Periodical Cicadas


There are over 150 species of cicadas that occur in the United States and Canada. The periodical cicadas all belong to the genus Magicicada and most authorities recognize three species that take 17 years and four species that take 13 years to complete development.

Other cicadas take two to eight years to complete their life cycles. The larger of these other species are often called "dog-day" cicadas or "locusts." True locusts are grasshoppers!

All species of periodical cicadas have red-orange eyes, black bodies and the wing veins red-orange.

Adult periodical cicadas, Magicicada spp., are about 1.5-inches long and they may be active from May to July. They are most numerous in the last two weeks of May and first week of June. Their bodies are black with some dark reddish bands, and they have reddish-orange eyes and legs. Adults have clear wings with orange veins that are held roof-like over their bodies.

The dog-day or annual cicadas appear during the long summer days of July and August. Dog-day cicadas are larger than periodical cicadas, often being 2-inches long. The adults have green to brown bodies with black markings and a whitish waxy coating. Their wings have green veins.

Annual cicadas, often called "dog-day" cicadas or "locusts" are green or brown with darker markings.

Periodical cicadas emerge in specific locations once every 17 years in the northern part of their range, and once every 13 years in the southern part. Different groups called "broods" emerge somewhere in the eastern United States almost every spring. Massive brood emergence is believed to overwhelm predators, which are mostly birds. This ensures that enough survivors will be left behind to reproduce. A map of Ohio Broods and their years of emergence is located here.

Male cicadas are capable of making a loud buzzing noise and squawk when disturbed. The males of periodical cicadas often synchronize their buzzing in trees which produces a deafening noise. It is believed that such droning and squawking is effective in deterring predators.

Dog-day cicadas have two to five-year life cycles in Ohio, but the broods overlap and some appear every summer. Dog-day cicada males rarely chorus with others, each male sings it's song independent of other cicadas in the area. Distrubed males often squawk as they take flight to escape potential predators. Dog-day cicadas rarely cause much damage.