The Cicada

The Cicada

The Cicada is a member of the order Homoptera and the noise that just one of these creatures can make is amazing.

The name cicada actually comes from the Latin word for buzzer.

It is the male of this species that makes the loud clicking and buzzing noise by vibrating membranes on their abdomens.

The Cicada

A design fault?

The cicada makes the very loud noise by stroking ridged membranes called tymbals that are located on the side of their abdomens.

According to what I have read the bellies of the cicadas are hollow which really helps to amplify the already loud noise.

There seems to be a design fault with this creature because the cicada’s tympana are also located on its abdomen. The tympana, which are what the cicada hears through, are located at the base of the abdomen.

I have just discovered that the Males can disable their own tympana while calling so problem solved and there is not a design fault just ignorance on my part.

The noise these creatures make can be deafening to human ears that are usually many feet away from the source, you would think that the cicada would deafen itself with its hearing located so close to the source of the noise.

The video below gives you an excellent idea of the sound the cicada makes. This particular cicada is American and looks a little different to the one we photographed but the sound it makes sounds just the same.

The Sound a Cicada makes

The Mating Call

The call is the males way of attracting females, the adult cicada seems to have just one thing on it s mind and that is to mate. The female will respond to the males call by making a clicking noise by flicking her wings. These clicking noises sound similar to when we snap our fingers.

Watch this video and see Sir David Attenborough click his fingers imitating the female cicada and watch the male turn to whatever direction the noise is coming from.

The male cicada following the sound of David’s snapping fingers lands on David’s head right near his ear. The noise is so loud that David begins to snap his fingers in an attempt to get the cicada away from his ear.

The sound produced by some species can reach levels as high as 120 decibels which is enough to be painful to the human ear which is easy to see from the reactions of David in the video below.

The cicada follows the sound of David snapping his fingers and lands this time on David’s hand. To watch this video click on the YouTube logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the video below. It is an excellent video and fascinating to watch.

The Life Cycle of the Cicada

Often heard but Seldom seen

Different species of cicada sing different songs, they do this so that they attract only the females from their own species. Cicadas will often sing their song with other cicadas this makes if difficult for a potential predator to single out and locate an individual cicada.

I had often heard the Cicada near our home but I had never seen one. That was until the day one flew in through our open door and hit the side of my husband’s head.

After striking my husband’s head the insect came to rest on our settee. My son picked up the insect that to me looked like a giant housefly and we placed it on the dinning-room table with a glass tumbler over it.

A Captive Subject

It did not remain under the tumbler long and as soon as we had photographed him he was released outside physically unharmed by its experience.
It did not remain under the tumbler long and as soon as we had photographed him he was released outside physically unharmed by its experience.

An Opportunity is Presented

My son and I are both keen photographers and so this presented us with an excellent opportunity to take some close up photographs of this often heard but seldom seen little critter.

Of course this is an opportunity that we took with both hands below are some of the photographs we took that day. After taking the photographs we took the cicada back to a tree where we had often heard cicadas and we let it go. As soon as it was in the tree it began to sing his song.

Our Cicada Photographs

The Cicadas' Predators

The adult cicada has many predators’ birds; bats, crickets, ants, wasps, spiders and mantids are some of those just waiting for a chance to feast on these insects.

People in some cultures (for example China, Malaysia Burma ) also consider the cicada a delicacy the female being preferred, as she tends to be meatier.

After looking at this creature anyone is welcome to my share. It looks way too much like a giant housefly for me to consider it as a potential food source.

The video below has a Cicada Killer Wasp bringing a Cicada back to its burrow.

If you would like to find out more about the Cicada Killer Wasp I fully recommend that you read fellow hubber Richard Mark Gage's Hub Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada Killer Wasp and Prey

Cicada Wings

The cicada has two pairs of wings the longer front pair of wings cover part of the shorter back pair. In the case of this cicada its wings are clear almost transparent much like the wing of a housefly but of course much larger.

The wingspan of a cicada can range anywhere between 2.5cm and 15 cm depending on the species.

The wings typically have a large number of veins running through them, which helps to stiffen and strengthen the wings.

Wings of the Cicada

In this photo you can clearly see the veins that add strengh and rigidity to the cicada's wings
In this photo you can clearly see the veins that add strengh and rigidity to the cicada's wings

Cicadas do not sting or bite

There are around 2500 species of cicada world-wide, many of which have not been classified yet.

The cicada has a long proboscis hidden under its head that it uses to pierce the bark of the tree, which enables it to feed on the tree sap. Cicadas are generally benign when it comes to people and usually they do not or sting or bite.


Cicada

Cicadas don't bite unless they think you are a tree

However if a cicada lands on a person's exposed limb it can sometimes mistake the arm or the leg of that person for part of a tree.

When this happens they have been known to pierce the flesh of the person they have mistaken for a tree in the attempt to feed on the sap it mistakenly hopes to find there.

This can be painful but remember it is not an aggressive reaction from the cicada towards the person it has pierced. It is extremely rare for this kind of thing to happen and usually only happens when the cicada comes to rest on someone’s body for an extended period.

I have to say that in the real world an extended stay by a cicada would not happen on anyone that I know.

Most people that I know would freak out as soon as a cicada landed near to them never mind landed on them. As soon as a cicada landed on them they would frantically and immediately try to brush the cicada off of their person.

I was fortunate to come across a cicada on a tree it was very difficult to spot as they are very well camouflaged. I could hear two but no matter how hard I tried I could only find one.

Every time I got close they became quite and I found them difficult to locate. While I was photographing I never did find the other cicada. However, when editing the photographs later much to my surprise and joy there was the other cicada in shot but totally unseen by me at the time. Below are some of the photographs I took.

Cicada on a Tree

Source
Source
Source

The Eyes of the Cicada

The Cicadas have large compound eyes that are situated one on each side of the head.

In addition to the two large compound eyes they have three very small glistening simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of the head centred between the two compound eyes.

I hope that you can make out the three small eyes grouped together in the photographs below

Eyes of the Cicada

Life as an Adult

The Cicadas’ adult life is only a very short stage and its main purpose is to mate and lay the eggs so that there will be a new generation that will begin this cycle all over again.

Once the adult female has mated she will seek out the bark of twig in a tree and cut slits into it. Into these slits she will deposit her eggs. She will continue cutting slits and laying eggs until she has laid around two hundred eggs.

Nymph to Adult

When the eggs hatch out into nymphs they will remain for a while in the slit where they were laid sucking on the sap of the branch.

After a short while the newly hatched nymphs falls to the ground and they begin to burrow. They are trying to get down to the root system of the tree where they will live as nymphs until they are ready to emerge for the final moult.

The nymph stage of the cicada can last anything between two and seventeen years depending on the species. They feed during this time on the root of the tree by sucking juice from the root.

The majority of the cicada’s life is spent underground as a nymph living at depths ranging from 30 cm – 2.5 metres. The nymphs have strong front legs that they need in order to dig their way out for their final moult when they become the adult cicada.

When it is time for them to moult for the final time they dig an exit tunnel to the surface. Once they emerge on the surface they crawl to the nearest plant or bush and climb up onto it and attach themselves.

Here they moult for the final time splitting open the skin and struggling out from their old skin leaving just a husk behind. Once free of their old skin blood is pumped into their new wings and they remain there until their wings dry and harden.

Cicada Husks

Not too long ago the countryside around where I live was littered with these husks we bought one of these husks still attached to the twig home where we photographed it.

Here are the photographs of the Cicada husk, just look at how detailed the husk is you can even the hairs on its legs.

Cicada Husks

Then the cycle begins all over again. Well I hope that you have enjoyed learning something about this fascinating insect I know I did.

Insect Based Hubs

If you enjoyed this Hub you might like my other insect based Hubs.

  • The Life Cycle of the Dragonfly - In this hub I want to look at the life cycle of the Dragonfly and I suppose that the best place to start is at the very beginning. This is where it all begins;
  • The Cicada - The Cicada is a member of the order Homoptera and the noise that just one of these creatures can make is amazing. The name cicada actually comes from the Latin word for buzzer. It is the male of this species that makes the loud clicking and buzzing noise by vibrating membranes on their abdomens.
  • The Caterpillar of the Pine Processionary Moth - In the area of Spain where I live there is a pesky little critter that is a real nuisance at this time of year it is the caterpillar of the Pine Processionary Moth.


More by this Author


Comments 46 comments

justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Good hub Maggs, here in the midwest of the u.s. we get an infestation if cicada's every 17 years and I absolutely love it. I think they're pretty cool looking and get a major kick out of everyone's reaction to them. Some walk down the street holding their ears and I've even seen others carrying a tennis racket to try to swat them away!! Love the pix! Peace!! Tom


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

HI Tom thanks for your kind comments I am glad that you liked the photos. I don't think our cicadas are the 17 year variety we seem to get them every year and not in the great numbers that seem to occur when they are of the 17 year variety.


Seakay profile image

Seakay 5 years ago from Florida

When I first moved to Florida, I couldn't figure out what the noise was outside our house. A neighbor told me it was a cicada. Not as annoying as those mole crickets.

Liked you Hub! Not so much the pictures(although appropriate for the hub!) I'm more of a stuffed animal, happy ending reader! LOL


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Seakay, I have never heard of Mole Crickets so I hopped right over to YouTube to see what they look like. I saw right away why they are called Mole Crickets, destructive little beggars aren’t they. I couldn’t hear any noise from the critter in the videos I looked at, do they make a noise?

Glad you liked the Hub for this cicada there was a happy ending as he was released back to a nearby tree after we had finished photographing him.

Thanks for leaving a comment and thanks for introducing me to a new critter.


Georgina_writes profile image

Georgina_writes 5 years ago from Dartmoor

Great info on cicadas. Personally, I love their noise as they remind me of warm summer mediterranean nights (we don't have those on Dartmoor), yet i didn't know much about them before. Thank you. Rating up and following.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Maggs,

great piece, we called them Locust and I still do. In their season they are quite loud here in the desert. I suppose they are the every year variety. I mainly see there empty shells, 50


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

You wrote such a great, detailed and informative hub. Thank you Maggs. The videos very fantastic.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Georgina, thank you so much for your kind comments. I don’t mind the noise that the Cicadas make unless there are a few of them then the noise can be really loud.

You live in a lovely part of the country and you have lots there that we don’t have here Lol…


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Dusty, I saw that Cicadas were also called locust, though when you say the word locust they are not what springs to my mind. I was very pleased with how my photos of the empty Cicada husks turned out. Some that I tried to take out in the countryside didn’t turn out half as good.

With that 17-year variety of cicadaI am not sure if that is a rolling 17 years where each year you get cicadas but each current years nymph has spent the previous 17 years underground. Or if you get a whole lot of Cicadas one year then you don’t see another Cicada for another 17 years.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Hello, thanks for the kind comment I am glad that you found the hub informative and I hope interesting. Looking at some of the videos on YouTube has inspired me to have a go with my video camera at some point. Lots of time by the time I have my still camera ready to shoot the insect has flown off or I can’t get it into focus. At least with a video you can follow the action.


Candie V profile image

Candie V 5 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Hahaha! I buzz when I'm squeezed too!!

These pictures are amazing (voted thusly)! The wings are indescribably beautiful and your pictures are always perfect! Thank you Maggs! I've heard they really raise a racket, but we don't have them in this part of the country. This was great!


you suggest one profile image

you suggest one 5 years ago from NOTTINGHAM ENGLAND

Once again maggs a very interesting hub,Iwish I had the patience to study the things you do,but then it would never do for all of us to be the same,but I do love the way mother nature reveals her secrets to those willing to ask,take care.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Candie now you have planted a picture in my mind that I am going to find hard to shift Lol...

Nice to see your name in my comments you are one of my favourite people here on Hubpages and I always get a buzz out of seeing you.

If we ever do meet in the flesh I will give you a hug and then we will buzz together Lol...


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi You Suggest One, Thank you for your kind comments they are so encouraging and appreciated. Maggs


2uesday profile image

2uesday 5 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

Fantastic hub on the Cicada. I became curious about the noise they made while holidaying in Greece. We do no have them in the UK so I guess it is not warm enough for them here. I have only ever seen one and then did not get close enough to see the detail that your photos reveal. I do think the wings are beautiful for such an ugly bug. Thank you for such an interesting read.


Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 5 years ago from Vermont, USA

Maggs,

Those are some great photos of a very elusive creature.

As a child I was always told the sound of the cicada was the harbinger of a particularly hot day here in Vermont. And the weather seemed to bear it out.

It was not until many years later that I actually saw the creature that could make such an extraordinary racket.

Reading your hub it occurred to me how very alike I am to the cicada...only mating on their minds, selective hearing and quite photogenic in a kinda cute-pug-ugly sorta way.

Thanks for practicing catch and release...good karma.

CP


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi 2uesday, yes the wings are very pretty but you are right the bug is ugly. Thank you for your kind comments and I am glad that you enjoyed the hub.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Christopher

I am glad that you liked the photos and I sure can see the resemblance especially the cute sorta way bit. Lol… : )


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 5 years ago from Tucson, Az

wonderful hub and your photography makes me quite envious!! I also get out of focus or chop the heads off my subjects (my dad always did too lol)

here in Tucson we know that summer is half over when the locusts sing and all the husks are found...my cat named Dog loves to catch them... gross/love to you!! barbara b


debbiesdailyviews profile image

debbiesdailyviews 5 years ago

Hi maggs... I have never heard of this before now.

I didn't dare click on the video as I am scared stiff of wasps, and the like,

However, I wanted to excpress my view on your Hub, which was very interesting. And informative.

I especialy enjoyed the photography, the photos are fantastic.

I realise this species isn't like a wasp, but the look of it worries me.

What I intend to do is use this to help cure me ready for next yrs influx.

It is so well written in any case, I would like to pop back and read once again.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Barbara, hope that you and yours are all well and that you are still enjoying your new job. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. It always makes my day to see your name in my comment box. Glad that you like the Hub and the photos. The husks are really something aren’t they?


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Debbie, I am glad that you found this Hub interesting and that you enjoyed looking at the photos. The Cicada in the photographs came into my home and hit my husband on the head. I am sure that if it had hit my head instead of his it would have freaked me out more than a little.

I love macro photography and I think that my desire to get close enough to take a photograph of the critters really helps me to overcome some of my squeamishness around critters. Lol…


debbiesdailyviews profile image

debbiesdailyviews 5 years ago

That's exactly why I'm going to eventually click on the vids...

When I read that gigantic BAT hahahaha hit your Husband on the head in your Hub, I actually cringed reading it.

I would have freaked out!

Thank you for paying me a visit, and for leaving comments, I appreciate it, : }


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Debbie, I brought both my children up not to be freaked out by creepy crawlies and encouraged them to handle bugs beetles frogs etc. So these types of little critters don’t bother them much at all.

I am ok with some things but others still really freak me out like this Cicada which is really like a huge fly Lol..


Perry Wang 5 years ago

That was such an ugly dog


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

You are right Perry the Cicada is an ugly looking critter.


rwelton profile image

rwelton 5 years ago from Sacramento CA

I remember swarms when I was a kid that was like a cloud. Very informative.

rw


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi rwelton I am glad that you found the hub informative thank you for leaving a comment I appreciate it very much.


IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 5 years ago from UK

Great hub, Maggs! I've heard the cicadas in summer but didn't know much about them - loads of really interesting info here!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Izzy, thanks for the comments, it is unbelievable just how much noise just one of these little critters can make isn't it.

They look so different to what I thought they would look like I expected them to be more grasshopper like.

How are things up the mountain? Hope you have a great year this year, the winter has been kind to us up to now so we are off to a good start. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

This is an amazing Hub about an amazing creature. I enjoy the buzzing of Cicadas myself. I think it is cool. Thanks for the good read.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi James thanks for the kind comments I appreciate them very much.

The sound always reminds me of science fiction films in the 50's and 60's there always seemed to be some circadas and crickets on the sound track somewhere.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Wow stuff you have here. :)

Thought you might like to see this from our area:

http://www.wsoctv.com/news/27534692/detail.html


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

RTalloni, you were right I did like to seeing this from your area, now that is a scary photograph of a circada thanks for the link and thaks for leaving the comment :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

What a fine write up about cicadas Maggs! I love your photos too!

I have a hub about bugs in my garden but was never able to catch a cicada so I could not include it there. I'm happy to you wrote wonderfully about it.

Rated up and useful!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Jill of all trades thank for your very kind comments and for hitting the rate up and useful buttons I appreciate you doing that very much.

I am so sorry that I have taken so long to respond but I have no internet access at home at the moment and I am waiting for Telephonica to come and give me a line they say it should be no later than September. Spain and Telephonica move to the beat of a different drum :(


Snurre profile image

Snurre 5 years ago

Amazing hub, Maggie! So much information, yet so easy to read. And great photos of the cicada!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks Lizzy I am so glad that you liked it :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Outstanding Hub and photos! I voted it UP, etc.etc. We have these in S. Fl. but I never saw one this close up.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you Mary for your lovely comment it has made my day I am so pleased that you liked the photographs. Also thanks for the voting up I really appreciate you doing that :D


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 3 years ago from Minnesota

maggs-this is such a well written article on the Cicada. I think they are so cool looking. I get these things in my yard in the summer and usually take photo's and upload them on redgage. I too did a hub on Cicada's and Katydid's. There is just something fascinating about these unique insects. I love love love, your photo's. They are amazing! Voted up and hit many buttons my friend.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you Linda so much for your lovely comments I am so pleased that you liked the photographs.

I will have to come look to see what a Katydid is I hope you have photographs as I am not sure what they are.

I love insects I find them fascinating to watch and to photograph. I have been out today and I actually got some shots of bees in late January, mind you the temperature was 74 degrees so it is no wonder that they are still about.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 3 years ago from Minnesota

I am so envious of your lovely temps. I can't imagine seeing a bee in Minnesota in January. Yes, I do have pictures of the Katydid. They look like sticks and are also very fascinating and unique. The Katydid got it's name because the noise they make sounds like their saying, "Katy Did." How cool is that factoid. LOL


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

I have so enjoyed your hub Linda, thank you for your introduction to the Katydid I had not heard of this little critter before and how it got its name is a really cool factoid :D


erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

Miss maggs224, I like your article on The Cicada. It is amazing how this creature makes a big sound for a long time. Thank you for a nature's hub.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 2 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

erorantes thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, I am sorry that my response has taken so long, I have not been spending much time on Hubpages just lately as I have been busy elsewhere on the internet.

I am so pleased that you enjoyed the Hub, and you are right they do make a big noise.

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