Common Name:  Cicada, Periodical Cicada, 17-Year Locust

Scientific Name:  Magicicada septendecim, cassini and septendecula (Magicicada means "super" cicada; septendecim and septendecula refer to the 17 year cycle)


A large (1.5 in) insect characterized by two compound red eyes and two pairs of transparent orange-veined wings with a black "W" (said to indicate a time of war).


Potpourri:  Although there are 2,000 species of cicadas worldwide, the periodical cicadas are found only in the United States east of the Great Plains.  There are 7 species of periodical cicadas, 4 with a 13 year cycle and 3 with a 17 year cycle. Periodical cicadas emerge in geographical groups known as broods. There are 12 broods of 17-year cicadas and 3 broods of 13-year cicadas. The simultaneous emergence of millions of cicadas overwhelms their predators, assuring the survival of enough egg-laying females.


All 3 species of 17-year cicada emerge together. They can be distinguished by their 3 different songs, described as sounding like the word "pharaoh," as a rotary sprinkler and as fat sizzling in a frying pan.  The males produce the song with a pair of membranes called tymbals to court females, who respond if impressed with a flick of the wings.  The noise is so loud (90 db, like a lawnmower) that the male's ear membranes crease.


Soon after mating, the male cicada dies and the female cicada lays 400 to 600 eggs in 40 to 50 different nests consisting of drilled slots in small branches about one half inch in diameter.  The egg-laying may result in the death of the branch, known as "flagging."   The eggs hatch after about 2 months into ant-size nymphs that fall to the ground and burrow down about 1 foot. The nymphs feed on the sap of the tree's roots at a very slow rate for 17 years, molting 5 times in the process.  Although they are full grown at 8 years, they wait until the full 13 or 17 year cycle is up and the soil temperature is 64 degrees F to tunnel out of the ground, climb onto a vertical surface, and metamorphose to an adult.

Website Home Page