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15 Types of Cicadas: Species, Facts and Photos

Cicadas, due to their size, color, and behavioral diversity, have been the subject of extensive studies in entomology. They live in dense forests and suburban areas and have evolved physical adaptations to suit their surroundings. This article provides an overview of the different types of cicadas, their habitats, behaviors, lifestyles, and diets to enhance our appreciation of these insects.

General Information about Cicadas

Cicadas are stout-bodied insects with broad heads, prominent compound eyes, transparent wings, and long, sharp mouthparts. They range in size from 0.75 to 2.25 inches and come in various colors, from vivid hues to subdued earth tones. 

Moreover, they live in temperate to tropical climates; they thrive in forests, fields, gardens, and suburban areas. Most of their lives are spent underground as nymphs, sipping on sap from plant roots. However, male and female cicadas die after only five weeks aboveground. 

They are divided into two types: annual and periodical/periodic cicadas. The former cicadas emerge yearly, while the latter mostly live underground, only appearing in 13 or 17 years. Cicadas are not on the endangered list, thanks to their wide distribution and impressive life cycles.

Related Read: Cicada Facts.

Cicada Classification

Cicadas belong to the insect order Hemiptera. They are divided into two main families, Tettigarctidae and Cicadidae

The Tettigarctidae family has only two known species living only in Australia, while the Cicadidae family has over 3,000 species worldwide. 

For instance, the  Periodical Cicadas are unique to North America and have a distinct life cycle, spending either 13 or 17 years underground before emerging in large numbers. Dog Day Cicadas are known for their distinctive sounds during hot summer days across North America. 

Australia is also home to the Redeye Cicada, Green Grocer Cicada, Floury Baker Cicada, Black Prince Cicada, Double Drummer Cicada, and Cherry Nose Cicada.

In the succeeding sections, get to learn some of the species’ varied habitats and distinguishing features.

15 Types of Cicadas

1. Pharaoh Cicada (Magicicada septendecim)

 Pharaoh Cicada
Photo by PDH on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Pharaoh Cicadas, or the 17-year Locust, live only in the eastern and midwestern United States. These periodical cicadas live most of their lifetime underground and emerge at the end of their 17-year cycle. There is also a 13-cycle periodical cicada in the same genus. In total, there are six of these kinds of cicadas2.

They feed on tree root sap while underground and wait for warm spring rain to emerge. Once they come out, they shed their nymph exoskeleton and become adults.

2. Dog Day Cicada (Neotibicen canicularis)

Dog Day Cicada
Photo by John Stockla on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Dog Day Cicada is an annual cicada that gets its name from the hot "dog days" of North American summers. Its green, black, and occasionally brown body blends seamlessly with tree bark. It also makes a loud call. So, don’t be surprised if you hear “cicada mania” every year. 

The adult cicadas have a lifespan of about a month and mate and lay their eggs in tree twigs. After hatching, the nymphs burrow into the soil and feed on tree roots for two to five years before re-emerging as adults. 

3. Northern Dusk Singing Cicada (Megatibicen auletes)

The Northern Dusk Singing Cicada is an insect in North America's eastern and southern parts. Male cicadas produce a continuous sound that attracts female cicadas. 

This species' life cycle lasts 2-5 years. It spends most of it underground as nymphs consuming tree root sap. After maturing, it emerges as an adult above ground, mates lays eggs and dies.

4. Scissor Grinder Cicada (Neotibicen pruinosus)

Scissor Grinder Cicada
Photo by Robert Webster on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

During summer, the Scissor Grinder Cicada produces a rhythmic clicking song, which sounds like the noise of sharpening scissors. 

These medium-sized insects have a beige or light brown underside that contrasts with their dorsal thorax. Their black thoraxes with green accents blend into the tree bark, making them difficult to spot. 

Moreover, they inhabit the deciduous forests of the eastern and central United States and prefer apple trees as their habitat. They have adapted to urban and suburban areas and survive on a sap diet, which they sip from the tree bark using their specialized mouthparts. 

The Scissor Grinder Cicada lives an underground existence of 2-5 years for nymphs after hatching from eggs laid by female cicadas in tree twigs. After this period, they emerge as fully formed cicadas.

5. Linne's Cicada (Neotibicen linnei)

Linne's Cicada
Photo by Bruce Marlin on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

Linne's Cicada inhabits deciduous forests or suburban areas with mature trees in the eastern and central United States. It measures between 1.5 and 2 inches, with black dorsal thorax and brown and green-veined wings. 

The insects produce a distinct "zizzing" sound that becomes prominent during the day, especially in sunny weather. 

Linne's Cicadas spend 2 to 5 years in their nymph stage, quietly feeding on tree roots in their underground homes. They emerge as adults between late July and early August, ready to feed on tree sap and join the chorus of cicadas.

6. Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen)

Swamp Cicada
Photo by Andrew C on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Swamp Cicada is famous for its loud and continuous buzzing. It lives in various habitats across the eastern United States and is impressively large with subtle green markings. 

Since they are active during the morning, they are also called Morning Cicadas.

7. Walker's Cicada (Neotibicen pronotalis)

Walker's Cicada
Photo by Heather Paul on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Walker's Cicada is a medium-sized insect in eastern and central North America. Its name comes from British entomologist Francis Walker. 

Male cicadas produce a rhythmic buzzing melody to attract females by vibrating specialized organs on their abdomen1. Walker's Cicada stands as one of the loudest insects. Notably, it isn't the male calls but the alarm squawks they emit when threatened that reach a mean sound pressure level of 105.9 dB.

Female cicadas lay their eggs in the bark of young trees. Once hatched, the nymphs burrow underground for 2 to 5 years, shedding their skin multiple times and feeding on root sap. 

8. Mountain Cicada (Okanagana bella)

Mountain Cicada
Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Mountain Cicada is native to North America in arid and semi-arid regions. These annual cicadas are characterized by their predominantly black silhouette, punctuated with striking orange highlights. It features black eyes and an orange pronotal collar.

Males produce a high-pitched melody to attract females during the hottest part of the day. Meanwhile, female cicadas lay their eggs on the twigs and branches of host plants, thus restarting the life cycle.

9. Giant Cicada (Quesada gigas)

Giant cicadas roam North, Central, and South America, and they are known locally as chichara grande or coyuyo. Their blend of black, green, and brown hues is natural camouflage, seamlessly blending with the environment.

Their day-long and sporadic night-time songs resonate like sirens, alarm bells, and intermittent pressure-valve releases. Ironically, their distinct song remains uniform throughout their range.

Most of their life is spent beneath the earth. They thrive on legume family tree roots for around four years before surfacing as adults.

10. Redeye Cicada (Psaltoda moerens)

Redeye Cicada
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Redeye Cicadas are a well-known Australian species in the South-East, ranging from Queensland to South Australia and Tasmania.

With a distinctive shiny black upper body and fine brown hair underneath, these cicadas set themselves apart through their vibrant red eyes. However, variations do exist with pinkish and brownish eyes.

Their sounds stand out. The call morphs from two to twelve revving sounds into a continuous, yodelling-like rattle. They flex their abdomen to create the tune.

Regarding diet, they latch onto bark, feeding for extended hours. This results in a waste fluid shower if in large numbers. Female Redeyes lay eggs on dead or dying plants only. 

11. Green Grocer Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae)

Green Grocer Cicada
Photo by KlausMayer on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Green Grocer Cicada produces a high-pitched mating call during daylight hours. Its name comes from its vibrant green color. 

Moreover, the adult cicada has a body spanning four to five centimeters and wings stretching twelve to fifteen centimeters. Their tiny bodies can produce a sound that hits 120 decibels. 

The cicada nymph spends six to seven years underground, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Their lifespan above ground is only six weeks, during which they mate and lay eggs. 

12. Floury Baker Cicada (Aleeta curvicosta)

Floury Baker Cicada
Photo by Toby Hudson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Floury Baker Cicada lives in Australia with dark brown and black hues and a white, flour-like substance covering its wings. 

Male cicadas produce high-pitched calls to attract females, and their lifecycle has two phases. 

As nymphs, they spend several years underground and emerge as adults after rainfall, with a lifespan of only five to six weeks. Despite their short lifespan, they are a food source for numerous bird species.

13. Black Prince Cicada (Psaltoda plaga)

 Black Prince Cicada
Photo by Moonlight0551 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Black Prince Cicada can reach up to 7 cm in size, making a unique high-pitched song. They are native to the coastal regions and nearby mountains of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. 

Their life cycle starts with eggs deposited in the bark of young trees. After hatching, a young cicada feeds on root sap for several years. The newly emerged adult cicada lives only for 2-3 weeks. 

Despite their short-lived adult life, these cicadas signal the start of summer, aerate the soil, and break down organic matter.

14. Double Drummer Cicada (Thopha saccata)

Double Drummer Cicada
Photo by Bidgee on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Double Drummer Cicada lives in the eastern coastal bushland of Australia. They perform loud drumming sounds, reaching 120 decibels, making them the loudest insects on the planet. 

They vibrate tymbals on their abdomen to attract females during the breeding season. Afterward, the females lay eggs in the gum tree forests. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs spend most of their lives as nymphs underground, drawing sustenance from tree roots. They have a lifespan of six to seven years.

Moreover, they emerge from the ground only after heavy rainfall, leaving their nymph exoskeleton behind and taking to the trees.

15. Cherrynose Cicada (Macrotristria angularis)

The Cherrynose Cicada is a large cicada species found in eastern and northern Australia. Its name comes from its bright red feeding tube, which is similar in color to a ripe cherry and used to drink sap from plants. Due to its loud and recognizable call, the cicada is the herald of summer. 

As nymphs, they live a solitary life, feeding on plant root sap underground for several years. Once they emerge as adults, they live for only a brief period of a few weeks. 

1

Sanborn, A., & Phillips, P. K. (1995). Scaling of sound pressure level and body size in cicadas (Homoptera: cicadidae; tibicinidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 88(4), 479–484.

2

Williams, K. S., & Simon, C. (1995). The Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution of periodical cicadas. Annual Review of Entomology, 40(1), 269–295.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash.
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