What Cicadas Look Like & When They Emerge

Posted by Mosquito Squad
What Cicadas Look Like & When They Emerge

June 28, 2024

Author: Emma Grace Crumbley, Entomologist

This year was an absolute scream for cicadas! Now that we’ve survived the Cicada-pocalypse, let's take a closer look at the cicadas we saw, and the ones still left to come… that's right, cicada season isn't done yet!

What Are Cicadas?

Cicadas are insects in the order Hemiptera, the scientific group for "true bugs." Sound familiar? It’s the same order as stink bugs, assassin bugs, and boxelder bugs.

Cicadas spend most of their lifecycle underground as they mature through four distinct instars, or nymphal stages. While underground, cicadas feed on the sap of trees, shrubs, and other plants. When changes occur in the sap (for instance, sap composition may change slightly when warmer weather allows trees to bloom or produce new leaves/fruit), cicadas detect these changes and prepare to leave the soil. After they emerge, adult cicadas spend three to four weeks looking for mates and laying eggs before reaching the end of their life. And just as cicadas all emerge together, cicada season ends with cicadas dying out together.

While several species of cicada exist throughout the United States, there are two major types when it comes to emergence: periodical cicadas and annual cicadas.

Periodical Cicadas

Periodical cicadas, also called “brood cicadas”, are cicadas that emerge every 13 or 17 years. There are 15 different periodical broods, each notated by a Roman numeral. This year, the US experienced a double brood event where two broods of periodical cicadas emerged together (Brood XIII and Brood XIX).

Periodical cicadas have a few unique characteristics:

  • Chunky, black bodies
  • Bright red eyes
  • Orange wings

While the exact timing of each brood's emergence depends on its location across the US, overall, periodical cicadas emerge weeks to months before annual cicadas. This year, brood cicadas began emerging in April and subsided by late May.

Annual Cicadas

Annual cicadas, sometimes called "jar flies" or "dog-day cicadas," emerge every year. These cicadas are larger than brood cicadas by nearly double their body size. While these cicadas appear every year, their lifecycles are still staggered. Generations will mature in the soil for 2 to 5 years before emerging to mate.

Annual cicadas look different than brood cicadas:

  • Large, green bodies
  • Dark eyes
  • Transparent, somewhat green wings

While the exact emergence will vary from region to region (just as temperature will), annual cicadas usually start appearing around mid-summer and will be chirping through early fall.

Experts in the Field!

Looking for more bug facts? The professionals on staff at Mosquito Squad are here to answer your insect questions and provide up-to-date information on pest trends. Reach out to your local Squad today to talk with a Pest Control Pro!