Cicadas are part of the Order Hemiptera (formallyof the order: Homoptera) that consists of 82,000 categorized species around the globe. 12,000 of these species are found in North America alone. Cicadas belong to the same order as “True Bugs” but are differentiated by their rigid mouthparts that attach to the back of the head instead of the front (as in True Bugs). When cicadas emerge it is usually in vast numbers. This trait itself could be considered a defense mechanism against predators. “If an enemy’s stomach is full of your friends, he will not feel the need to try and eat you.”
Fully grown cicadas mostly feed on sap from plant sources while their nymphs feed on fruit, pollen, flowers and seeds. Adult Cicadas themselves are a prime targets for birds and some human cultures consider some species delicacies. Cicada larva begin life underground and their rate of maturity varies. “Seventeen Year Cicada” is an example of one such grouping. After mating, eggs are deposited by the female in the branches of trees and several hundred eggs may be laid. Cicada larva spend most of their early lives underground. From there, the flightless Cicada eventually emerges to the surface and comes to rest on the bark of a nearby tree, deck post, or similar structure. The Cicada then molts from its original “skin” and, at this point gains a set of wings. They make for relatively clumsy flyers.
Cicadas are known for their variable pitch whines (stridulation) in the spring and summertime months, usually around trees and forests. This call is the male’s attempt to attract females and this “singing” usually takes place during daylight hours. The singing is accomplished by way of “tymbals” found on the sides of the abdomen. There are several major types of Cicada including the Periodical Cicada (the “Seventeen-Year Cicada”) and the Grand Western Cicada (the largest of all Cicada). Periodical Cicadas are further broken down into seven species under the genus Magicicada. Of this group of seven at least four groups are known to span approximately thirteen years to maturity and the rest are of the seventeen-year variety. Periodical Cicadas are found in all states east of the Mississippi River and are a common summertime presence. Annual Cicadas tend to share shorter maturity times. In these Annual Cicadas adulthood can be reached in as little as five years. As such, it is not uncommon to have several generations of these Cicada types overlapping in a single year.