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What Do Cicadas Look Like?


Cicadas are insects that possess distinctive features, making them easily recognizable. These insects typically measure about 1 to 2 inches in length, with elongated bodies. Their bodies are covered in a hard exoskeleton, which can vary in coloration depending on the species. Common cicada species in North America often have black bodies with orange or red eyes.

One of the most striking features of cicadas is their large, transparent wings. Cicadas have two pairs of wings, which are held roof-like over their bodies when at rest. These wings are typically clear with intricate veining patterns, lending them a delicate appearance. The forewings are longer than the hindwings and may have a slightly greenish or brownish tint in some species.

Cicadas also have prominent, bulging eyes that are adapted for detecting movement and predators. They possess three small, jointed pairs of legs designed for gripping onto trees and other surfaces. Additionally, their mouthparts are adapted for piercing and sucking, as adult cicadas feed on plant sap.

Perhaps one of the most notable characteristics of cicadas is their distinct and loud buzzing or clicking sound, produced by the males to attract females for mating. This mating call is a defining feature of these insects and is particularly prominent during the summer months when cicadas emerge in large numbers. Overall, cicadas exhibit a fascinating and unique appearance, which varies slightly among different species but retains certain key features that distinguish them from other insects.

Green Cicadas

Green cicadas, often referred to as green annual or dog-day cicadas, belong to the Cicadidae family and are a diverse group of cicadas found in various parts of the world, including North America. These cicadas are characterized by their vibrant green coloration, which is one of their most distinguishing features.

Green cicadas are medium-sized insects, typically measuring between 1 to 2 inches in length. Their bodies are elongated and covered in a bright green exoskeleton, which helps them blend into their leafy surroundings. Their large, transparent wings also have a greenish tint, adding to their overall green appearance.

Like other cicada species, green cicadas have prominent bulging eyes, which are well-suited for detecting movement and potential threats. They possess three pairs of jointed legs adapted for gripping onto tree branches and other surfaces. These insects also have powerful mouthparts designed for piercing plant tissue and extracting sap, as they primarily feed on the fluids from trees and shrubs.

Green cicadas are known for their distinctive, buzzing calls, produced by the males to attract females during the mating season. These calls are often associated with hot summer days and are a characteristic sound in many natural environments. Green cicadas, like other cicada species, have a fascinating life cycle, spending several years underground as nymphs before emerging as adults to complete their short-lived adult stage.

Black Cicadas

Black cicadas, also known as periodical cicadas or simply "cicadas" in some regions, are a distinct group of cicadas found primarily in eastern North America. These insects are noted for their striking black bodies, and they are particularly famous for their synchronized and periodic emergences, which occur in 13-year and 17-year cycles.

Black cicadas have relatively large bodies, typically ranging from 1 to 2 inches in length. Their bodies are covered in a glossy black exoskeleton, which sets them apart from other cicada species. Their large, transparent wings are also black, and they have a slightly opaque appearance due to the dark pigment.

These cicadas possess prominent, red or orange eyes, which provide a striking contrast against their black bodies. Their eyes are adapted for detecting movement and potential threats. Like all cicadas, they have three pairs of jointed legs designed for gripping onto surfaces, such as tree branches.

One of the most distinctive features of black cicadas is their emergence pattern. Different broods of periodical cicadas emerge en masse after either 13 or 17 years spent underground as nymphs. During these emergences, millions of cicadas can appear simultaneously in specific geographic areas, creating a phenomenon known as a "cicada emergence" or "cicada invasion." This event is accompanied by the loud and unmistakable buzzing calls of male cicadas attempting to attract females for mating.

Black cicadas, while short-lived as adults, play a vital ecological role by providing a substantial food source for various predators and by aerating the soil during their nymph stage. Their periodic emergencies are a natural spectacle that has fascinated and intrigued scientists and the general public alike.