Cicadidae is one of two families of cicadas (order Hemiptera) which includes an estimated 2500 described species in three subfamilies and many others yet to be described, found in temperate to tropical climates on every continent in the world except Antarctica (Wikipedia 2013; Ramel 2013). The other cicada family is the primitive Australian Tettigarctidae (hairy cicadas), which contains two extant species. Most closely related to leaf, tree, and plant hoppers, cicadas are large singing insects, often colloquially called locusts (this is incorrect, as locusts are species of swarming grasshoppers, but because the periodical cicadas -see below- emerge in such number they were interpreted as locusts by early American settlers, an error which has continued to the present). The males have structures called tymbals on their abdomens with which they produce species-specific "songs"; females do not sing, but can make clicking noises with their wings. Cicadas spend most of their lives in larval form (called nymphs). Depending on the species the nymphs live up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) below ground, feeding on plant sap from roots, which they pierce with their long proboscis. In the nymphs' final developmental stage, they dig their way to the surface with powerful digging legs, pull themselves up to a plant stem, and molt into an adult with prominent eyes and clear wings. They leave behind a very recognizable larval casing, with the slit on the dorsal side from whence the adult emerged clearly visible. After molting, the adults mate and females lay hundreds of eggs in slits they cut into tree bark. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow.
Cidadas are quite diverse in looks and behaviors. Most adults are between 2 to 5 cm (0.79–2.0 in) in length, although Asian species in the genera Pomponia, Megapomponia, and Tagua measure 4.7-7 cm (1.8-2.8 inches) in total length, with the largest species (the empress cicada) reaching a 20 cm (8 inch) wingspan. Most cicada species live for 2-8 years as larvae with individuals erupting from the ground every year (annual cicadas). However the seven well-known species of periodical cicadas (Magicicada), found only in North America, precisely synchronize their development so that almost all individuals in the same geographic area emerge as “broods” in the same year, either as 13 or 17 year cycles. These prime-year, large-scale emergences are thought to be adaptations to overwhelm predators (a phenomenon termed “predator satiation”). Periodical cicadas can hatch in enormous numbers of up to 1.5 million individual per acre, over large areas along the eastern seaboard and west to Kansas.
Cicadas are eaten around the world by many cultures and different animals, used in traditional medicines in Asia, and surface in many stories and customs. While a cicada might mistake you for a food source and try to poke you with its proboscis, these insects do not sting or bite and pose no danger to humans.
(Simon 2013; Ramel 2013; Wikipedia 2013)
- Simon, C. 2013. Cicada central. University of Connecticut. Retrieved July 25, 2013 from http://hydrodictyon.eeb.uconn.edu/projects/cicada/cc.php
- Ramel, G. 2013. The Singing Cicadas. Retrieved July 25, 2013 from http://www.earthlife.net/insects/cicadidae.html
- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 19 July 2013. Cicada. Retrieved July 25, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cicada&oldid=564866623
Cicadas are found all around the world. They are most diverse in warm regions. We have about 10 species in Michigan.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native )
Cicadas are large, stout insects. They have round bulging eyes on the corners of their heads, and short, bristly antennae. They have sucking mouthparts that attach at the base of their head.
Adults have four wings that they hold folded over their backs like the roof of a house. They also have special panels on the sides of their bodies called "tymbals." They vibrate these very fast to make loud sounds.
Young cicadas are called nymphs. They have no wings, and their front legs have thick claws for burrowing.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Cicadas need trees or large woody bushes to feed on when they are nymphs, and soil that is not too wet. They are found in habitats that have warm summers (at least) and these kinds of plants and soil.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Cicadas spend most of their lives sucking juice from the roots of trees. The adults may also suck plant juices from stems.
Pretty much any animal that eats insects will eat a cicada if it can catch one. Cicadas don't have many defenses. Nymphs hide deep in the soil. Adults will fly from danger if they can, and if caught make a very loud buzzing sound that may surprise predators. When millions of cicadas emerge at once, they overwhelm their predators: there are so many that the predators can't eat them all, and many cicadas survive.
- large Araneae
- Soricidae (eat nymphs)
- Mephitis mephitis (eat nymphs)
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
Adult cicadas communicate mainly with sound. Males and female exchange signals, and males will signal to other males too.
Newly-hatched cicadas climb or drop down to the ground from the branch their egg was in. They burrow into the ground and start feeding on the plant juices in roots. As they grow they shed their exoskeleton several times. They sometimes spend many years in the soil before they are finished growing. For some species it takes 13 years, others take 17, and some take less, but nobody knows exactly how long.
When they are mature, they climb out of the ground and complete one final molt. They emerge as an adult cicada with wings, and fly away to find a mate. Once they become an adult they stop growing and do not molt again.
Some of the species that take 13 or 17 years all come out of the ground at one time. There can be millions of adult cicadas flying around at that time.
Some species live for 13 or 17 years and all emerge at once. Some come out every year, but nobody knows how long they spend in the ground. Probably at least 3 years.
After mating, females lay eggs in the bark of small twigs. They can each lay dozens of eggs.
Breeding season: Summer
Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
Species in the Cicada family don't take care of their offspring.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimen Records: 2216
Specimens with Sequences: 1694
Specimens with Barcodes: 1335
Species With Barcodes: 397
Public Records: 1050
Public Species: 177
Public BINs: 164
We don't know of any cicada species that are endangered. Some species may be threatened by the destruction of forests.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Cicadas don't have strong effects on humans one way or another. They can be a nuisance when there are millions of them, and then the sometimes damage the branches of trees when they lay eggs, but usually they don't affect people too much. Some people think they bite or sting, but this is not true.
Cicadas (// or //) are insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha (which was formerly included in the now invalid suborder Homoptera). Cicadas are in the superfamily Cicadoidea. Their eyes are prominent, though not especially large, and set wide apart on the anterior lateral corners of the frons. The wings are well-developed, with conspicuous veins; in some species the wing membranes are wholly transparent, whereas in many others the proximal parts of the wings are clouded or opaque and some have no significantly clear areas on their wings at all. About 2,500 species of cicada have been described, and many remain to be described. Cicadas live in temperate-to-tropical climates where they are among the most-widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and unique sound. Cicadas are often colloquially called locusts, although they are unrelated to true locusts, which are various species of swarming grasshopper. Cicadas are related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs.
Cicadas are benign to humans under normal circumstances and do not bite or sting in a true sense, but may mistake a person's arm or other part of their body for a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed. Cicadas have long proboscises under their heads which they insert into plant stems in order to feed on sap. Bites can be painful if a cicada attempts to pierce a person's skin, but they are unlikely to cause other harm. Bites are unlikely to be a defensive reaction and are rare, usually occurring when a cicada is allowed to rest on a person's body for an extended amount of time.
Many people around the world regularly eat cicadas. They are known to have been eaten in Ancient Greece as well as China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America, and the Congo. Female cicadas are prized for being meatier. Shells of cicadas are employed in the traditional medicines of China.
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The name is a direct derivation of the Latin cicada, meaning "tree cricket". There is no word of proper English, or indeed Germanic, etymology for the insect. In ancient Greek, it was called a tettix, and in modern Greek tzitzikas—both names being onomatopoeic.
Cicadas are arranged into two families: Tettigarctidae (q.v.) and Cicadidae. There are two extant species of Tettigarctidae, one in southern Australia, and the other in Tasmania. The family Cicadidae is subdivided into the subfamilies Cicadinae, Tettigadinae, and Cicadettinae, and they exist on all continents except Antarctica. Some previous works also included a family-level taxon called the Tibiceninae.
There are some 200 species in 38 genera in Australia, about 450 in Africa, about 100 in the Palaearctic, and only one species in England, the New Forest cicada, Melampsalta montana, widely distributed throughout Europe. There are about 150 species in South Africa.
Most of the North American species are in the genus Tibicen: the annual or jar fly or dog-day cicadas (so named because they emerge in late July and August).  The best-known North American genus is Magicicada, however. These periodical cicadas have an extremely long life cycle of 13 or 17 years and emerge in large numbers. Another American species is the Apache cicada, Diceroprocta apache.
Australian cicadas are found on tropical islands and cold coastal beaches around Tasmania; in tropical wetlands; high and low deserts; alpine areas of New South Wales and Victoria; large cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane; and Tasmanian highlands and snowfields.
Forty-two species from five genera populate New Zealand, and all are endemic to New Zealand and the surrounding islands (Norfolk Island, New Caledonia). Many New Zealand cicada species differ from those of other countries by being found high up on mountain tops.
The adult insect, known as an imago, is 2 to 5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) in total length in most species, although the largest, the Empress cicada, has a head-body length of about 7 centimetres (2.8 in) and its wingspan is 18 to 20 centimetres (7–8 in). Cicadas have prominent eyes set wide apart on the sides of the head, short antennae protruding between or in front of the eyes, and membranous front wings. Also, commonly overlooked, cicadas have three small eyes, or ocelli, located on the top of the head between the two large eyes that match the colour of the large eyes.
Physiology and adaptations
Some species of desert cicadas such as Diceroprocta apache are unusual among insects in that they have been shown to cool themselves by evaporative cooling, analogous to sweating in mammals. When their temperature rises above about 39 °C (102 °F) they suck excess sap from the food plants and extrude the excess water through pores in the tergum, at a modest cost in energy. Such a rapid loss of water can only be sustained by feeding on water rich xylem sap. At lower temperatures, feeding cicadas would normally need to excrete the excess water. By evaporative cooling desert cicadas can reduce their bodily temperature by some 5°C (9°F).
Some non-desert cicada species such as Magicicada tredecem also cool themselves by such a mechanism, but less dramatically.
Conversely, many other cicadas can voluntarily raise their body temperatures as much as 22.1 °C (39.8 °F) above ambient temperature.
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The "singing" of male cicadas is not stridulation such as many familiar species of insects produce — for example crickets. Instead male cicadas have a noisemaker called a tymbal below each side of the anterior abdominal region. The tymbals are structures of the exoskeleton formed into complex membranes with thin, membranous portions and thickened ribs. Contraction of internal muscles buckles the tymbals inwards, producing a click; on relaxation of the muscles the tymbals return to their original position, producing another click. The male abdomen is largely hollow, and acts as a sound box. By rapidly vibrating these membranes a cicada combines the clicks into apparently continuous notes, and enlarged chambers derived from the tracheae serve as resonance chambers, with which it amplifies the sound. The cicada also modulates the song by positioning its abdomen toward or away from the substrate. Partly by the pattern in which it combines the clicks, each species produces its own distinctive mating songs and acoustic signals, ensuring that the song attracts only appropriate mates.
Average temperature of the natural habitat for the South American species Fidicina rana is approximately 29 °C (84 °F). During sound production, the temperature of the tymbal muscles was found to be significantly higher. Cicadas sing most actively in hot weather and do their most spirited singing during the hotter hours of a summer day, in a roughly 24 hour cycle.
Although only males produce the cicadas' distinctive sound, both sexes have tympana, membranous structures by which they detect sounds. They are the cicadas' equivalent of ears. Males disable their own tympana while calling, thereby preventing damage to their hearing; this is necessary partly because some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB (SPL), among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. The song is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans should the cicada sing just outside the listener's ear. In contrast, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans.
To the human ear, and presumably to some predators, it often is difficult to tell where a cicada song is coming from; the pitch is nearly constant, the song sounds continuous to the human ear, and cicadas sing in scattered groups. If a singing male becomes alarmed on the approach of a possible enemy, it softens its song so that the attention of the listener gets distracted to neighbouring louder singers, creating a confusing ventriloqual effect.
In addition to the mating song, many species have a distinct distress call, usually a broken and erratic sound that the insect emits when seized or panicked; at the same time it is likely to squirt waste liquid from the sap that it had been sucking, possibly distracting certain classes of attacker. Some species also have courtship songs, generally quieter, and produced after a female has been drawn by the calling song. Males also produce encounter calls, whether in courtship or to maintain personal space within choruses. 
Cicadas live underground as nymphs for most of their lives, at depths ranging from about 30 centimetres (0.98 ft) down to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft). The nymphs feed on xylem sap from roots and have strong front legs for digging.
In the final nymphal instar, they construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge. They then molt (shed their skins) on a nearby plant for the last time and emerge as adults. The exuvia, or abandoned exoskeleton, remains, still clinging to the bark of trees.
After mating, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig, and into these she deposits her eggs. She may do so repeatedly, until she has laid several hundred eggs. When the eggs hatch, the newly hatched nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow. Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts from two to five years. Some species have much longer life cycles, such as the North American genus, Magicicada, which has a number of distinct "broods" that go through either a 17-year or, in some parts of the world, a 13-year life cycle. These long life cycles perhaps developed as a response to predators, such as the cicada killer wasp and praying mantis. A predator with a shorter life cycle of at least two years could not reliably prey upon the cicadas.
Cicada nymphs suck sap from the xylem of various species of tree, including oak, cypress, willow, ash, and maple. While it is common folklore that adults do not eat, in reality they do have their own sucking mouthparts, and also drink plant sap.
Cicadas are commonly eaten by birds, and sometimes by squirrels, but Massospora cicadina (a fungal disease) is the biggest enemy of cicadas. Another known predator is the cicada killer wasp. In eastern Australia, the native freshwater fish Australian bass are keen predators of cicadas that crash-land on the surface of streams.
Some species of cicada also have an unusual defense mechanism to protect themselves from predation, known as predator satiation: because so many emerge at once, the number of cicadas in any given area exceeds the amount predators can eat; all available predators are thus satiated, and the remaining cicadas can breed in peace.
Cicadas in Australia
Around 220 cicada species have been identified in Australia, many of which go by common names such as: cherry nose, brown baker, red eye (Psaltoda moerens), greengrocer/green monday, yellow monday, whisky drinker, double drummer (Thopha saccata), and black prince. The Australian greengrocer, Cyclochila australasiae, is among the loudest insects in the world.
Being principally tropical insects, most Australian species are found in the northern states. However, cicadas occur in almost every part of Australia: the hot wet tropical north, dry deserts, the Tasmanian snowfields, and Victorian beaches and sand dunes. Some species, such as the Greengrocer, are not restricted to coastal or desert zones in Victoria. Each year for a period of a few weeks, an astonishing number of mature Greengrocer cicadas emerge from the ground. Their numbers, combined with the almost ear-shattering noise produced by a single adult male, are sufficient to make their entrance throughout suburbia absolutely unmistakable and "Cicada Season", as some Victorian residents know this time, is very noticeable, even in central business districts of major cities, where this species flourishes. According to Max Moulds of the Australian Museum in Sydney, "the 'Greengrocer' is unusual in its ability to adapt perfectly to the urbanised environment." Cicada sounds are a defining quality of Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra during late spring and the summer months.
Cicadas inhabit both native and exotic plants, including tall trees, coastal mangroves, suburban lawns, and desert shrubbery. The great variety of flora and climatic variation found in north-eastern Queensland results in its being the richest region for the spread of different species. The area of greatest species diversity is a 100 km (60 mi) wide region around Cairns. In some areas, they are preyed on by the cicada killer wasp (Exeirus lateritius), which stings and stuns cicadas high in the trees, making them drop to the ground where the cicada-hunter mounts and carries them, pushing with its hind legs, sometimes over a distance of a hundred meters, until they can be shoved down into its burrow, where the numb cicada is placed onto one of many shelves in a "catacomb", to form the food-stock for the wasp grub that grows out of the egg deposited there.
The cicada has represented insouciance since classical antiquity. Jean de La Fontaine began his collection of fables Les fables de La Fontaine with the story La Cigale et la Fourmi (The Cicada and the Ant) based on one of Aesop's fables: in it the cicada spends the summer singing while the ant stores away food, and finds herself without food when the weather turns bitter.
In 2004, "cicada" ranked 6th in Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year.
The cicada is used as the symbol for the group known as Cicada 3301.
In America, the mariachi song "La Cigarra" (lit. "The Cicada") romanticises the insect as a creature that sings until it dies.
In China, the phrase "to shed off the golden cicada skin"(金蝉脱壳, pinyin: jīnchán tuōqiào) is the poetic name of the tactic of using deception to escape danger, specifically of using decoys (leaving the old shell) to fool enemies. It became one of the 36 classic Chinese strategems. In the Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (14th century), Diaochan also got her name from the sable (diāo) tails and jade decorations in the shape of cicadas (chán), which at the time adorned the hats of high-level officials. In the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West (16th century), the protagonist Priest of Tang was named the Golden Cicada; in this context the multiple shedding of shell of the cicada symbolizes the many stages of transformation required of a person before all illusions have been broken and one reaches enlightenment. This is also referred to in Japanese mythical ninja lore, as the technique of utsusemi (i.e., literally cicada), where ninjas would trick opponents into attacking a decoy.
In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. The songs of the cicada are often used in Japanese film and television to indicate the scene is taking place in the summer. The song of Meimuna opalifera, called "tsuku-tsuku boshi", is said to indicate the end of summer, and it is called so because of its particular call. During the summer, it is a pastime for children to collect both cicadas and the shells left behind when moulting.
Since the cicada emerges from the ground to sing every summer, in Japan it is seen as a symbol of reincarnation. Furthermore, the cicada moults, leaving behind an empty shell, but since the cicada lives for only a short time, long enough to attract a mate with its song and complete the process of fertilization, they are seen as a symbol of evanescence.
In the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, the title character poetically likens one of his many love interests to a cicada for the way she delicately sheds her scarf the way a cicada sheds its shell when molting. A cicada shell also plays a role in the manga Winter Cicada. They are also a frequent subject of haiku, wherein, depending on type, they can indicate spring, summer, or fall.
Javanese version of cycle of months, called pranata mangsa, uses cicadas sound as an indicator of the beginning of dry season (April–May). Farmers who still depend on rain irrigation will interpret this as time for planting of non-rice crops.
Cicadas play a major role in the short story collection, The Society On Da Run: Dragons and Cicadas. They are sacred to dragons and are worshipped as gods.
In the Ancient Greek myth, Tithonus eventually turns into a cicada after being granted immortality, but not eternal youth, by Zeus. The Greeks also used a cicada sitting on a harp as emblematic of music.
In 2011, cicadas were incorporated into a single batch of ice cream in Columbia, Missouri at Sparky's. The ice creamery was advised by the public health department against making a second batch, a suggestion with which store owners complied. Other creative recipes include banana bread cicadas.
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