Tags: Invertebrate, herbivore, insect
This species of cicada lives underground for 17 years before it digs its way to the surface and lives above ground. Photo by Bruce Marlin
Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground. When they first hatch from eggs, cicadas burrow into the ground and survive on sap that they eat from tree roots. There are more than 3,000 species of cicadas. Most of these species live in their underground burrows for two to five years. Some species of cicada in North America live underground for 13 or 17 years!
When cicadas reach adulthood they leave their underground burrows, dig their way to the surface of the ground, and live above ground for a short amount of time, usually four to six weeks. During this time, males use a special part of their stomachs to make loud clicking noises. The clicking noises attract female cicadas, which use their wings to make a softer clicking noise. After a male and female cicada mate, the female lays her eggs inside of a tree branch. The young cicadas hatch and burrow underground, where they will live for another two to seventeen years.
Cicadas like temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and they usually emerge from the ground during hot summer months. While they are above ground, cicadas continue to eat sap from trees and other plants. Because millions of cicadas often emerge from the ground in one area at the same time, cicadas can cause a lot of damage to trees, plants, and farm crops.
When cicadas begin life above ground, they shed their skin and become adults. This skin was left behind by a cicada that spent 13 years underground. Photo by William H. Majoros
Cicadas eat sap from trees and other plants. Photo by William H. Majoros
The above links plus:
Borror, Donald J. and Richard E. White. A Field Guide to Insects: America North of Mexico. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970. Pp. 128-130.
York, Penelope. Bugs. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002.