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Description and Life Cycle

Description and Life Cycle
The adult periodical cicada (Fig. 1) is 1 to 11/2 inches long. The body is black, and legs, eyes and wing veins are reddish-orange. Adults usually emerge in early May in large numbers when the soil temperature 4 inches deep is 67 degrees F. Four or five days after emergence, the males start “singing.” This high-pitched, shrill call is produced by two drum-like membranes on the side of the abdomen.

This song serves as a mating call to attract females. Mating then occurs and females begin laying eggs. The female cicada has a knife-like ovipositor that she uses to slit twigs of woody plants. Apple, pear, dogwood, oak and hickory are favorite hosts; however, many others have been reported. In each slit, the female lays 24 to 28 eggs. She then moves forward to cut another slit and deposits more eggs. This continues until five to 20 slits have been made in the twig; then she seeks another twig. Twigs or branches with a diameter the size of a pencil are most often damaged.
Each female can lay a total of 400 to 600 eggs.
Egg punctures made by the females can damage young transplanted trees in nurseries and orchards (Fig. 2). These punctures cause the twig tips to wilt and often die. The wounds serve as a point of entry or shelter for woolly apple aphids and other insects. Adult cicadas live for only four to five weeks.
Eggs hatch in six to seven weeks. The newly-hatched nymphs (immatures) are white and ant-like in appearance. They drop to the ground and work their way into the soil until a suitable root is found. Nymphs grow slowly and their feeding (by sucking sap from the roots) has no noticeable effect on trees, even where roots have been reported to be infested with thousands of nymphs. They continue to feed and

develop until the spring of the 13th or 17th year (depending on the race). In May of those years, the nymphs burrow upward and leave the soil. This large emergence of nymphs usually occurs after sunset. Nymphs then seek upright structures, such as trees, posts and even weeds, on which to molt. The new adults emerge several hours later (Fig. 3). At first, adults are soft and white but become harder and darker in a short period of time. Adults then take flight, and the life cycle continues.
Information and Images provided by: Dr. Frank Hale (UTK)