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The Song of the Cicada

Updated on May 10, 2013

Did you hear that sound? I SAID DID YOU HEAR THAT SOUND?? You probably didn't hear me the first time. The Cicadas are a chirping ana humming so loud I cannot hear myself think. The sound of one cicada starts then another joins in and then another and another and then nothing! Silence! I know that cicada sound well and what it means to me is that summer is comming to an end. I can set on my porch swing and listen to them and know I had better appreciate the warm days ahead of me.

But what of these curious bugs who announce the coming of autumn. Why do they wait so long to appear and what are they about?

A typical cicada can be one inch long
A typical cicada can be one inch long

Cicadas are really a cool bug. If you are not a bug person than you probably run in terror if one where to land too closely to you. Cicadas are large which makes them unique! They are about one to two inches long and have three eyes actually. But there is no need to be afraid of them as Cicadas cannot bite a person, not matter what the Sci-Fy channel says!

I had always thought the cicada was a locust. Although Cicada are called locusts they are not related to the locust at all. It is more related to the leaf hoppers. The Cicada's are also known as "Dry Flies" inference to the hard shell they leave behind. Cicada's Latin name means "buzzer" for obvious reasons

The Cicada Life Cycle
The Cicada Life Cycle

The Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas spend their younger years under ground as Nymphs. The feed on the juices of roots until may or June. The then borrow out of the ground construction little chimneys three inches high. They will make their way onto vegetation and molt. Usually the cicadas will cling to tree bark and shed there exoskeletons. Once the emerge form the shell they will be in their adult stage with wings. Often Cicadas make their appearance in groups.

Then the singing begins. The singing chirping buzzing sound is to attract the opposite sex. Once the cicada is ready to lay her eggs she will lay them in the tree bark as many as 500 total eggs. She will plant them in the tree bark dozen at a  time in nearly fifty sites. It will take the eggs nearly 10 weeks to hatch. When the eggs hatch the tiny speck of a bug will emerge from the tree bark and drop to the ground. They will burrow deep in the ground until they mature over the next two years. Then they will emerge in the Spring and the cycle start all over again. The Adult cicadas can live up ot five or six weeks.

The seventeen year Cicadas will emerge from the ground in 17 years. These type of Cicadas are known as periodical Cicadas.

Australian green cicada
Australian green cicada

The periodical Cicadas are grouped into broods. Keep in mind that every year a group of 17 year cicada are emerging. You may remember a few years back people were predicting the worse ever infestation of Cicadas. Last years brood was Brood XIV. This Years brood of periodical Cicadas will be fifteen. Periodical cicadas look a little different than your annual cicada. Annual Cicada may have green markings on them and be larger than the 17 year cicada. The Annual cicada is also referred to a s a Dog Day Cicada, in reference to the hot end of summer days.

If the experts are correct 2013 will be the year of the cicada along the eastern United States. "swarmageddon" as it is now nicknamed is supposed to stretch from Connecticut to North Carolina. North Carolina is already reporting a locust on every blade of grass.

17 year Cicada life cycle

Cicada emerging from shell
Cicada emerging from shell

The Song

 The cicada song is produced by a vibration from Timbals located on the sides of their abdomen. Interestingly enough only the males can make that sound.  The males abdomen is bassically hollow so the the membrane can be vibrated to create a louder sound.  Cicadas love the heat and will sing in the hottest hours of the day!  Each species of Cicada has its distinctive song.  The males are also noted to be able to make a squawking sound which may be used to thwart away predators.

Cicada uses

Uses? what uses could this giant bug have? Cicadas are a delicacy in some countries. The female cicadas are favorite due to to being meatier. The people of the Congo, Africa and Latin America and Ancient Greece enjoyed them as a a snack. In China the Cicada was used in some medicines.

In the Ecosystem the cicadas have been found to be beneficial to  the growth of plants on the forest floor.  Cicadas ".directly increase microbial biomass and nitrogen availabilityin forest soils, with indirect effects on growth and reproductionin forest plants. "

I have used cicadas before as a fishing lure.  The bass seem to like them ;)

Cicadas are beneficial!

 So As I have stated before Cicadas have no harmful effect on the community. The most damage they may do is during the egg laying season there may be some harm to some trees.  They do not bite or sting.  They do not cuase damage to plants. They are just large and look a little intimidating.  But take a closer look, they will let you really!  Go out to your tree  and see if you can spot any sign of molting.  No doubt they have made their presences known with their loud and wonderful song. And thank them for reminding you to appreciate the rest of the warm weather.


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    • profile image

      Sasha 6 years ago

      Does anyone else feel bugs crawling on their skin after watching the videos ?? lol

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      We had the 17 year cicada invasion here last year and it was freaky. It was like being surrounded by aliens!!! Great Hub.

    • marshall92 profile image

      marshall92 8 years ago

      Cicadas, though interesting, are very annoying in my opinion! Hearing their song once or twice is enough. Great hub!

    • E. A. Wright profile image

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Cicadas remind me that I'm living back East again...

    • Jess Killmenow profile image

      Jess Killmenow 8 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

      The song of the cicada means summer to me. Thanks for this article.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      I enjoy them, but when they come enmass it can be almost deafening. Of course the cats love them too and it is entertaining watching the various creatures as they feast on them.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      I love the song of the cicada's. It always reminds me of peaceful days and lazy evenings. Thanks for all the information on these harmonious insects! :D

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 8 years ago from Wv

      I don't think they would be very good either Mighty Mom.. But fish sometimes like them!

      Dohn121, I found a bit of an answer to your question and included it under Cicada uses...

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Before I didn't know better and upon seeing a cicada on its back and on the street as a kid, I'd flip them right side up--only to watch as they would go right on their backs again! I take it that these particular cicada were on their way out. I'd like to know what they do, as far as their role in the ecosystem...Thanks!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Well thanks for the entomology lesson! That's actually quite fascinating -- especially the 17 year cicadas!

      I love Fall so always welcome the song of the cicadas.

      Don't think I could stomach them as a snack, tho!