A Look At The Short Life Cycle Of A Cicada

Jul 13, 2020

Cicadas are medium-sized insects with large compound eyes and large membranous wings. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts that feed on the sap of the roots of woody plants such as trees and shrubs.

Utah has numerous species of cicadas, but they are all annual in their lifecycle. In some years, we observe a large emergence of adults, such as happening this early summer in northern Utah. Adult male cicadas make a characteristic buzzing sound as they sit in the canopies of trees and shrubs calling females to them for mating.

The lifespan of the adult is relatively brief. After spending one to several years as a soft-bodied nymph, mating and egg-laying take place in a few weeks to a month. Females have a solid like ovipositor at the tip of their abdomen to cut through slits into the new shoots on trees and shrubs, where she inserts her eggs.

After hatching, young nymphs fall to the ground and burrow into the soil to find tender routes for feeding.

Some cicadas can be bright in color. The Okanagana genus common in Utah has species with red to the orange coloration on their backs. The Periodical genus is greener to yellow.

So, at this time of year at the summer solstice, enjoy the cicada season. Enjoy the interesting sounds and wonder at this magical insect that patiently lives underground waiting for its brief moment in the sun.