For an insect that ranges from 1-2 inches long, Cicadas raise eyebrows along with many decibels upon their arrival every 17 years on the East Coast. The appearance of the Cicada insect, or Magicicada Cicada evokes a variety reactions from people in the regions where they appear. Some people perceive that Cicadas invade in a massive swarm and others believe it is a “magical” creature which has graced us with 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.
As a child, I created this saying: “when it’s warm, cicadas swarm.” This was a saying I made up as a child 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! In school, I remember learning that male cicadas hum very loudly while female cicadas are considered “mute”, making no audible noise to the human ear.
Getting to Know the Cicada Insect
Whether people view the appearence of the Cicada insect as a noisy nuiscance 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 fact and distinct memory of cicadas is the outer shell of their skin that they shed, which often times leave an almost perfectly molded shell of their outer body is often times mistaken for a real cicada insect at first glance. During the late spring or summer when cicadas tend to arrive, the cicada also serves as a food source for the birds and amphibians that eat them, along with other insects and bacteria that consume dead cicadas. I also recall learning in school that male cicadas hum very loudly, while females cicadas are considered “mute”, making no audible noise to the human ear.
There are also many common misconceptions about how the presence of the cicada bug effects the people and plants around them.
Cicadas Insects do not:
- Kill trees or native species of plants
- Spread disease
- Bite or sting people or animals
- Harm garden plants
Overall, the cicada is a dynamic and 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. This Magicicada Cicada with a 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. And for some, they are truly like “magic”.