Cicadas: Eww, Yum, or Shh?

Byline: Marie Thomas

It’s the year for the cicada reemergence! After discussing ideas for the blog, one of my dear friends asked if I would give a little background on cicadas and then explain to her what all the fuss is about! Understanding facts about animals is a cool way to discover ideas and information. Who knows, maybe you’ll be a cicada keeper someday?!

Honestly, I did not know much about cicadas so this was a great learning experience for me too!

(photo courtesy of Discovery Education)

What exactly is a cicada? With a quick breeze look at the internet I found out that many people don’t know! Here are the straight facts: A cicada is an insect, commonly mistaken as a locust– which is ridiculous because they are two completely different types of insects. A cicada is related to the aphid (plant lice) and exists as one of two types: the annual and the periodical. The annual cicada has a life cycle that repeats every year (they breed and hatch annually) but the periodical cicada has a 13 or 17 year life cycle. It breeds, then the eggs spend their time maturing underground and then billions hatch in unison.

Cicadas have large eyes set wide apart and their wings are well-developed. Cicadas live in temperate-to-tropical climates and are usually recognized by their large size and unique sound.

But don’t worry! cicadas are harmless to people. They don’t bite or sting, but it can be shocking when one suddenly flies into your face! Your ears may not escape however, as cicadas have a very loud and shrill mating song!

Annual cicadas normally do not cause much damage but periodical cicadas can damage young trees above and below the ground. They develop underground by sucking the juices from roots of plants and after 13 or 17 years emerge when the soil temperature reaches a steady 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Soon after coming to the surface, the non-flying nymphs climb to any vertical surface and molt into winged adults, leaving the shells of the nymph stage behind.

Cicadas damage trees by laying their eggs in grooves that they cut in small twig-sized branches. This causes the twigs branches to split and die—a symptom called “flagging” which can be serious among young plants, cultivated crops, shrubs, and trees. They also cause damage by sucking the sap from the roots—feeding by cicadas will reduce plant growth and fruit production.

Adult cicadas only live for about 2 to 4 weeks and they feed sparingly. The main purpose for the emergence of cicadas is so the female cicadas can lay more eggs.

LIFE CYCLE OF CICADA (GIF)

Millions of cicadas are expected to be flying around in their adult stage by May and June. But, unfortunately, it seems this year the numbers of cicadas are fewer than they have been in the past.

5 CICADA FACTS:
1. Cicadas are edible. You can look at recipes online. Anyone want any Cicada tacos? I made lots!
2. Female cicadas are attracted to the sound of motors. So your dad, mom or older sibling may get swarmed while using the lawn mower or a power tool.
3. Cicadas improve lawns by digging tunnels that allow air into the soil. When they die, their decaying bodies put nitrogen into the soil.
4. In some countries cicadas are a symbol of rebirth.
5. A cicada’s mouth is long and thin like a beak. It works like a straw to suck the sap from plants.

If anyone else has any fun facts on Cicadas feel free to share in the Comments section!!

Search the videos on Cicada at Discovery Education. I suggest: The Life Cycle of Periodical Cicadas and the images of cicadas emerging from their exoskeletons!!

6 comments… add one

  • River May 24, 2013, 12:47 pm

    Wow thats just weird. I dont want all those things in my front yard!

    Reply
  • Max May 28, 2013, 2:05 am

    Wow! I wouldn’t THINK of eating a cicada taco! However, I used to have a pet turtle who really enjoyed eating them.

    Reply
  • Clare and Katie May 28, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Gross! I remember the last time the cicadas emerged!

    Reply
  • Jannita May 30, 2013, 2:42 am

    My vote is EWW… I have seen this before and they are everywhere. They covered my car!

    Reply
  • ritch May 30, 2013, 2:24 pm

    I would like to eat a cicada.Might taste good, never know

    Reply
  • Julian May 30, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Truely i think that cicadas are edible to many people.I also think that they are disgusting and horible.

    Reply

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