The Diet of Cicadas: An Easy Guide to What They Consume

Cicadas are fascinating insects that can often be heard singing loudly in the warmer months. You might be curious about what these large, buzzing creatures eat during their life cycle. In this article, we’ll explore the diet of cicadas, giving you a better understanding of their eating habits.

As a nymph, a cicada feeds predominantly on the sap from tree and shrub roots. They use their straw-like mouthparts to extract nutrients from the plant while residing underground for several years. This feeding behavior allows them to grow and develop into adults.

Once emerged as an adult, the cicada’s diet changes slightly. They now consume sap from the twigs and branches of trees, still using their specialized mouthparts to access the necessary nutrients. It’s worth noting that cicadas do little to no damage to trees and plants while feeding, so their eating habits pose little concern for the environment.

Understanding Cicadas

Cicadas are fascinating insects belonging to the family Cicadidae that can be found worldwide. They have a unique life cycle, which varies between periodical and annual cicadas. Here, we’ll discuss some key characteristics of these buzzing creatures.

Periodical cicadas spend a major part of their life underground, usually 13 or 17 years, before emerging in large swarms. A well-known example is the Brood X cicadas, which have recently made headlines. On the other hand, annual cicadas, such as dog-day cicadas, spend around five years underground, but they emerge every year in smaller numbers.

These insects are known for their distinctive buzzing sounds, which are actually mating calls produced by male cicadas. They use these calls to attract females for mating.

Cicadas feed on plant sap, using their long, straw-like mouthparts to pierce tree branches and extract the sap during their nymph and adult stages. This makes them harmless to humans, avoiding any form of biting or stinging.

Although some people might view cicadas as a nuisance, many cultures appreciate these insects for their nutritional value. In fact, they are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. Their taste is often compared to shellfish, like shrimp, due to their similar texture.

Here’s a quick comparison of periodical and annual cicadas:

Periodical Cicadas Annual Cicadas
Life Cycle 13 or 17 years Up to 5 years
Emergence Swarms Smaller numbers yearly
Body Color Black body Green or camouflaged
Time Spent Underground Majority of life Majority of life

In conclusion, cicadas are remarkable insects with intriguing life cycles and distinctive features. Whether you encounter them as flying, buzzing visitors in your backyard or as a sustainable food source, these insects are more than just noisy pests, and understanding their behavior can help you appreciate their role in nature.

Cicada’s Lifecycle and Diet

Cicadas are fascinating creatures with unique lifecycles and diets. Their lifecycle consists of three main stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Female cicadas lay their eggs on tree branches after mating with a male cicada. The eggs eventually hatch into small nymphs, which fall to the ground and burrow into the soil. They live underground, feeding on the xylem, or sap, from plant roots. During this time, they go through multiple growth stages, molting their exoskeleton each time they grow. They stay underground for years, depending on the species, before emerging as adults.

These insects are herbivores that feed on plant fluids throughout their lives. When they finally emerge from the ground, adult cicadas boast impressive wings and a signature loud buzz. These adults feed on tree sap, utilizing their straw-like mouthparts to drink the sap from tree branches.

Cicadas thrive in moist environments, such as forests, where they have an ample supply of water and vegetation to sustain their diet. Their primary food sources are tree roots and branches.

Here are some key characteristics of cicadas:

  • They have a winged adult stage
  • They are herbivores, feeding on plant fluids
  • Their lifecycle consists of egg, nymph, and adult stages
  • They live underground as nymphs, feeding on tree roots
  • Adult cicadas feed on tree sap
  • They prefer moist environments, such as forests

By understanding the cicada’s lifecycle and diet, you can appreciate the complex nature of these insects and their unique way of life.

Cicada Feeding Mechanism

Cicadas primarily feed on the sap of trees and plant roots. Their unique feeding mechanism involves specialized mouthparts that allow them to access nutrients efficiently while minimizing damage to the plants.

The cicada’s mouthparts consist of labium, stylet, mandibles, and maxillae. The labium is like a flexible sheath that contains the other elongated mouthparts. Together, they function as a straw to pierce into the plant tissue and draw up sap. The stylet, a needle-like structure, pierces the plant, while the mandibles and maxillae work as a support structure.

As cicadas feed, they release saliva, which helps to prevent plugging of the feeding tube and provides enzymes that aid in digestion. This feeding process not only allows cicadas to access the nutrients they need but also minimizes disturbance to the plants they feed on.

Here is a comparison table of cicada feeding mechanism parts with their functions:

Mouthpart Function
Labium Flexible sheath
Stylet Pierce the plant
Mandibles Support the stylet
Maxillae Support the stylet

Cicadas mostly feed on the roots of plants during their nymph stage. They create a burrow around the roots while staying underground and feed on the sap by piercing the roots. Foliage is also a food source for adult cicadas that feed on tree branches and twigs.

To sum up, the cicada feeding mechanism efficiently enables these insects to access plant sap and essential nutrients. Their efficient feeding method is designed to minimize damage to plants while maximizing their ability to survive and reproduce.

The Nutritional Aspect of Cicada’s Diet

Cicadas are interesting creatures, and their diet is no less fascinating. They mainly feed on the sap of trees and plants, which provides them with essential nutrients and energy.

One key aspect of cicadas’ diet is the presence of carbohydrates. The sap they consume is rich in sugars, giving them the energy they need to thrive. They also obtain other vital nutrients from plant sap, such as minerals and amino acids.

Regarding protein, cicadas have a different approach. Unlike other insects that might eat meat or other insects, cicadas obtain their proteins through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. These bacteria live within cicada cells and supply them with essential amino acids.

In brief, cicadas’ diet consists of:

  • Carbohydrates (from plant sap)
  • Minerals (from plant sap)
  • Amino acids (from plant sap and symbiotic bacteria)

Here’s a compact comparison of the nutritional aspects of cicada’s diet:

Nutrient Source
Carbohydrates Plant sap
Minerals Plant sap
Amino Acids Plant sap and symbiotic bacteria

In conclusion, while cicadas’ diet might seem simple, it fulfills their nutritional needs effectively. Their carbohydrate-rich plant sap sustenance, supplemented with minerals and amino acids, provides a balanced diet for these fascinating insects.

Human Interest in Eating Cicadas

Do you know that cicadas can be a part of your diet? Yes, you heard it right! Human interest in eating cicadas has grown in recent years, considering their nutritional value and sustainability.

Cicadas are a great introduction to the practice of entomophagy or eating insects. They have a taste and texture similar to crustaceans. Before cooking, the ideal time to harvest cicadas is at their teneral stage when their exoskeletons are soft and their wings haven’t fully developed.

Let’s explore some of the benefits of including cicadas in your diet:

  • Sustainable: Unlike traditional livestock, farming cicadas requires fewer resources and has a lower environmental impact.
  • Nutritious: Cicadas are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a healthy addition to your diet.

You might be wondering how to cook cicadas. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Harvest: Collect teneral cicadas from the trees early in the morning, when they are still soft and haven’t begun to fly.
  2. Blanch: Boil the cicadas briefly to clean them and remove any dirt or bacteria.
  3. Prepare: Remove the wings and legs, then decide whether to sauté, bake, or grill your cicadas.

Many chefs have devised cicada recipes ranging from simple sautés to more elaborate dishes. One popular method of preparation is to use cicadas in place of shrimp in tacos or pasta dishes. The nutty, green flavor of cicadas pairs well with a variety of ingredients and sauces.

In conclusion, incorporating cicadas into your diet can be a delicious, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly way to explore the world of entomophagy. So the next time you hear the buzz of cicadas outside, remember there’s potential to try out a new culinary adventure.

Cicadas and Ecosystem

Cicadas play a significant role in the ecosystem, especially in the United States. They are not only a food source for various wildlife but also contribute to nutrient cycling in forests.

During their life cycle, cicadas feed on the sap of plants and trees. This has minimal impact on grass and other vegetation, as they do little if any injury while feeding on plants.

As a food source, cicadas are essential for many predators. For example, birds rely on cicadas for a nutritious meal, especially during their long emergence periods.

Mammals, such as raccoons and squirrels, also partake in the cicada feast. Additionally, spiders and wasps are known to prey on these noisy insects.

Despite their contributions, cicadas sometimes cause minor damage when adult females lay their eggs. The egg-laying process can create splintering wounds on twigs, affecting tree health.

In summary, the presence of cicadas in the United States ecosystem has its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Food source for various wildlife like birds, mammals, spiders, and wasps
  • Contribute to nutrient cycling in forests

Cons:

  • Potential damage to tree twigs during egg-laying

Although they may cause minimal damage, cicadas are crucial to the ecosystem, providing a valuable food source and helping to create a balanced natural environment.

Myths and Misconceptions

One common myth about cicadas is that they bite, sting, or cause harm to humans. In reality, cicadas are harmless insects. They do not have any mechanism that enables them to bite or sting. Their main focus during their short adult life is to mate and lay eggs, not to attack humans.

Some people might confuse cicadas with locusts or grasshoppers, which can be destructive to plants and crops. However, cicadas are not related to locusts, and they do not defoliate or damage vegetation in the same manner. In fact, cicadas are more interested in mating than eating [^4^].

Another misconception is that cicadas are grubs that damage lawns. While they do spend a significant portion of their life cycle underground, they are not the same as beetle grubs that can cause harm to your lawn. Cicadas actually develop on the roots of trees and shrubs, taking years to become fully grown [^3^].

In summary, cicadas are often misunderstood insects. They do not bite or sting and are mainly focused on mating and reproduction. They should not be confused with other insects such as locusts or grasshoppers, which can be devastating to crops or plants. So when you hear their unmistakable song, remember that cicadas are just trying to find a mate, not cause any harm.

Potential Risks and Considerations

Cicadas feed mainly on the sap of trees, particularly willow and fruit trees, by piercing the branches and rootlets. While they are nutritious with proteins and vitamins, there are some risks and considerations when dealing with these insects.

Pesticides: Since cicadas live around trees, it’s possible they may come into contact with pesticides. If you’re considering eating cicadas, ensure they come from an uncontaminated source or have been thoroughly cleaned and prepared.

Impact on trees: While cicadas don’t typically harm mature trees, their feeding habits may cause damage to younger, more vulnerable trees. To protect your trees, you can install mesh coverings or use other methods to prevent cicadas from reaching branches and rootlets.

Allergies: If you’re allergic to shellfish, you might have a similar reaction to cicadas. This is because they share similar proteins with crustaceans like shrimp. Avoid consuming cicadas if you have a known shellfish allergy.

Environmental impact: With their massive numbers, cicadas can have a significant impact on the ecosystem. They can provide a valuable food source for other creatures like fish and birds. It’s also worth noting that although they aren’t as nutritious as crickets, cicadas still offer valuable nutrients.

In summary, while cicadas can serve as a sustainable and nutritious food source, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and considerations. Always ensure the cicadas you consume are clean and free of contaminants, and take necessary precautions to protect your young trees.

Facts About Cicadas

Cicadas are fascinating insects found on every continent except Antarctica. With over 3,000 different species worldwide, about 190 of those species occur in North America. These true bugs, from the order Hemiptera, thrive mostly in tropical regions.

Physical Appearance:

  • Color: They are typically brown in color.
  • Sight: Cicadas possess a limited resolution in sight but can still detect movement.

Cicadas play a vital role in ecosystems by providing a food source for various organisms. In fact, they are quite harmless to humans and animals alike. They don’t bite, are not venomous, and pose no significant threat to pets.

Here are some noteworthy features of cicadas:

  • They shed their skins, leaving behind exoskeletons.
  • Cicadas are well known for their loud mating calls.
  • Their life cycle ranges from 2 to 17 years, depending on the species.

When exploring the fascinating world of cicadas, understanding their unique characteristics and role in nature can deepen your appreciation for these remarkable creatures.

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 – Annual Cicada

3 pictures for you
Hi:
Found your site while trying to identify a 2 1/2″ long Cicada I photographed while trying out a new digital camera. I have heard them in the trees for years but never saw one up close before until this one landed for a few minutes in my driveway. It took off just after the picture was taken and they are really fast. I have attached a couple of other pictures I took, a Skipper Butterfly/Moth and, a Honey Bee and a Bumble Bee sharing the same flowers. You are welcome to use the pictures if you like. Your site is Great! I have spent many hours enjoying it. Keep up the good work.
Charles Sheffield
Grand Rapids, MI

Hi Charles
We have been getting lots of blurry photos of Cicadas, or Dog Day Harvest Flies lately, with accompanying queries. Your very clear photo is a welcome addition to our homepage right now.

Letter 2 – Superb Dog Day Cicada

Cicada or Katydid?
This bug was found on our family’s July 4th camping trip at Belton Lake southwest of Waco, Texas. Is it a Secada or Katydid and are they the same thing?
Thanks,
Melinda

Dear Melinda,
Cicadas and Katydids are different insects. Katydids look llike green grasshoppers, and Cicadas look like giant flies. Your Cicada is a pretty green color. I don’t know the exact species name. Eric Eaton wrote us that
Tibicen superbus is the only species with an all-green front half.

Letter 3 – Cicada Metamorphosis

What is this?
May 23, 2010
Found this bug on a palm tree… looks like it is eatting another bug. it’s about 2 or 3 inches long. Big Bug…
Eddie Ravo
Lutz, FL

Cicada Metamorphosis

Dear Eddie,
You have not witnessed a food chain incident, but rather, the metamorphosis of a Cicada.  The immature Cicada lives underground for several years.  When it nears maturity, it digs to the surface and climbs a vertical surface where it splits its exoskeleton and emerges as a winged adult.  You have mistaken the cast off skin or exuvia for prey.

Letter 4 – Cicada Killer captures Cicada

cicada bug being eaten
Location:  Albany NY
August 4, 2010 5:24 pm
dear WTB,
I was on a job site digging a trench for a water main, when I heard a noise in the trees. When I checked it out, there were two bugs that fell. It was a cicada bug which i’ve seen before, and a giant bee looking thing that was attacking, and had the thing in what it looked like was a death grip trying too sting its under belly. My question is are these big bee looking thins dangerous or not. Ive seen them before, bigger than this one. This one is about an inch and a half in length, and smaller than the cicada.
Ty Dan in NY

Cicada Killer and prey

Hi Ty Dan,
Even though your photo is blurry, the distinctive markings and coloration of a Cicada Killer are apparent.  The Cicada Killer,
Sphecius speciosus, is a large wasp that preys upon the Cicada not to feed itself, as the adults feed upon nectar, but to feed the larval brood.  The male Cicada Killer, which does not sting, defends a suitable nesting site and dies soon after mating with a female.  The female lives for several weeks and she digs a burrow that is provisioned with paralyzed Cicadas to feed her brood.  Once the Cicada is stung, it remains alive, but paralyzed, and it is dragged back to the burrow where a single egg is laid upon it.  Each egg gets its own Cicada.  The female often has to climb a tree or other vertical feature while dragging the Cicada, and she then coasts toward her burrow.  Though they are large and frightening looking, we have never received a verified account of a person being stung by a Cicada Killer.

Letter 5 – Annual Cicada

Full frontal cicada
Location:  Boone County, MO
August 8, 2010 4:32 pm
Here’s what I thought was a nice image of a cicada I found bumming around on my front porch. I gave up identifying it to species when I realized there were several in my area and I couldn’t tell them apart. Maybe you can help me out there!
I love you guys. I have a link to your site on my blog
http://mycologista.blogspot.com/
(I’m always finding all kinds of other things when I’m out looking for mushrooms). Please keep doing what you do (and feel free to edit this letter).
lisa
Mycologista

Annual Cicada

Hi Mycologista,
We can’t imagine what to edit from your email.  Surely not the praise you lavish upon us.  Since you have given permission to edit, we have taken the liberty of rotating your photograph to allow for a larger file to post.  Like we tell our students, when you are aiming down on the subject, proper orientation of the print is subjective since up is behind the camera.  In so doing, we oriented the lighter side of the image up since the light generally comes from above.  This is one of the Annual Cicadas in the genus
Tibicen. As you have indicated, many species look similar, and because we like the name, we often identify Annual Cicadas in the genus Tibicen as Dog Day Harvestflies, though that name should only apply to Tibicen canicularis, which typically ranges farther north (see BugGuide).  Annual Cicada is a safe name, but it is misleading since the Cicadas actually live underground longer than a year.  The name refers to the fact that adults appear each year unlike the Periodical Cicadas or Seventeen Year Locusts.

Letter 6 – 13 Year Cicada: Brood XIX Periodical Cicada Emerges in Georgia

What is it?
Location: 10 mi West of Augusta GA
April 16, 2011 4:46 pm
What is it?
Signature: JRL

13 Year Locust

Dear JRL,
Seems we snoozed on this one.  As we are such a small staff, we are unable to respond to all of our mail.  When we realized that this Periodical Cicada was sighted this year, we were a bit stunned as they don’t usually appear so early.  When we turned to BugGuide, we realized you already had this image posted there as well.  At the end of March, GPB News website predicted them to begin appearing in a few weeks.  About.Com has this information:  “Of the three extant 13-year broods, Brood XIX covers the most territory geographically. Missouri probably leads in populations of Brood XIX, but notable emergences occur throughout the south and Midwest. In addition to Missouri, Brood XIX cicadas emerge in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Oklahoma. This brood appeared in 1998.”  The Growing Georgia website has this information on Brood XIX or Brood 19:  “Brood 19 is one of several distinct broods that regularly emerge throughout the Southeast. They will arrive in large numbers later this month and into May. Thousands of them per acre are expected in some areas. They die about six weeks after their first flight.  Many can come out in a single night. Nymphs emerge when the soil temperature inside their exit tunnels exceeds 64 degrees F. According to UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network, soil temperatures at the Watkinsville weather station reached 64 degrees F last year on April 4. These cicadas typically emerge earlier in southern parts of the state. To approximate their arrival anywhere in the state, use the soil temperature calculator at www.georgiaweather.net.  Estimating how many cicadas will emerge and where is tough. Habitat destruction is the biggest factor affecting cicada populations. Periodical cicadas survive underground feeding on root systems. Forested areas produce more cicadas. If trees are cut down or concrete poured over forest floors, their food source is diminished, and they don’t survive.”

Letter 7 – Annual Cicada

Huge green fly
Location: Charlotte, NC
July 31, 2011 8:08 am
This fly/bug was dive bombing our outside light last night. It was hitting the house so hard and loud that I had to go investigate. When I opened the door he barged right in smacking of every object in the kitchen. I am not a big fan of bugs in the house so I started swatting and finally got him. He is large and has a strong body/head to keep running into things. Never seen a fly this big ever. Please help identify. I am very curious to know more about this thing. I live in metro Charlotte, NC. The bug invaded my house around 10pm est. A couple photos show the fly on a standard business card with a ”AAA” battery next to it for size comparison.
Signature: Josh in Charlotte

Annual Cicada

Hi Josh,
Whenever we get an identification request from the Eastern portion of North America, during mid to late summer, and the description includes words like “huge” and “fly”, we can be nearly certain that the request is for the identification of a Cicada.  This is one of the Annual Cicadas in the genus
Tibicen.  We formerly informed our readers that Cicadas were perfectly harmless, but since that time, we have received a single report from an individual who very graphically described being bitten on the thumb by a Cicada while it was being handled.  Cicadas have mouths designed to pierce and suck.  They do not normally bite people, but the mouth is capable of piercing human skin.  The bite was reported to be quite painful.  With that said, we still consider Cicadas to be harmless, though the loud buzzing mating call they produce can be so loud as to annoy individual with sensitive ears.  The loudest insect in the world is reported to be an Australian Cicada called the Double Drummer, according to the Australian Fauna website.

Letter 8 – Annual Cicada

What could this be and is it dangerous?
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
August 10, 2011 9:49 am
Hi bugman.
Very interesting and informative site. I came across this insect, rather it came across me the other night. I walked out on to my front porch and it appeared to be making a warning noise (clicking) and movements to warn me off. Like it was squaring off to me. A little frightened, I hit it with a flyswatter and then was able to get a photo of it.Now living in North Carolina, there are a lot of insects that I have come across that are so unusual to me that I feel I have joined the ”bug of the month” club. I turned it over to have a look at the underside and noticed what looked to be a stinger looking appendage, but it came back to consciousness and flew away before I could take a picture of the underside.
Any help with identification would be appreciated.
Signature: James in NC

Annual Cicada

Hi James,
This is an Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen.  There are many species in the genus that look very similar, and we are very reluctant to try to identify different species.  You can view some of the possibilities on bugGuide.  We get several identification requests each summer for enormous flies that turn out to be Cicadas.  Annual Cicadas generally emerge in July and August, and because of their resemblance to flies and the time of their appearance, they are sometimes called Harvest Flies.  Annual Cicadas typically spend several years underground as nymphs before emerging and metamorphosing as winged adults.  The name Annual Cicada distinguishes them from the Periodical Cicadas that appear every 13 or 17 years, depending upon the species.  The Periodical Cicadas are also called 17 Year Locusts, though they are not true locusts.  Cicadas are not dangerous, however, like other Hemipterans, they have piercing/sucking mouthparts that are strong enough to pierce young tree stems.  We have received at least two reports of painful bites from Cicadas, though in both cases, the bites occurred because of careless handling.  You do not need to fear a Cicada attack, though should you decide to handle them, stay away from the mouth.

Update:  August 27, 2011
Hi Daniel.
Thank you for the timely response. After reading how busy you guys are I guessed it would be days/weeks before I heard back and I do appreciate your effort.
I am not normally a random bug killer but the aggressive behavior in this particular instance brought it out in me.
Just for your information, while up visiting in Canada last summer I ran across phoney wasp nests that claimed to stop other wasps from building nests nearby (within 200feet). I took a chance and bought a paper version and a cloth version. They work. I haven’t had a single issue with nest building wasps since I placed them. Just the occasional solitary variety like the mud-dobber (?). I brought back some for my neighbor this year and she has hung them up now. So we can see if they work or if I just had really good luck. Normally we have several varieties of nests to contend with.
I will let you know in the future how they back up their claim. Now if I could find a harmless way to rid our house of mosquitos and flies… That would be a trick
Regards, James
James Rankine

Thanks for the tip on Wasp’s Nests James.  We will create a unique posting with that information.

Letter 9 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Unidentified Green Winged Bug
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
July 30, 2014 5:34 pm
My sons and I found this bug on the edge of the treadmill. He had just grown out of it’s previous skin and it was still attached to the string below. It sat around for a while even while they were jumping. They both started getting a little too interested and frankly I was worried that the bug would jump on them and spook them so I got it to go away with a leaf. I didn’t see it leave so I don’t know if it jumped or flew away. We have the National Geographic Bugopedia and looked around for a match but couldn’t find one. It almost looked like a grasshopper with wings but the only one in the book had blue wings and was from Europe and this one we saw had clear wings and we are in the U.S. Please let us know if you can. My enthusiastic 3 and 6 year old boys are budding entomologists and would love to know what they saw. We saw this bug in a north hills suburb of Pittsburgh in July after a rainstorm.
Signature: Gretchen Cetti

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Hi Gretchen,
This is an Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen, and they are active in the latter half of summer.  Though many people are not familiar with the physical appearance of Cicadas, most all residents of the eastern portion of North America are familiar with the loud buzzing sound they produce, often from the tops of trees.  This sound is quite loud, and resembles the sound of a buzz saw.  Cicada nymphs live underground, often for several years, and when they emerge, they shed their exoskeleton for the last time, emerging as winged adults and leaving behind the exuvia.

Letter 10 – Annual Cicada

Subject: annual cicada
Location: southern ontario, canada
September 1, 2014 12:23 pm
I have used your site a number of times to identify different bugs I’ve found. As I came across it again while looking for details about an annual cicada I recently got some photos of, I thought I might see if you would like some of those photos.
They are yours to use on your site if you’d like.
Thanks for the info,
Jeff Epp

Cicada
Cicada

Hi Jeff,
Your images are beautiful.  This does not look like one of the Cicadas in the genus
Tibicen, which are quite common, so we will try to provide a genus at a later point.  You should handle Cicadas with caution.  We tried to locate a comment we received from a reader once who was handling a Cicada when the Cicada plunged its piercing proboscis into the person’s finger.  It was allegedly quite painful.  We just located the comment which states:  “A few years ago, while working in a state park nature center in Indiana, a young (6 years old) entomologist brought his latest aquisition, a cicada, to show me. I picked it up and let it crawl on my thumb. When I was ready to give it back, the thing wouldn’t let go, and decided to press that sucking mouth part into my thumb. It was pretty painful. They can DEFINATELY bite (or perhaps STAB is a more appropriate term).”

Cicada
Cicada

 

Letter 11 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Strange Beetle(?) with transparent wings
Location: Southeast Michigan
September 12, 2014 8:28 pm
Can you help ID this strange bug I found today, Sept. 12, on my back porch? I found it on its’ back, somewhat tangled in a bit of spider web, and I thought it might be dead. When I picked it up,
however, it moved.
I carefully removed the web, and it began flapping its’ wings but seemed happy to crawl around my
hand. In the 2nd photo you can see exposed what appears to be a proboscis of some kind. Quite an interesting little critter! Thank you!
Signature: Kathy

Cicada
Cicada

Dear Kathy,
This is an Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen, not a beetle, and you are probably quite familiar with the din caused by Cicadas that emanates from the tops of trees in mid to late summer.  These Annual Cicadas are also known as Dog Day Harvestflies.  For your kindness to this Cicada, we are honoring you with the Bug Humanitarian Award, and we are also tagging this posting as a Buggy Accessory as that Cicada looks quite fetching on your hand.

Dog Day Harvestfly
Dog Day Harvestfly

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your prompt reply and for the lovely honor!  You made my day!
Go bugs!
Respectfully,
Kathy Genaw

You are welcome Kathy.  We should also warn you that we have received one report of a bite from a Cicada.  Many years ago, Vince who works at a Nature Center sent in an extensive comment beginning with:  “A few years ago, while working in a state park nature center in Indiana, a young (6 years old) entomologist brought his latest aquisition, a cicada, to show me. I picked it up and let it crawl on my thumb. When I was ready to give it back, the thing wouldn’t let go, and decided to press that sucking mouth part into my thumb. It was pretty painful. They can DEFINATELY bite (or perhaps STAB is a more appropriate term).”

Daniel,
You have gone above and beyond with your thoughtful warning!  Thank you!
I must share with you that, once you had identified by bug, I was compelled to follow up
with a bit more research.  I was particularly interested in that mouth part to which you referred.
As you can see in one of my photos, the cicada had just begun to insert its’ proboscis into my
flesh…it was at that point that I set it down on the ground!  From what I have read, this behavior
was not adversarial or defensive but rather a food absorbing action.  I did feel a bit of a sting,
but I have no hard feelings nor any skin effect!  All in all, my cicada experience was very
interesting, and your input much appreciated!
Have a great day…
Kathy Genaw

Letter 12 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Large fly like bug what is it?

Location: Springfield, IL Lincoln’s House National Park
September 13, 2014 5:17 am
Hi bug man,
My eight-year-old daughter and I were hoping to get this rather large insect identified. She found him hanging out on the outside porch railing at Lincoln’s House in Springfield, IL. It was never bothered by our presence or me being very close to take this picture. Can you identify it? Thanks so much.
Signature: Sincerely, Shelly

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear Shelly,
This Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen is sometimes called a Dog Day Harvestfly.

Letter 13 – Annual Cicada

Subject: What is this ugly bug
Location: Dallas texas
July 28, 2015 2:33 pm
Trying to identify this bug. It flys and sometimes they dive bomb us out of the trees. They make a loud sound that makes me feel like I am in the TV series LOST. They are horrible. This one was lying on the sidewalk, I did not injure it.
Signature: Kimberly romano

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear Kimberly,
This is an Annual Cicada, sometimes called a Dog Day Harvestfly.  The loud buzzing sound made by certain species of Cicadas make them the loudest insects on the planet.

Thank you so much. Yes, I agree with them being the loudest bugs ever!  Thanks again
K Romano

Letter 14 – Annual Cicada

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Iowa, USA
September 18, 2015 11:35 am
This picture was taken in my backyard.
Signature: Vera

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear Vera,
This is an Annual Cicada in the genus
Tibicen, and they are generally present from mid summer until mid autumn.  They are among the loudest insects, and when they are plentiful, they create quite a cacophony from the tops of the trees.

Letter 15 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Closeup of annual cicada
Location: Northern Virginia
July 17, 2016 9:39 pm
Found this guy on my driveway and took a few pictures before letting it latch onto a stick to relocate it to a nearby tree. My best guess is either Neotibicen pruinosus or Neocicada hieroglyphica. Do you have any idea what species this guy is?
Signature: M

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear M.,
Your macro images of an Annual Cicada are gorgeous.  Thank you so much for alerting us to the reclassification that has occurred regarding the Cicada genus
Tibicen.  According to BugGuide:  “Major Changes in TAXONOMY for this group!  Tibicen Latreille, 1825. North American species formerly assigned to this genus are now placed in:  Neotibicen [and] Hadoa … Historically, the Genus Tibicen was in the sub-Family Tibiceninae, but is now placed in the Cicadinae.  Currently, the family Cicadidae is being restructured and additional updates will follow – hopefully soon.”  We have always had difficulty determining exact species with Annual Cicadas. 

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Letter 16 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Beautiful
Location: New England
July 28, 2016 11:17 pm
Hello I lived at the same home in a city right outside of Boston MA, tonight I was sitting outside my home and was absolutely speechless, all of a sudden a big beautiful bug that looked half grasshopper half butterfly slowly creep his way on top my wooden porch, I lived here for 30 years, I am 36 and I never have seen this beautiful creature here before I would really love to know the name of this insect can u please help me thank you
Signature: Kristina

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear Kristina,
This is an newly emerged Annual Cicada.  Many folks mistake them for giant flies and they are sometimes called Dog Day Harvest Flies since they appear during the hottest days of summer.  Though you might not ever have seen them before, you have probably heard the loud sounds made by Cicadas in the tops of trees.  They sound somewhat like chain saws.

Letter 17 – Annual Cicada

Subject: Help identify bug
Location: Denver, NC
August 22, 2016 5:22 am
Hi! Can you help identify this bug? My friend found it near her home in Denver, NC. She thought it was a husk and nudged it with her toe, and it made a horrible “chittering” sound. It’s as wide as her hand.
Thank you!
Signature: Kimberly Pruitt

Annual Cicada
Annual Cicada

Dear Kimberly,
This is some species of Annual Cicada.  Cicadas are known for the loud sounds they make, often from treetops.  Cicadas are widely regarded as being the loudest insects on earth, so we imagine the “chittering” sound your friend heard was quite startling.

Letter 18 – Annual Cicada

Subject:  Bug id
Geographic location of the bug:  Rockport Ma
Date: 09/10/2021
Time: 03:38 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please tell me what this is
How you want your letter signed:  Resident

Annual Cicada

Dear Resident,
This is an Annual Cicada, one of the loudest insect musicians of the summer.  Annual Cicadas are sometimes known as Dog Day Harvestflies.

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.

8 thoughts on “The Diet of Cicadas: An Easy Guide to What They Consume”

  1. I am also in Georgia and I have been seeing them all over the place recently. I have seen 3 in the past 2 days, one was dead the other was on his back unable to turn over, so I helped him out. The other was on a piece of bark on the ground so I took his picture. I thought he was dead until he scared me by buzzing his wings.

    Reply
  2. Cicadas: edible and tasty!
    Hi Daniel,
    Funny you should say ‘stay away from its mouth.’ Once this insect is properly cooked, putting in the mouth is a fine idea. Cicadas are a popular food in many parts of the world: a guy from Uganda I spoke with yesterday told me that they’re called “Nyanyangize” over there. This is probably another example of the onomatopeic [sp?] tendencies wherein cicadas are named after the sounds they make. He raved about their tastiness.

    Best,
    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  3. I am looking for the shed ”shells” or skins of the Cicada’s from this years’
    upwelling of Cicadas. If someone who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada could tell me where to find even one for my collection, I would be forever grateful.
    Please feel free to contact me by e-mail or phone, as the time to find them is rapidly decreasing. Please call at (519) 208-1427

    Reply
  4. I am looking for the shed ”shells” or skins of the Cicada’s from this years’
    upwelling of Cicadas. If someone who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada could tell me where to find even one for my collection, I would be forever grateful.
    Please feel free to contact me by e-mail or phone, as the time to find them is rapidly decreasing. Please call at (519) 208-1427

    Reply
  5. Where are they natice too. Because today we founf one in the parking lot of univeristy of wisconsin green bay, Wisconsin. We got pictures anf its huge.

    Reply

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