Cicadas, which are also called Cicala or Cicale, are insects that come from the Hemiptera order, deriving from its suborder, Auchenorhyncha. Cicadas are also a member of the superfamily Cicadoidea. Cicadas are related to two insects you've probably heard about with leafhoppers and spittlebugs. Cicadas are also known to be called Locusts; however, they are in no way related to true Locusts.
There are different families Cicadas are arranged into: the first one being Tettigarctidae, and the second one being Cicadidae. Tettigarctidae is composed of two extant species, relevant to Australia and Tasmania. Cicadidae, which is subdivided into three subfamilies (Tettigadinae, Cicadettinae, and Cicadinae) all exist within every other continent except for Antarctica.
Cicadas have eyes that are prominent, but not overly large. They have a significant distance between their eyes. Their wings have visible veins. However, some species will possess wing veins that are completely transparent, while others will have certain areas of their wings that are clouded and opaque.
Cicadas possess long proboscises that are located under their heads. This is what they use to insert into plant stems, allowing Cicadas to feed on the sap. Other than being very painful, a Cicadas bite isn't known to cause any illnesses or transmit any viruses.
The sounds of Cicadas vary by species, with some possessing a more musical sound than others. They're best known for the buzzing and clicking noises they make, which can produce an overpowering hum. To humans, all of a Cicada's sounds may be similar. However, these insects use a variety of calls to express alarm or to interact with and attract their mates. Males specifically will produce their sound by the use of membranes that vibrate on their abdomen.
With over 200 species of Cicadas residing in Australia, there are about 150 species in South Africa with only one species throughout that of Europe.
The most common species of Cicadas in North America are those known as the Tibicen. Nicknamed the dog-day Cicada, these normally emerge during late July and August. Another known Cicada species in North America is the Magicicada, which are extremely long Cicadas that are capable of living from 13 to 17 years. They're also known to appear in large numbers. And lastly, another species you might find in North America is the Apache Cicada.
Cicadas can be found in tropical climates. It's within these climates they are most recognized out of all other insects because of their large size and distinct sound.
Australian Cicadas can also be found in tropical climates, as well as the colder coastal beaches that can be found in Tasmania.
A Cicada's diet is dependent on the sap of trees. Oak, maple, ash, trees of all sorts is what they'll turn to for food. This is their one main resource of food. They aren't known to include anything else within their diet.
While the lifespan of New Zealand Cicadas isn't known, it's safe to say that some species manage to survive underground as nymphs (babies) for as long as five years. North American species will live up to an incredible 17 years just a few weeks from emerging.
In essence, Cicadas will hibernate for 17 years, emerging for about four months.
For Cicadas, there are three major life cycles they go through: An annual cycle, which is what swamp Cicadas, will normally go through. The Periodical (emerges after 17 years) and Proto-Periodical lifecycle (emerges one year later or more) are what other species will experience.
Here is the typical life cycle of a 13-year Cicada (periodical lifecycle):
1. Eggs are laid by the female (which can be as much as 600)
2. Six to weeks later, those eggs will hatch, allowing nymphs to come to life. These will drop to the ground and immediately start feeding on sap from the tree roots. Nymphs will live underground for as long as 13 years.
3. Emerging takes place, between April and May. Nymphs will climb to the surface, crawling on trees to eventually shed their shell.
4. Cicadas will live above ground for a month. This is when males will start producing mating calls to attract any females that may be nearby.
Cicadas as Pests
Under normal circumstances, Cicadas are completely benign to humans. They neither bite nor sting. However, there is a possibility that Cicadas can mistake a person's arm or other parts for a tree limb or plant, causing them to attempt to feed. So if you are bitten or stung, it's probably unintentional.
Cicadas are capable of causing severe damage to crops, as well as trees and shrubs. Scarring will be left on tree branches, which is where females will lay their eggs.
Cicadas will inhabit plants that are both native and exotic. This includes tall trees, suburban lawns, desert shrub plantations, and coastal mangroves.
Preventing Cicada Damage
When Cicadas do emerge, apple trees, grapevines, and young trees are all susceptible to their damage. For those who own orchards or nurseries, it's recommended that planting should take place a year or two before they're expected to emerge.
Even when Cicadas are hibernating, they'll manage to feed on the roots of trees, which can result in stunting their growth.
Cover branches loosely with cheesecloth or some type of mesh cloth for a month during the emerging of Cicadas.
For young grapevines, cover the trunks with aluminum foil to keep nymphs from climbing up.
For all your pest and Cicada problems, call Alliance Pest Services, your local pest control expert to keep your home pest-free.