Common names: Cicada, Dogday Cicada, Dogday Locust, Harvestfly, Harvestman Cicada, Locust
Scientific name: Order Homoptera, family Cicadidae, many genera and species
Size: Adult—1" to 3"
Identification: The big insects that make all the noise in mid-summer. They have wide, blunt heads with big bulging eyes and clear, brittle wings. Empty nymphal skins can be seen attached to trees, shrubs, and buildings in the summer. Skin looks like a hollow June bug skin.
Biology and life cycle: Males sing in a loud, sustained, shrill song in the summer. Nymphs have stout brown bodies with large front legs used as scoops. They feed on roots and molt until ready for the last molt. They dig out of the soil, climb a tree, and attach to tree bark or sometimes windows and door screens. Adults emerge during the final molt through a slit in the back, feed for a 5 or 6 weeks, mate, and then lay eggs in slits in tree branches. In two months the eggs hatch and the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil.
Cicada eggs remain in the twigs for 6 to 10 weeks before hatching. After the eggs hatch, the tiny ant-like first stage nymphs drop to the soil to borrow in 6 to 18 inches underground to feed for the next 2 or more years. Cicadas can develop for a thirteen to seventeen years cycle. Nymphs feed on the roots of many kinds of trees.
Habitat: Any treed area, conifers and mixed woods. Also in shrubs.
Feeding habits: Nymphs feed on tree roots. Plant damage comes from the egg-laying slits in stems, which cause tip growth to die.
Economic importance: Cause little major plant damage. Most serious damage comes from the egg-laying slits in the bark of small branches.
Natural control: Cicada killers.
Organic control: We know of no effective techniques yet. There are never enough of them in any one place. Beneficial nematodes will help.
Insight: Wrongly called locusts. Females have no sound apparatus. Only males make the sound. They probably defend themselves with their high-pitched sound. The male, which is sometimes called the harvestfly, is responsible for the sad, sustained sound that fills the air on hot summer days. This sound is a mating call and also a means of protection, so loud it hurts the ears of some predators.