For an insect that is 1-2 inches long, Cicadas raise both eyebrows and many decibels upon their arrival every 17 years on the East Coast. The scientifically termed Magicicada Cicada evokes many reactions when they make their appearance. Some people say that Cicadas invade in a massive swarm, while others believe they are a “magical” creature (hence the name in Binomial nomenclature) that has graced their presence. Cicadas are also commonly called “locusts” in reference to being known for their periodic inhabitance of many places, although locusts and cicadas are not related.
When I was young used to say “when it’s warm, cicadas swarm” during the time the 17-Year Cicadas arrived for the first time in my lifetime. What I remember most clearly is the great fluctuation of their high-pitched humming sounds throughout that day and night. I also recall seeing cicadas pop up in a variety of places outdoors. Most commonly, latched on to tree trunks, outside my bedroom window, on the windshields of cars, on top of patio furniture, playground equipment, and even inside of your house or on your clothing! Cicadas are also commonly referred to as “locusts” in relation to their periodic inhabitance of many places, although locusts and cicadas are not actually related.
Getting to Know the Cicada Insect
Whether the cicada noisy nuisance or a charming creature, the presence of the cicada bug have a great effect on the living things that encounter it. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Cicada makes their distinct buzzing or “drumming” sound by vibrating their front wings on their thorax, the area between the cicadas head and abdomen (6th ed. 2013). Cicadas thrive on the juices or sap from the roots of various trees.
Another fun and distinct memory of cicadas I remember distinctly from my childhood is the outer shell of their skin that they shed can leave a perfectly molded shell of their outer body, often times mistaken for a real cicada insect at first glance. During the late spring or summer, cicadas serve as a food source for both birds and amphibians, along with other insects and bacteria that consume dead cicadas. I also recall learning in school that male cicadas hum very loudly, while female cicadas are “mute”, making no noise audible to the human ear.
There are also many common misconceptions about how the presence of the cicada affects the people and plants around them.
Cicadas do not:
-Kill trees or native species of plants
-Bite or sting people or animals
-Harm garden plants
Overall, I regard the Cicada insect as a fascinating creature that does very little to disrupt one’s daily life. Opinions of the intense decibel factors of the insect range widely. At night, some say that the sound of the cicada is soothing to fall asleep to, while others claim the cicada to be a noisy nuisance. I believe that the Magicicada Cicada with its lifespan of just one week may have a short run on this Earth, but the effects and memories that come from their presence are long-lasting. To me, Cicadas will always be thought of as an insect of “magic”