varied diet.
Animals and Insects as Squirrel Diet
Squirrels Diet in General
Squirrels are known for their diverse diets, which often depend on their habitat and food availability. They typically consume various plant-based options, such as fruits, berries, bark, fungi, roots, and bulbs.
Insects in Squirrels Diet
Additionally, squirrels eat animal parts, including insects and invertebrates. Some common insects that squirrels may consume include:
Among these insects, cicadas are one example of a food source for squirrels. The abundance of cicadas during their emergence periods provides an attractive and temporary meal option for squirrels.
Cicadas vs Other Insects
Cicadas differ from some other insects in squirrels’ diets due to their large size and the rarity of their appearance. Moreover, cicadas can be easily captured and consumed by squirrels, making them a convenient meal option.
|Insect||Size||Frequency of Appearance||Ease of Capture|
Interaction with Other Animals
While squirrels may occasionally interact with other animals, such as dogs, cats, and chipmunks in their habitats, they do not typically consume these animals. However, squirrels themselves may fall prey to various predators, including reptiles, birds of prey, and larger mammals.
Squirrels’ Nut Hunting Patterns
Squirrels are well-known for their love of nuts. Their nut hunting patterns vary depending on the type of nut they’re after. Some of their favorite nuts include:
- Hickory nuts
Squirrels usually forage for nuts in the early mornings and late afternoons. They have a strong sense of smell, which helps them locate nuts on the ground or in trees.
For example, squirrels are particularly fond of acorns. They are known to bury acorns underground, creating a hidden cache of food. However, they might forget some of the buried acorns, which contributes to oak forest regeneration.
Here is a comparison table of some common nuts squirrels love:
|Nut Type||Availability||Squirrel’s Preference|
Some pros and cons of squirrels’ nut hunting patterns are:
- Helps with seed dispersal and forest regeneration
- Provides a food source for squirrels throughout the year
- Can cause damage to trees and plants
- May lead to competition with other animals for the same food source
In conclusion, squirrels play a crucial role in the ecosystem by helping with seed dispersal through their nut hunting and caching behavior. They are drawn to a variety of nuts, but some are more preferred than others in their diet.
Impact of Squirrel Diet on Homeowners and Pets
Squirrels are known for their diverse diet, which can include cicadas, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Homeowners and pet owners may wonder how this diet impacts their daily lives.
When squirrels find a new food source like cicadas, they might show less interest in other human-made food sources, such as bird feeders. As a result, this can be both a pro and a con for homeowners:
- Less raiding of bird feeders
- Reduced damage to garden plants
- Increased squirrel activity due to the natural food source
A comparison of squirrel diet components relevant to homeowners and pets:
|Food Item||Impact on Homeowners||Impact on Pets|
|Cicadas||Less reliance on bird feeders||Not directly applicable|
|Sap||Potential tree damage||Not directly applicable|
|Bread||Attracts squirrels to properties||Potential choking hazard|
|Raisins||Attracts squirrels to properties||Toxic to dogs|
|Fish||Attracts squirrels to properties||Not directly applicable|
Squirrels may try to access sap by stripping the bark on trees, causing potential damage. To prevent this, homeowners can:
- Wrap trees with wire mesh
- Apply repellents to deter squirrels
It is crucial for pet owners to be aware of the risks associated with squirrels’ consumption of certain foods. For example:
- Bread can pose a choking hazard to pets.
- Raisins are toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure.
In summary, the diet of squirrels can influence the interaction between these animals, homeowners, and pets. By understanding their dietary habits, households can take measures to protect their trees, gardens, and pets from potential harm.
The Nutritious Value of Cicadas and Other Prey
Cicadas offer a high protein source for animals like squirrels. They are as nutritious as certain types of meat and have an added advantage: fewer environmental effects.
Here are some benefits of cicadas:
- High protein content
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- Sustainable alternative to meat
Squirrels, especially robins, benefit from the nutritious value of cicadas. Cicadas also contain traces of calcium, crucial for bone health in animals.
In Antarctica, animals rely on alternative sources of protein. For example, krill provides Antarctic wildlife the nutrients they need.
Let’s compare cicadas with another common prey of squirrels, caterpillars:
- Cicadas are a valuable food source for squirrels and other animals
- They provide high protein, vitamins, and some calcium
- Caterpillars are another nutritious option, but cicadas outshine them in protein content
Cicada Predators Beyond Squirrels
Squirrels are not the only creatures that enjoy feasting on cicadas. Birds are also known predators of the periodical cicada, with species like robins, starlings, and common grackles relishing the insect meal.
In comparison to squirrels, birds have a slight advantage in their hunt for cicadas thanks to their ability to swoop down and quickly snatch them from the air or tree branches.
Apart from birds, there are several other predators that feast on cicadas. Here’s a list of some other cicada predators:
- Mammals like raccoons and opossums
- Various reptile species, including snakes and lizards
- Insects such as praying mantises, ants and spiders
Interestingly, some of these cicada predators aren’t restricted only to the 17-year cicada but also feed on other cicada species, like the annual cicadas. Moreover, it’s crucial to note that some of these predators are opportunistic and may feed on cicadas in varying numbers.
In addition to the predators mentioned, let’s not forget about grasshoppers. Although grasshoppers do not directly prey on cicadas, they share the same ecological niche and face similar predators. So, it is not uncommon to find birds, mammals, and reptiles hunting both cicadas and grasshoppers.
Here’s a comparison table highlighting the differences between cicadas and grasshoppers:
|Lifecycle||13 or 17 years underground||Shorter, usually just 1 year|
|Sound production||Unique loud calls||Chirping or buzzing sounds|
|Role in ecosystems||Mostly prey||Both prey and herbivores|
In conclusion, it is evident that cicadas, including the 17-year cicada, face numerous predators in their natural habitats besides squirrels. These predators play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling cicada populations and providing food for various wildlife species.
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 – Tiny Cicada from Texas
Teeny Tiny Cicada
I found the smallest Cicada today…I’ve been amazed by them all my life and never had any idea they came so tiny! In my online search for the tiny darlings (I thought I may have found a new species…haha) I came across your phenomenal site and had to say, ‘Wow, you are awesome as is your website!!’ I’ve been browsing for hours now…Thank you!!! I will attach photos…including a strange butterfly/moth?? and a Huge beetle (my daughter named it Fancy…hehe…She’s also a Bug Lover! Have a Fabulous Sunday :0) , Thanks again…
We thought you grew everthing larger in Texas!!! We must confess we are not certain about what your Cicada is exactly. We think it looks similar to a Beameria venosa posted to BugGuide that is also from Texas. Your photo shows more detail, so perhaps a cicada expert can provide more details. The butterfly is a newly metamorphosed Great Purple Hairstreak.
Update: June 29, 2016
A new comment today caused us to update this posting and to look for other examples of Beameria venosa online. iNaturalist has a very nice image.
Update: February 4, 2020
A new comment suggests this Cicada is Pacarina puella. According to BugGuide, the common name is the Little Mesquite Cicada and it is referred to as a “Tiny cicada with a BIG head”
Letter 2 – Costa Rican Cicada
Turquoise and Black Beetle
Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 2:43 AM
Saw this one laying on the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. I think it was dying because it wasn’t moving much and wasn’t scared of us. It was about 2 inches long. So beautiful..
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Your mystery insect is a Cicada, not a Beetle. Cicadas are often responsible for the loud buzzing sounds you hear emanating from the treetops. We don’t know the species here, but perhaps one of our readers can supply that information. Meanwhile, we are going to ask Paco the Gardener from El Salvador to tell us the lore surrounding the Cicada in Central America and eventually post what he relates.
This gorgeous cicada is in the genus Zammara, probably Z. smaragdina. There are one or two other possibilities in the genus, but Z. smaragdina looks the closest. I will be visiting Costa Rica myself in a few weeks and I will be looking for this beauty! Regards.
Letter 3 – Spotted Cicada from Costa Rica
what’s that bug?
I live in Costa Rica near Lake Arenal. We have a common cicada there that makes a noise like a high pitched jet engine scream. It is so incredibly loud, if you have it in your house you have to find it or you will not sleep. I have the photo attached to this e-mail. Do you know the common and scientific name? I have web site that is a guide to the area that I live in. It has several photo galleries. One of them is a bug gallery and I am trying to find the name of the bugs in the gallery.
If you like bugs you would like this place. They are everywhere. Thank you very much,
What a beautiful Cicada, sadly, we don’t know what it is. Perhaps someone will write in with an identification.
I looked in several books and catalogues here at the Field Museum and I believe I found your cicada with 98% certainty. The illustration was in black and white but the wing pattern body shape, and size were definite matches. Later in the week I can go through the collections –time permitting– and perhaps find a collected specimen. Common name: spotted cicada Taxon: Zamamara smaragdina
Letter 4 – Teneral Cicada
Please help us identify this bug. We are students from 5c and 5g at George W. Truett Elementary in Dallas, Tx. Also do you like all bugs, or just some? Thanks
Hi Elementary School Students,
This is a Cicada in the genus Tibicen. Since it is in its teneral stage, immediately following a molt, the insect is pale and soft and has not attained its true adult coloration. This make exact identification much more difficult. Though we can appreciate the complexity of life on this planet and understand that all insects have a purpose, our level of tolerance drops sharply with invasive exotics that have no natural enemies and threaten other species to extinction. Additionally we have no mercy with aphids on our tomato plants. That said, we don’t exactly “love” all insects.
Letter 5 – Unknown Cicada
Mon, May 11, 2009 at 11:40 AM
What kind of cicada is this? I found it today in my garden. I live in Pinetop, Arizona, which is around 7000 ft. elevation.
We are posting your wonderful photo of a Cicada in the hopes that one of our readers will be able to identify the species properly.
Identification: Wed, 13 May 2009 00:16:25 -0700
Oh, the unidentified cicada from Pinetop, Arizona is likely in the genus Platypedia, or a related genus. Males lack the tympanal organs of the more familiar cicadas. Instead, they tap their wings against whatever they are perched on.
Keep up the great work!
Letter 6 – Unknown Cicada from Brazil
can you identify this bug
January 15, 2010
Please could you tell me what this fly / insect is
Ilha Grande, Brazil
This is some species of Cicada, but we are unable to identify the species at this time. Perhaps one of our readers will know the species and provide a name.
Thank you very much for this information!
the cicada in 2010/01/15/unknown-cicada-from-brazil/ looks like it belongs to the Orellana genus based on the shape of the pronotum, and the dark spots on the wing.
Letter 7 – Treehopper from Costa Rica
Beautiful Red and Blue Coloured Cicada
Location: Costa Rica
April 28, 2012 12:32 pm
I encountered this beautiful Cicada last week in Costa Rica, however, I cannot find any information or pictures of it on the internet. Could you tell me which species it is? Thanks in advance. Kind regards, Sjoerd Biesmans
We do not recognize this insect and we have not had any luck in our initial search of the internet with regards to identifying it. While it is Cicada-like, we are not totally convinced it is a true Cicada. It might be some other Free-Living Hemipteran in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha that also included Treehoppers as well as Cicadas, and we have our suspicions that this might be some species of Treehopper in the family Fulgoridae. See BugGuidefor some North American representatives of the family Fulgoridae. There is something about the front legs and eyes that makes us doubt that this is a Cicada. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in this identification.
Thanks for your response. I’ve been looking around a bit more also to find out exactly what kind of unusually beautiful cicada-like bug this is.
The closest I’ve come so far is that it is most likely a plant or tree hopper indeed, probably a Scaralis spp. Yet I’m not sure which one.
What are your thoughts on this? Thanks for the effort.
Thanks to your research, we believe we may have identified your Treehopper as Scaralis neotropicalis on Encyclopedia of Life. It is one of the Fulgorid Treehoppers based on information on the AnimalBase website.
I’ve looked at neotropicalis also and though it looks very similar, it seems to be lacking the blue on the abdomen and the blue/white vein like structures in the wings.
I think it is Scaralis for sure, but I’m not sure if it is neotropicalis. On the other hand, in this illustration:
the one looking most like my picture would indeed be Domitia (thus Scaralis) neotropicalis, but the one in the picture on encyclopedia of life seems more like a Domitia miscella..
Complicated… Seems like some of the webpages might have their facts wrong…
Thanks again, kind regards.
Letter 8 – Tiny Cicada Exuvia
Subject: Fairy Cicada
Location: Austin, Texas (June 21, 2017)
June 22, 2017 7:11 am
So, fairies have cicadas too?
As a lifelong Cicada lover, this is the tiniest shell I have seen. I thought it was a bee!
Signature: Joy always~ Quay
While we cannot state conclusively that the exuvia you discovered belongs to a member of the genus Cicadetta, the Small Grass Cicadas, there is a strong possibility that it does. According to BugGuide: “These are small delicate cicadas often mistaken for ‘Tree/Leaf Hoppers’. All members are less than an inch in length incl. wings. They are variable in color from bright lime green to tan to boldly patterned with browns and/or greens.” According to BugGuide, Cicadetta texana is found from “TX to Gulf Coast” but there are no images.
Letter 9 – Superb Dog Day Cicada
Subject: Neotibicen superbus
Location: Upper Texas Coast
July 4, 2017 11:34 pm
I found this superb dog-day cicada, Neotibicen superbus, lying in the street a week or two ago. While it is sadly deceased, I sent it in anyway because you do not seem to have another picture of the species aside from a blurry one from some years ago.
The cicada provided a meal for some ants, one of which is visible near the wing.
Thanks so much for sending in your image of a Superb Dog Day Cicada. According to BugGuide: “This is the ‘greenest’ member of the Genus Tibicen and characteristically distinct. The abdomen and the outer margins of the wings are usually strongly yellowish-tan in color while the remainder of the insect is a bright lime green with reduced black patterning as compared with related species.” BugGuide also notes it is “distinct in appearance and rarely if ever confused with other Tibicen spp.”
Letter 10 – Teneral Cicada and Exuvia
Subject: Odd Bug on Tree
July 15, 2017 1:05 pm
I was weed whacking today and noticed a very odd Bug on our pear tree. I’ve never seen anything like it before and it was 3-4 inches in length. What do you guys think this bug could be?
Letter 11 – Southern Oak Cicada from Alabama
Subject: Just submitting this picture. Thought it was really beautiful!
Geographic location of the bug: Odenville, Alabama
Time: 02:05 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi! I wanted to submit this picture I took today. Found this guy on my porch and thought it was beautiful! I am not sure what kind of bug this is but thought you guys would like the picture!
How you want your letter signed: Brittni
Not to demean other submissions we receive, but we get much more pleasure reading a letter like yours that is actually excited about an insect sighting than we like reading submissions from horrified parents who have killed some insect because they fear for their child’s welfare, or from paranoid homemakers who believe everything that gets into the house poses a threat to the home and its inhabitants, or because a person perceives things that no one else believes are living in their bloodstream and that look like blurry chunks of mucous. This magnificent insect is a Cicada, but it is not like the typical Dog Day Harvestflies we get submitted each summer. We believe your individual is a Northern Dusk Singing Cicada, Megatibicen auletes, which we identified thanks to numerous images on BugGuide. According to BugGuide it is also known as the Southern Oak Cicada and “Despite the common name, this cicada is most common across the South. Extreme n. Florida (“the Highlands”), Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina & Virginia.” BugGuide also notes: “T. auletes is our LARGEST EASTERN Tibicen SPECIES. In fact, it appears to be our largest and most robust North American Cicada (north of Mexico).” A final note from BugGuide is “PRUINOSITY: These cicadas often look as though they are molded or have been dusted in “powdered sugar”. No other US species is so pruinose (NOTE: This white wax will wipe off and over time, esp. in older specimens, much of the white can be lost! Reduced white wax often changes the general appearance of these insects).” According to Cicada Mania: “These very large cicadas are loud, but not the loudest.” According to Insect Singers: ” Grating slow-pulsed song. Calls from high in large trees.” Thank you for your sweet submission and also for getting us off to a cheerful morning.
Thank you so much for the information! My son and I love taking pictures of wildlife and learn as much as we can! Thank you for everything that you do!
Letter 12 – Superb Cicada
Subject: some kind of beatle
Geographic location of the bug: Austin TXI
Time: 12:51 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found it 09/01/2021 on my porch obviously dying
How you want your letter signed: Bob McElhaney
This is not a Beetle. It is a gorgeous Cicada. We identified it as a Superb Cicada or Green Cicada, Neotibicen superbus, thanks to BugGuide where it states that it: “occupies several habitat types from forested to arid scrub. It is often associated with conifers; however, strong populations of this cicada can be found in areas where hardwoods are abundant.”