Technically classified as an insect, the cicada is from a order of insects called hemiptera. The name cicada literally means “tree cricket”. They are so named because of their habit of perching and emitting a loud incessant chirping.
A cicada has very large eyes which are set a great distance apart on their head. They have transparent wings with little veins which run through them.
Cicadas are a relative of the leafhopper insect as well as to spittlebugs. Around the world there are several thousand cicada species, with some of them still not yet classified.
Cicadas are not really a locust, although many people do call them that and are not considered to be a pest so far as eating greenery.
They do not sting nor do they bite, and are harmless to humans. In fact many people the world over make a meal of them. In ancient Greece cicadas were considered a very fine delicacy, and today they are still eaten in China, Australia and the Congo.
In Japanese culture cicadas are attributed with the power to heal, and they are used as parts of medicine to aid in hearing problems.
Cicadas are spread world wide in their population, only the types vary according to where they live.
There are just one species of Cicada in England, and one major species in America, however there are about 38 kinds in Australia and New Zealand and over 150 in Africa..
Adult cicadas are called imagines, are and are about 1 to 2 inches long. The males have a special place on their abdoment called a tymbal, which they use to make noise.
Cicadas don’t make noise like crickets do, rubbing two parts against each other, but instead use the tymbals, which are actually part of their exoskeleton, and are constructed much like a drum, a taut membrane that when vibrated emits the common sound.
Cicadas are one of the very loudest of the noise producing insects, however only the males can make sound, although both male and femal have the tympana. In females it is used to detect the sounds, and substitutes for normal ears.
One strange fact is that males of the cicadas, when they emit the louder sounds, will act as a very effective bird repelling device. When there are a great many cicadas in the area, they gather together and the birds will not appear, so they are protected.
The sound of the cicada is not used just for mating, but also changes slightly to produce a very distinct call when the cicada is in distress, such as when one of their numbers has been taken by a bird, or seized by another predatory insect.
Once mating has been completed, the female will cut a slice into the bark of a tree limb, and put her eggs there. She will place eggs there more than one time and sometimes lay as many as 150 eggs.
When the eggs hatch they drop onto the ground and burrow under it. Most of the time they stay under the earth they are nymphs, and dig about 4 feet deep.
During this time they eat the juice from roots, which they find by the use of their very strong front legs. They then exit the burrows to come out and molt, and are finally an adult. Many times we will find the shells of molted cicada on the bark of trees, or on fences or wooden porch rails.
Find out more about the Cicada over at Wikipedia »