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Insects

SP341-F

Periodical Cicadas
Frank A. Hale, Professor
Originally developed by Harry Williams, former Professor Emeritus
and Jaime Yanes Jr., former Assistant Professor
Entomology and Plant Pathology

The periodical cicada, Magicicada species, has the year cicada broods (XIX, XXII and XXIII), and 12 of
longest developmental period of any insect in North the 17-year cicada broods (I-X, XIII, and XIV). Also,
America. There is probably no insect that attracts as there are three distinct species of 17-year cicadas (M.
much attention in eastern North America as does the septendecim, M. cassini and M. septendecula) and three
periodical cicada. Their sudden springtime emergence, species of 13-year cicadas (M. tredecim, M. tredecassini,
filling the air with their high-pitched, shrill-sounding and M. tredecula).
songs, excites much curiosity. In Tennessee, Brood XIX of the 13-year cicada
Two races of the periodical cicada exist. One had a spectacular emergence in 2011 (Map 1). In 2004,
race has a life cycle of 13 years and is common in the Brood X of the 17-year cicada emerged primarily
southeastern United States. The other race has a life in East Tennessee (Map 2). Brood X has the largest
cycle of 17 years and is generally more northern in emergence of individuals for the 17-year cicada in the
distribution. Due to Tennessee’s location, both the 13- United States. Brood XXIII of the 13-year cicada last
year and 17-year cicadas occur in the state. emerged in West Tennessee in 2002 (Map 3). Brood
Although periodical cicadas have a 13- or 17-year XIV of the 17-year cicada emerges in 2008 and again in
cycle, there are various populations, called broods, 2025 (Map 4).
that emerge at
different 13- or 17- Clay Pickett
Claiborne Hancock

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Map 1. Brood XIX, 13-year cicada distribution. Last emerged May 2011.
Projected to re-emerge in 2024.
n
nso
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er ke tt rs on Ru
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ren
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D ecatu r

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significant detections in Middle and West

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e rso Ru a u

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nd distribution. Last emerged May 2002.

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periodical cicada distribution,
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Common Misconceptions a limited degree. The most immediate and noticeable


There is much curiosity and superstition regarding damage results when females make injurious slits in
cicadas. American Indians believed that the large twigs and limbs of trees as they deposit eggs.
cicada emergence had evil significance. Early It was thought that the distinct black “W” on
American colonists were familiar with the Biblical the outer end of the front wings foretold of war. This
story of locust plagues in Egypt (they had never seen mark is characteristic of these species and is caused
periodical cicadas until the insects suddenly appeared by deeper pigmentation on the veins. Cicadas cannot
by the millions). The colonists immediately thought sting; therefore, any story that mentions cicadas
a “locust plague” was punishing them. Today, people poisoning fruit by stinging is a myth.
still confuse cicadas
and locusts; cicadas Description and Life Cycle
are commonly called The adult periodical cicada (Fig. 1) is 1 to 1½
locusts. The term inches long. The body is black, while the legs, eyes
“locust” correctly refers
to certain species of
grasshoppers.
The large number
of cicada adults that
emerge often arouses
fear that crops will be
destroyed. However,
adult cicadas do not Fig. 1. Adult Cicada
feed on foliage. Adults Bob Rabaglia,
Maryland Department of Agriculture, Fig. 2. Damaged Twig
may feed on twig sap to www.forestryimages.org Jim Occi, BugPics, www.forestryimages.org
and wing veins are the roots) has no noticeable effect on trees, even where
reddish-orange. roots have been reported to be infested with thousands
Adults usually of nymphs. They continue to feed and develop until the
emerge in early May spring of the 13th or 17th year (depending on the race).
in large numbers In May of those years, the nymphs burrow upward
when the soil and leave the soil. This large emergence of nymphs
temperature 4 inches usually occurs after sunset. Nymphs then seek upright
deep is 67 degrees structures, such as trees, posts and even weeds, on
F. Four or five days which to molt. The new adults emerge several hours
after emergence, Eggs & Nymph later. At first, adults are soft and white but become
Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, www.
the males start forestryimages.org
harder and darker in a short period of time. Adults
“singing.” This then take to flight, and the life cycle continues.
high-pitched, shrill call is produced by two drum-like
membranes on the side of the abdomen. This song Adult Cicada Control
serves as a mating call to attract females. Mating then In areas having a previous history of high
occurs and females begin laying eggs. The female populations of periodical cicadas, certain preventative
cicada has a knife-like ovipositor that she uses to slit measures should be followed. In young fruit tree
twigs of woody plants. Apple, pear, dogwood, oak and plantings, delay pruning fruit trees until after cicada
hickory are favorite hosts; however, many others have emergence so damaged branches can be removed and a
been reported. In each slit, the female lays 24 to 28 proper scaffolding of branches established. If pruning
eggs. She then moves forward to cut another slit and is done before the eggs hatch (five weeks or less after
deposits more eggs. This continues until five to 20 slits eggs are laid), burn the damaged twigs. When feasible,
have been made in the twig; then she seeks another small, valuable shrubs, trees and ornamentals may be
twig. Twigs or branches with a diameter the size of a covered with cheesecloth or tobacco canvas (spun row
pencil are most often damaged. Each female can lay a cover) for protection while cicadas are present.
total of 400 to 600 eggs. Insecticide spray applications have not been an
Egg punctures made by the females can damage effective option in preventing egg-laying damage to
young transplanted trees in nurseries and orchards plants from female periodical cicadas. When they
(Fig. 2). These punctures cause the twig tips to wilt land on an insecticide-sprayed host plant, they can
and often die. The wounds serve as a point of entry or cause some egg-laying damage before they are killed
shelter for woolly apple aphids and other insects. Adult by the insecticide residue. The high number of female
cicadas live for only four to five weeks. periodical cicadas laying eggs over a period of several
Eggs hatch in six to seven weeks. The newly- weeks will cause cumulative damage to plants whether
hatched nymphs (immatures) are white and ant-like in insecticide is used or not.
appearance. They drop to the ground and work their
way into the soil until a suitable root is found. Nymphs
grow slowly and their feeding (by sucking sap from

Emergence
Bob Rabaglia, Maryland Department of
Agriculture, www.forestryimages.org
Reference:
Hyche, L.L. 1998. Periodical Cicadas (“The 13-
Year Locusts”) in Alabama. Bulletin 635. Alabama
Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn University,
Alabama.

Precautionary Statement
To protect people and the environment, pesticides should be used safely. This is everyone’s responsibility,
especially the user. Read and follow label directions carefully before you buy, mix, apply, store or dispose of a
pesticide. According to laws regulating pesticides, they must be used only as directed by the label. Persons who
do not obey the law will be subject to penalties.

Disclaimer Statement
This publication contains pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time. The
recommendations in this publication are provided only as a guide. It is always the pesticide applicator’s
responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used. The label
always takes precedence over the recommendations found in this publication.
Use of trade or brand names in this publication is for clarity and information; it does not imply approval
of the product to the exclusion of others that may be of similar, suitable composition, nor does it guarantee or
warrant the standard of the product. The author(s), the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and
University of Tennessee Extension assume no liability resulting from the use of these recommendations.

SP341F 1/12(Rev) 07-0268


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