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Cicada Facts, Fun, and Photos

Elyn lived in China with her family for 30 years, soaking up the history and culture, having fun, and making many friends.


The World Cup Cicadas are coming!

During the summer of 2018, after 4 years of growing underground, the "World Cup Cicadas" are about to emerge from underground to serenade us with their song. Imagine if kids just grew underground for 4 years and then emerged ready to go to kindergarten! Now that would be a shock for all of us.

Here you will learn all about Cicadas, their fun aspects, and some interesting science, so you can welcome their arrival with more than aggravation. Check out these cool bugs!

(photo in public domain)

First the facts - Will it be like a locust invasion? - Are they like zombies and will they bite?

Cicada by Martin Hauser

Cicada by Martin Hauser

Are World Cup cicadas scary?

The news sells itself on scare tactics and horror. There are lots of articles out there that talked about the emergence of the 17 year cicada in May 2013 as a horror show. "Billions of cicadas will emerge and overrun the east coast," and told us that there would be so many cicadas that the population of the states from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered 600 cicadas to 1 person.

The truth is: there are a lot of insects out there. And insects outnumber us, maybe 200 million to one. An article in the New York Times reported scientists calculation that the world holds 300 pounds of insects for every pound of humans. So this "infestation" is not really that major - if cicadas come to your area, you might see some damaged leaves on your trees, but you also might not even see them. Relax.

The truth is: Cicadas are not nasty - they don't eat everything green in sight like locusts and they don't bite. They don't move around in swarms and they are only really interested in young trees.

What they really want to do is mate, and they have had to wait 4 years to get it! When the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees, and all the danger of frost is over, they will come out and mate. Their life isn't so long - and they will spend it in the trees. Then they will die and their babies will go back underground to suck on tree roots just like a baby bottle, and stay there for another 4 years thinking about the next World Cup, growing up just like their parents did.

Cicadas are not all the same - Look at this cutie

photo by DiscoveringNewSpecies

photo by DiscoveringNewSpecies

If the cicada has black eyes, it is not a magicada. This friendly critter is an annual cicada, and comes out every year.

A rare cicada - the 17 year variety

  • It is rare to see this cicada. They live 2-3 feet underground and only come out every 17 years. This is a great opportunity! They are here just to shed their skins, sing loudly to find their sweethearts, and lay eggs. That lasts about a month. Then they die, but the babies are busy deep in the soil drinking tree sap from the roots for the next 16 years before they come again.
  • They don't eat everything green in sight like locusts. They make holes in the tree bark and drink the sap. They also make slits in the bark and park their eggs there. It takes 6 weeks for the babies to hatch, fall off the tree, and go back into the soil for another 17 years.
  • Should you protect anything? Yes, your young trees. You can put nets around the trees, or pick off the cicadas with chopsticks if the tree is very small. They don't hurt the regular garden plants.
  • They don't bite or hurt people and won't bother your pets. Your pets may be interested in trying them out for a snack, though. The only potentially aggravating thing about them is their sound.
  • To be very honest, if you hold them for a long long time and they think you might be a tree, they might try to suck a little "tree sap" from your finger. That might hurt a little. You might enjoy holding them on a twig instead. ;-)
  • Their sound can be as loud as a lawn mower, but it is just the male singing love songs to attract the ladies. The noise is made by vibrating a set of membranes which are located on the side of his body just under the wings.
  • They leave behind brown casings, which are the skin they shed after leaving the ground. They can be stinky if you get piles of them, but they make great compost.

A cicada shedding its skin captured on video - Check this out and be inspired!

Sweet - we get to see a cicada molting, shedding its skin so it can carry on with its love life. It doesn't take long to change clothes, which is why you don't see it often.

This video is from a sequence of photos on Wikipedia, courtesy of T. Nathan Mundhenk, the photographer.

Cicadas are a sign of new life and resurrection in Asia

Jade Cicada from China

Jade Cicada from China

A Jade Cicada from the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), China. In ancient China people thought that the cicada represented a symbol of rebirth. It is easy to see why when you watch the video of the cicada hatching. Doesn't it look like it is being reborn?

This picture is from the

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The Avery Brundage Collection, B60J583



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All about cicadas - This video is short - and really fun

This video has lots of information on the upcoming 17 year cicada arrival, and even has photos of chocolate cicadas! They are high in protein and low in fats. No carbohydrates. So if you are on a diet, well...

What to do if you get a lot of dead cicadas on your lawn

If you have had a lot of cicadas on your property, you may notice a stinky smell. This is easy to fix. Just rake them up and bury them - they make excellent compost!

So what do you think? Do you like cicadas? - Have you seen the 17 year cicadas? What do you think about bugs??

DebMartin on July 06, 2015:

Cicadas have always meant summer to me. Love that sound.

Rick King from Charleston, SC on June 04, 2013:

I haven't seen any yet but I will be on the lookout for the red eyes! They are scary looking but fascinating bugs.

Elyn MacInnis (author) from Shanghai, China on May 23, 2013:

@WhiteIsland: My brother could never phase me with bugs, and we had a pet snake for a while. He found other ways to torture me and now he regrets it. ;-) I am not crazy about big bugs only if they move quickly. The really slow ones are much easier to deal with. Glad you enjoyed it!

WhiteIsland on May 23, 2013:

I always used to think the cicada songs were the street lights buzzing in summer when I was younger. :P I have not-so-fond memories of my brother picking cicada shells off tree bark and setting them on my shoulder, then calling attention to it (like there was a giant bug on me). My dad told me he just did it for the reactions he got from me and my sisters, so once I learned to control my initial freak-out response, he stopped (miracle of miracles! ;). Now, I'm ok with them, but I just don't do well around largish bugs.

This is the first I'd heard of the 17-year cicadas, but it was a neat lens to learn about them! Thanks for posting.

Elyn MacInnis (author) from Shanghai, China on May 22, 2013:

@LauraHofman: They can be as loud as an airplane getting ready to take off. Ear plugs work well if you can't stand it! Somehow my brain turns it off...

Elyn MacInnis (author) from Shanghai, China on May 22, 2013:

@anonymous: Forest caterpillar wine? Hmmm. Perhaps something goes into the wine that is healthy. They do that here in China - in some restaurants they have big cylinders filled with all sorts of bugs, scorpions, snakes, and herbs. It is supposed to be good for you. I'll stick with tea. Do you have chocolate covered army worms??

Elyn MacInnis (author) from Shanghai, China on May 22, 2013:

@Cynthia Haltom: Oh no! Termites are awful! I had a swarm of termites in the yard once and called the exterminator. Once he got there, the swarm was gone, and he said our house was fine, but perhaps they were living in the mulch in the yard. Better in the mulch in the yard than in my house!

anonymous on May 22, 2013:

The poll is buggy today, but I voted to keep these cuties! Fascinating that they have a 17 year layover...but are raring to spend their short lives mating and, that's the life! I've never seen or heard them since I've always lived in the north. Chocolate covered cicadas didn't take me by surprise as an idea because we always dealt with the Forest Tent Caterpillars, I think its every 10 years. No natural enemies and are also known as Army Worms and folks have come up with different recipes and even wine made with them. In a year they are most active, they seem to be everywhere and eat most leaves of plants other than oak and especially like aspen. I think I'd like your cicadas much better, no one likes army worms much. Congratulations on home page honors, I'm doing the dance of joy with you! :)

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 22, 2013:

I would much rather have a swarm of cicadas than the swarm of termites we are having right now in the deep south.

Laura Hofman from Naperville, IL on May 22, 2013:

Interesting lens on a fascinating insect! We used to live in an older area in the western suburbs of Chicago with mature trees and I'll never forget how many we had in our yard in 1990 (thousands) or the deafening sound.

SteveKaye on May 21, 2013:

They appeared in Chicago when I was a child. The noise is amazing.

Elyn MacInnis (author) from Shanghai, China on May 21, 2013:

@lionmom100: Aren't they amazing. They are out now in the East... not sure exactly where, because they vary in their numbers. But you may get to see them this year if you live in the Eastern part of the US.

lionmom100 on May 21, 2013:

I had a chance to see cicadas once when I was a girl. I will never forget that they swarmed all over the trees many deep. It was so fascinating to see. We played with a few before turning them loose.

happynutritionist on May 21, 2013:

lol on the chocolate covered cicadas...great thorough page!

L Olson from Northern Arizona on May 16, 2013:

We have them EVERY year here in my area of Northern Arizona. They make enjoying outdoors impossible, they are so loud.

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