Monday, May 31

Fun Facts About Cicadas

It's summer 2021... the year of the Brood X (Brood Ten) cicada!  At the time of this posting, billions of cicadas have already emerged from the ground in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington DC and are singing their mating songs, hoping to find a mate.  Do you live in an area that has been inundated with cicadas?  Have you ever wondered what the life of a cicada is like?  Read on to learn some interesting facts about these noisy insects!

Nine fun facts about cicadas for children. Life cycle, life span, how they make that noise, where they live, etc. #kellysclassroomonline

There are more than 3,000 different species of cicadas around the world.

Cicadas can be found on every continent except Antarctica.  There are almost 200 species in the United States, roughly a dozen in Canada, and 100s of them in Australia.  

Close up view of a cicada

Cicadas fall into two categories... annual and periodical.

Annual cicadas emerge from the ground regularly each year.  Periodical cicadas can emerge every 2, 5, 13, or 17 years depending on what species they are.

USDA - USFS Map of Cicada Broods

Cicadas are not locusts.

Even though cicadas and locusts are noise-making insects and can be seen in hordes, they are two completely different species.  Locusts are closely related to grasshoppers and crickets, whereas cicadas are closely related to aphids and planthoppers.  

Yellow Winged Locust
This is a yellow-winged locust... not a cicada.

A group of cicadas is called a chorus.

Male cicadas will sing together to establish their territory and to attract female cicadas.  Different species of cicadas will sing at different times during the day and the weather will affect how loudly or quietly they sing.  Some scientists believe cicadas also sing loudly as a way to keep predators away.

Cicadas on a Tree

Male cicadas have a tymbal organ in their abdomens.

When male cicadas sing, they contract the tymbal muscles to make a clicking sound.  The faster they contract and relax these muscles, the louder their clicks get.  It takes 120 to 480 clicks PER SECOND to make the noise... err... singing people can hear.

Cicada Hanging on a Stick

Cicadas have a long lifespan.

Cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground and we usually don't see them until they emerge at the end of their life cycle.  Depending on what species they are, cicadas will spend two to 17 years underground tunneling, eating, sleeping, etc.  Contrary to popular belief... cicadas are not hibernating underground... they are very much alive and active!

Molted Cicada + Exoskeleton

Cicadas have a life cycle similar to ants, wasps, and fleas.

Cicadas don't form a chrysalis or pupa during their life cycle.  When they hatch from their eggs as nymphs, they look like tiny little insects with legs, a distinct abdomen, and antennae.  As they grow and develop, they will molt several times before becoming adults.

Cicada Life Cycle

The shrill thorntree cicada is the loudest cicada in the world.

Their songs can be as loud as 106 decibels.  That is as loud as a lawnmower, a farm tractor, a motorcycle, or a jackhammer!

Shrill Thorntree Cicada: Photo by Adrian John Armstrong & Martin H. Villet

Cicadas are edible.

For many people around the world, cicadas are a delicacy.  Cicadas are low carb, high protein, and gluten-free.  They can be fried, grilled, sprinkled on pizza and salads, and even dipped in chocolate.  Have you or would you ever eat a cicada?

Fried Cicadas with Lemon and Cucumber

To learn more about cicadas... including how to prepare and eat them... watch this video by Koaw Nature:
Eating Cicadas! Boiled, Pan Fried, & Chocolate-Covered Cicadas! 17-Year-Cicadas



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