Common Name: Dog-day cicada
Scientific Name: Tibicen spp.
Description: Adults vary in size and color according to species. All have prominent bulging eyes and semi-transparent wings held roof-like over their large bodies. The larger species are about 1-5/8 inch long and 1/2-inch wide with brown or green, black and white body markings. Nymphs resemble wingless adults, are brown and have strong front legs well developed for tunneling in the soil.
The smaller periodical cicada, Magicicada septendecim (Linnaeus), completes its life cycle in 17 years, and emerges in large numbers (broods) in large geographical areas. The periodical cicada species that do occur in Texas complete their life cycles in 13 years, although some emerge almost every year. Adults emerge from April through July, depending upon species and locality.
Life Cycle: The common dog-day cicadas (sometimes called the annual cicadas or locusts) appear in late summer and have life cycles of 2 to 5 years. Female cicadas insert clusters of eggs into the twigs and small branches using a saw-like egg laying structure (ovipositor). In 6 to 7 weeks, small nymphs hatch from the eggs and drop to the ground. They burrow into the soil, seeking tree roots. As they molt through several growth stages (instars), they may burrow several feet down. Fully developed nymphs burrow out of the ground at night, leaving a 1/2-inch hole behind them. Under some conditions, the exit hole is associated with a mud cone or chimney 3 to 4 inches high. The nymphs climb onto tree trunks, low plants or other objects. Adult cicadas emerge from this last nymphal stage through a crack along the back, leaving the light brown cast skin behind. Adults can live for 5 to 6 weeks.
Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Male cicadas rest on tree trunks and branches and “sing” to attract females, producing a periodic whine by means of two special vibrating membranes in the sides of the abdomen. Females do not sing. Adult cicadas do not feed on leaves, and may suck juices from tender twigs. Nymphs feed on the sap from tree roots.
Pest Status: Texas species are not considered to be plant pests.
For additional information, contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent or search for other state Extension offices.
Literature: Hamman and Heeb 1981; Johnson and Lyon 1988.