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Common Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions
There is much curiosity and superstition regarding cicadas. American Indians believed that the large cicada emergence had evil significance. Early American colonists were familiar with the Biblical story of locust plagues in Egypt (they had never seen periodical cicadas until the insects suddenly appeared by the millions). The colonists immediately thought a “locust plague” was punishing them. Today, people still confuse cicadas and locusts; cicadas are commonly called locusts. The term “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 feed on foliage. Adults may feed on twig sap to a limited degree. The most immediate and noticeable damage results when females make injurious slits in twigs and limbs of trees as they deposit eggs.
It was thought that the distinct black “W” on the outer end of the front wings foretold of war. This mark is characteristic of these species and is caused by deeper pigmentation on the veins. Cicadas cannot sting; therefore, any story that mentions cicadas poisoning fruit by stinging is a myth.
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Information and Images provided by: Dr. Frank Hale (UTK)