Cicadas - The Fascinating Lifecycle and Characteristics of Cicadas - 03/Apr/2024

Cicadas – The Fascinating Lifecycle and Characteristics of Cicadas – 03/Apr/2024

The Fascinating Lifecycle and Characteristics of Cicadas

Cicadas are known for their distinctive buzzing, which is a hallmark of warm weather in various parts of the world. Beyond their familiar serenade lies a fascinating life cycle and unique biological characteristics that both intrigue and inform the scientific community, as well as the general public. In this article, we will explore the life of cicadas, their environmental role, their cultural impact, and some interesting facts about these ubiquitous insects.

Cicadas: An Overview and Their Signature Sound

Cicadas are insects that belong to the order Hemiptera and are known for the loud call produced by male cicadas during mating season. This sound can be heard in the summer across continents like North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, with different species varying in their habitat distribution.

Life Cycle of Cicadas

The Different Types of Cicada Life Cycles

There are over 3,000 species of cicadas worldwide, and they are primarily categorized by their life cycle timing: annual or periodical. Annual cicadas emerge every year, whereas periodical cicadas mature in either 13 or 17-year life cycles.

Stages From Egg to Nymph

Cicadas undergo an incomplete metamorphosis involving three stages of development: egg, nymph, and adult. Female cicadas lay eggs on the branches of trees or shrubs; once hatched, the nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow into the soil.

Nymph Life Below Ground

Nymphs live in the soil from 1-17 years depending on the species, where they feed on xylem sap from tree roots. During this time, they pass through a number of instars or stages of development. Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives in this stage.

The Emergence: Molting into Adulthood

Nearing the end of their nymphal stage, cicadas emerge above ground, molt for the last time and reveal their winged adult form. This transformation usually happens at night to avoid predators.

Breeding and the End of the Cycle

Once matured, males attract females using their loud songs. Once mating occurs and eggs are laid, the life cycle begins anew. Adult cicadas die shortly after breeding.

Role in Ecosystem and Significance to Research

Environmental Importance

Cicadas play an essential role in their ecosystems – aerating soil as nymphs, serving as a food source for predators such as birds, mammals, and other insects as adults, and even contributing nutrients back into their environment upon death.

Climate Change Indicators

Some researchers consider cicadas to be bioindicators due to their sensitivity to climate change. Alterations in emergence patterns can indicate broader environmental shifts.

The Phenomenon of Periodicity

Periodical cicadas (specifically 13 or 17-year varieties) have garnered interest for their unique temporal periodicity and synchronized emergences en masse. This phenomenon continues to be a subject of study in evolutionary biology and ecology.

Cultural Significance and Human Interaction

Throughout history and across cultures, cicadas have held various symbolic meanings from immortality and rebirth to annoyance due to their intense mating calls. They make appearances in literature, folk songs, and even as cuisine in some cultures.


  • Cicadas are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • The “song” of a male cicada can exceed 100 decibels, which is comparable to the sound level of a lawnmower.
  • Magicicada is a genus that contains seven species of periodical cicadas with either a 13- or 17-year life cycle.
  • Female cicadas can lay up to 600 eggs during their lifetime.
  • The longest recorded living cicada nymph lived for 17 years underground before emerging as an adult.
  • Image Description

    A vibrant close-up photograph showing an adult cicada with its wings fully expanded. The camera captures the fine details of its transparent wings patterned with intricate veins against a backdrop of green foliage blurred in soft focus.