Cicadas are sometimes incorrectly called harvest-flies or "locusts". (They are not flies and true locusts are Old World grasshoppers). Cicadas are medium to large insects with long, transparent wings held peaked over the body when at rest. The antennae are two short bristles. The annual dog-day cicadas (Tibicen sp.) which occur every summer, are large, stout, dark insects with lighter markings and greenish margins on the wings. Some of the dogday cicadas are 2 inches long including the wings. At least seven species of Tibicen are found in North Carolina. One species of Cicada and the petite Melampsalta calliope also occur here. The harmless, but intimidating cicada killer wasps are predators of annual cicadas.
There are several species of periodical cicadas (Magicicada). Disagreements still exist about the separation of some of these as distinct species. Some emerge on 13-year cycles and some emerge on 17-year cycles. Brood emergences usually contain more than one species. The periodical cicadas are all similar in appearance: 1 to 1.5 inches long including the wings. The eyes, legs and margins of the wings are orange. Periodical cicadas sing and fly in spring, whereas other species of cicadas are active during the summer.
Adult Males begin to sing with a shrill buzzing noise to attract females. After mating, females use their sawlike ovipositors to split open the bark of hardwood twigs and insert eggs in two rows. Damage by cicadas is from the tiny slits made during egg laying. If there are many, dying tips of branches may be noticed. This is normally not a major problem for large trees. After 6 or 7 weeks the eggs hatch and tiny ant-like first stage nymphs drop to the soil to burrow in for the next 2 or more years (periodical cicadas develop for 13 to 17 years). While in the soil, the nymphs feed on the roots of many kinds of trees.
Farming and urbanization of suitable habitats have reduced the populations of many cicadas, and it is thought that some broods of the 13-year and 17-year cicadas may be extinct. In North Carolina, current broods of the periodical cicadas include Brood IX, scheduled to emerge in 2020 in the Northwest counties. Brood X was somewhat disappointing in NC with the only major areas in Clay and Cherokee counties in 2004, scheduled again for 2021. Brood XIV should cover areas of the state west of the Triad next in 2025. Brood XIX should emerge in pockets across most of the state except in coastal counties in 2011. Brood I is expected to emerge in the foothills in the spring of 2012. Brood II should cover about the same area in 2013. Brood VI should return in the western third of North Carolina in 2017.
For more emergence areas and more information and cicada sounds, visit the Univ. of Michigan Museum of Zoology cicada site.
For more information on Magicicada, emergence sites, and to report emergence sites, visit http://magicicada.org/ and http://www.masscic.org/
Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service
Web page last reviewed January, 2011 by Art Vandolay.