Fun Periodical Cicada Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Nov 18, 2022 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
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One of the interesting periodical cicada facts is that it is named so because it emerges from the ground every 13-17 years.

Periodical cicadas are insects native to the forests in the eastern regions of the U.S. They are called that because they emerge from the ground after 13 or 17 years underground.

They live as nymphs for that period and emerge as adults.

They feed on the sap of underground roots as nymphs and on the sap of barks and tree branches as adults. During the adult cicada stage, they have clear wings with black or orange veins, are about 1 in (2.5 cm) long, and have 3 in (7.6 cm) wingspans.

They come out in millions so that even if they are preyed upon freely by predators, they will still thrive.

Most recently, Brood X cicadas emerged in the spring of 2021, and Brood XIII is next, set to come out in 2024. Three of the four species of periodical cicadas are Near Threatened according to the IUCN, and the other four have not been evaluated.

For more relatable content, check out these weevil beetle facts and Africanized bees facts for kids.

Periodical Cicada Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a periodical cicada?

The periodical cicada is an insect.

What class of animal does a periodical cicada belong to?

The periodical cicadas belong to the Insecta class of animals.

How many periodical cicadas are there in the world?

It is never clear how many periodical cicadas are present in the world at a given time. This is because they have life cycles that last for 13 or 17 years and they die out within only two months of emergence. They emerge in the millions and are eaten by a lot of animals with insectivorous diets.

Where does a periodical cicada live?

The periodical cicada map range is limited to the North American continent. Every periodical cicada insect has a certain range but all of them exist in the midwestern and eastern U.S. They specifically exist in the upper midwestern parts and also in the Great Plains states.

The 13-year periodical cicadas occur in the Mississippi and Southern Valley states. Some broods overlap with each other. In eastern Missouri and western Oklahoma, a 13-year brood overlaps with a 17-year brood.

What is a periodical cicada's habitat?

Periodical cicadas are found in habitats with deciduous trees as well as shrubs like the maple, willow, and oak trees. The Pharaoh cicada is also found in subterranean and underground habitats.

Who does periodical cicada live with?

Periodical cicadas live in large groups known as broods. The purpose of these broods is to overwhelm predatory animals, meaning even if a territory is filled with predators, millions of cicadas coming out at one time still will manage to overcome predators to maintain significant reproductive numbers.

How long does a periodical cicada live?

Periodical cicadas live underground for 13 or 17 years as juveniles. When they do emerge as adult cicadas, they die within a few weeks or a couple of months.

How do they reproduce?

Periodical cicadas reproduce by mating and laying eggs.

The adults live for only a couple of months or several weeks and they're dead by mid-July. The adults have only one purpose and that is to reproduce. The males of the periodical cicada species form choruses and sing collective songs to attract female mates.

The songs of the males tend to be loud and specific to their own species. The song is made using the tymbals. In between singing, the males also display short flights going from one tree to another looking for female mates.

The females ready to reproduce respond with timed wing-flicks. This form of visual signaling is necessary, in the middle of the song of the males. This attracts the males and they perform another distinct song while approaching their particular female mates.

The female and male cicadas are capable of mating multiple times but the females only seem to mate once. After mating, V-shaped slits are cut by females in the bark of twigs to lay eggs in, and about 20 of them are laid in each bark.

Females lay eggs in clutch sizes of 600. The eggs hatch six to ten weeks after being laid and the nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow into the soil to begin their 13 or 17-year long cycle.

What is their conservation status?

There are seven species of periodical cicadas and four of them, namely Magicicada tredecim, Magicicada tredecula, Magicicada tredecassini, and Magicicada neotredecim have not been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

However, the Magicicada septendecula, the Magicicada cassini (dwarf periodical cicada), and the Magicicada septendecula (the Pharaoh cicada) are all classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened.

Periodical Cicada Fun Facts

What does the periodical cicada look like?

Periodical Cicada on a Branch

An adult periodical cicada has a dorsal thorax that is black and eyes that are red. The wings are translucent and have orange-reddish or black veins. The abdomen's underside is orange, black, or striped with black and orange, according to different species.

Adult cicadas are three-quarters the size of annual cicada species in their habitat. The female periodical cicadas tend to be slightly bigger than the males.

Magicicada septendecim (Pharaoh cicada) is the biggest among the periodical cicadas and it has clear wings with orange veins. It has broad abdominal stripes that are orange and the thorax also has an orange spot near its side.

How cute are they?

Periodical cicadas are beautiful creatures. They are aesthetically pleasing despite being insects, displaying strong black and red colors and veiny, transparent wings. The most fascinating thing about the cicadas is their 13 to 17 year long life cycles and their deafening mating call choruses.

How do they communicate?

Periodical cicadas communicate via songs and calls. The males are known to form deafening choruses to attract males. The decim cicadas use a call that sounds like 'pharaoh' or 'weeeee-whoa'. The decula and cassini cicadas use interspersed ticking and buzzing sounds.

The choruses of male periodical cicadas can reach 100 dB. They also use a distinct courtship song before mating. Each of the seven species has songs and calls identifiable to its own species since broods tend to have mixed cicada populations.

Pharaoh cicadas have three courtship calls, one chorus calling song, and an alarm call that is given out when a human is handling them.

How big is a periodical cicada?

Periodical cicadas are 0.9 to 1.3 in (2.4 to 3.3 cm) long and they have wingspans of 3 in (7.6 cm), which makes them 1-13 times bigger than leafcutter ants, 8-18 times bigger than panda ants, and 2-5 times bigger than army ants.

How fast can a periodical cicada run?

It is not clear how fast periodical cicadas can run. They are known to not do well on their legs, be it walking or running. They are clumsy fliers but use their wings to travel even really short distances.

How much does a periodical cicada weigh?

The periodical cicada weighs 0.07 oz (2 g) on average.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males and females of the periodical cicada species do not have specific names.

What would you call a baby periodical cicada?

Baby periodical cicadas are called nymphs.

What do they eat?

Periodical cicadas drink juices and fluids from plant roots, deciduous trees, and woody shrubs.

They get preyed upon by birds, cicada killer wasps, reptiles, cats, squirrels, dogs, and other mammals.

Are they poisonous?

Periodical cicadas are not poisonous or venomous in any way. they are not prone to stinging or biting.

Their mouthparts pierce the plant and suck on the sap. The mouthparts are used most during nymph stages for tapping water, minerals, and carbohydrates from underground roots. As an adult, they are used for obtaining water and nutrients from the stems of plants.

The proboscis is capable of piercing the skin of humans and it may cause some pain but is not harmful in any other way. There isn't any evidence that they can even transmit diseases.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they would not make good pets. Periodical cicadas emerge in the adult stage, above the soil and ground for a short while to reproduce before they die. These cicadas also have specific alarm calls for when they're being handled by humans.

Did you know...

There are many theories as to why periodical cicadas take 13 or 17 years to come out, depending on the species. One is that they need to avoid becoming habitual prey to the many species that freely feed on them, so they come out in the millions together and after long periods.

Another theory is that they favor warm weather, and have favored a longer cycle due to the previous ice age.

And these cicadas call the diverse forests in the eastern US their home and there could be a relation. It could also be pure chance that led periodical cicadas to follow these long cycles.

Currently, in 2021, the Brood X cicadas have emerged and gone in the U.S. The next one is called Brood XIII, and their emergence is in spring 2024.

The most special thing about periodical cicada insects is their specifically timed, synchronized, prime-numbered 13 and 17-year cycles. They probably have a molecular clock that can sense the change in the sap of roots they eat.

There are a total of 3,000-4,000 different cicada species around the world.

Roman numerals have been used to identify 30 periodical cicada broods. New York is the common periodical cicada habitat for five upcoming broods.

Going back in history, the first periodical cicada emergence was reported in 1633.

Are periodical cicadas dangerous?

No, periodical cicadas are not dangerous but largely beneficial. They are known for pruning mature tree branches, aerating the soil, and their bodies provide nitrogen to a growing tree after they die.

Young trees should not be planted the year before or during the time the periodical cicadas are to emerge. Mature trees are safe, but young trees may face some damage due to egg-laying and feeding by periodical cicadas.

Periodical cicadas life cycle

As juveniles, periodical cicadas spend 13 or 17 years under the ground. All the periodical cicada insects emerge at the same times in a synchronized fashion, hence the name.

The cicada nymphs are usually 2 ft (61 cm) below the surface feeding on plant root juices. There are five instar stages they go through.

What decides the period as 13 years or 17 years is the time taken for the maturing of the second instar phase. The nymphs move deeper then and in the months of April to June of the emergence, the nymphs in their fifth instar stage make tunnels and wait for the perfect soil temperature above 64 °F (17.8 °C).

A spring evening is when the cicadas emerge. They climb a vertical surface to complete their transformation via a final molt, and their wings and exoskeletons harden in six days.

The cicadas are alive in this stage for a couple of months or few weeks, and all are dead by mid-July. So during this stage, they do just one thing, reproduce.

The cicadas mate via rather elaborate mating rituals and 660 eggs are laid by female cicadas on barks of twigs. These eggs hatch and the nymphs fall on the ground, where they burrow into the soil and begin the life cycle again.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods from our paper wasp interesting facts and mayfly surprising facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable cedar beetle coloring pages.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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