Cicadas (/sɪˈkɑːdə/ or /sɪˈkeɪdə/), alternatively spelled as Cicala or Cicale, are insects in the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha (which was formerly included in the now invalid suborder Homoptera). Cicadas are in the superfamily Cicadoidea. Their eyes are prominent, though not especially large, and set wide apart on the anterior lateral corners of the frons. The wings are well-developed, with conspicuous veins; in some species the wing membranes are wholly transparent, whereas in many others the proximal parts of the wings are clouded or opaque and some have no significantly clear areas on their wings at all. About 2,500 species of cicada have been described, and many remain to be described. Cicadas live in temperate-to-tropical climates where they are among the most-widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and unique sound. Cicadas are often colloquially called locusts, although they are unrelated to true locusts, which are various species of swarming grasshopper. Cicadas are related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs.
Cicadas are benign to humans under normal circumstances and do not bite or sting in a true sense, but may mistake a person’s arm or other part of their body for a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed. Cicadas have long proboscises under their heads which they insert into plant stems in order to feed on sap. Bites can be painful if a cicada attempts to pierce a person’s skin, but they are unlikely to cause other harm. Bites are unlikely to be a defensive reaction and are rare, usually occurring when a cicada is allowed to rest on a person’s body for an extended amount of time.
Cicadas can cause damage to several cultivated crops, shrubs, and trees, mainly in the form of scarring left on tree branches while the females lay their eggs deep in branches.
Many people around the world regularly eat cicadas. They are known to have been eaten in Ancient Greece as well as China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America, and theCongo. Female cicadas are prized for being meatier. Shells of cicadas are employed in the traditional medicines of China.
The song of a cicada in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Recorded February 2006.
The sound of a tree full of Cicadas in Ithaca, Greece. Recorded July 2008.
A Cicada calling on a hot afternoon in Irving, Texas. Recorded June 2012.