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Interesting Facts About Cicadas

I have a bachelor's in finance. I am a stay-at-home mom, but my husband likes to call me the CFO (chief financial officer) of our household.

Cicada Life Cycle

What I've Learned About Cicadas This Season

We have seen tons of Cicadas in the past month or so in Northern Virginia. I have driven through swarms of them. They sound like pebbles hitting the windshield.

My kids (especially my son) love bugs! They catch them, put them in their bug house, and watch their every move. They run to me with any exciting news about the bugs that they capture. We look them up online. We even have a bug identification book!

Cicadas are very interesting bugs. They only come out once every 17 years to mate and then they die. This year was a huge year for Cicadas!

Why Are Their Wings On The Ground?

Squirrels and birds are predators of the Cicada. Squirrels like to go after Cicadas. I am not sure if they eat them, but I have been told that they do grab the Cicadas wings and pull them off. Birds like to eat Cicadas, but they do not like to eat the wings.

Those are the two main reasons you may see Cicada wings all over the place, with no Cicadas to be found.

More Cicada Facts!

Transformation When Cicadas Die

My kids love to collect bugs. My son has a bug house where he keeps his bugs, but they usually don't last very long.

We have been able to catch a few Cicadas and put them into our bug house. They are very gentle bugs. They don't sting or bite. They do fly, but not very quickly. That is one of the reasons they are so easy to catch.

We noticed that the Cicadas' eyes are red or orange-red while they are alive. When the Cicada dies, their eyes turn black.

After seeing this in the bug house, I started looking at the live and dead ones on the sidewalk while I was walking my dog. I noticed that the live Cicadas had red eyes and the dead Cicadas had black eyes there too.

I have only seen the Cicadas with red eyes. I know there are live Cicadas out there in other areas with black eyes, but I am just writing about the red-eyed Cicadas.

Cicada Sightings

Why Are There More Cicadas in Some Areas Than Others?

Have you ever noticed that you could be in one town or city and see tons of Cicadas on one street and barely any Cicadas a few streets away?

The reason for the variation is in developed land. If land has been touched in the past 17 years, while the Cicadas were sleeping, then they will not come up in that area.

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I noticed that in new neighborhoods, there were no Cicadas. If I went on the trails in the woods beside the new developments, there were tons of Cicadas.

The Cicada

Where Do Cicadas Go for the 17 Years That They Are Not Here?

Have you ever wondered where Cicadas go for 17 years? Well, The Cicadas stay underground for those 17 years! As soon as the ground warms up, they dig their way out of the dirt and make their appearance.

In areas where you hear and see Cicadas, you will also see tons of small holes in the ground. I went to the Manassas Battlefield In Northern Virginia and saw hundreds of these small holes on the trails going into the wooded areas.

When we passed over the trail with holes. We had several Cicadas land on us. My son loved it, but my daughter did not love it so much. They scared her since they were so big and had such prickly feet.

Up Close With Cicadas

My family and I decided to go to the Manassas Battlefield in the middle of Cicada season. That is when I had my first Cicada land on me since I was a kid.

Their feet feel prickly so they can grab on to things but they do not hurt. It is more of a surprise when they land on you. At first, I thought the Cicada was biting me, but it was just its feet.

They do not bite. I have had a bunch of Cicadas land on me and I have not been bitten by them once.

Cicadas Molt (Just Like Snakes!)

Did you know that Cicadas molt just like snakes? They do! Not only will you see lots of Cicadas, but you will see lots of gross Cicada skins that they have molted.

I noticed the molted skin mostly when they first came out from underground at the beginning of the Cicada season. After a few weeks, I mostly saw either live Cicadas, dead Cicadas, or Cicada wings.

The Big 17 Year Return of the Cicada

Since I live in Northern Virginia, I was able to experience the return of the Cicada firsthand. The Cicada mainly showed up in the Washington D.C. area, which includes, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC.

This brings back memories of when I was a young child. I remember growing up in Northern Ohio and seeing Cicadas covering everything in the woods. The sound was deafening!

People don't get to experience the life cycle of the Cicada very often. It only happens a few times in a person's life and I am glad that I got to experience it twice so far!

Questions & Answers

Question: When cicadas come up, when do they go away again?

Answer: They live above ground for 5-6 weeks.

© 2013 Melanie Casey


Melanie Casey (author) from Indiana on May 31, 2016:

Thanks for commenting Debi! I am in Indianapolis. I haven't seen one here yet, but it sounds like they are on their way! Three years ago, while I was living in Northern Virginia, we had swarms of Cicadas. I hadn't seen that many Cicadas since I was a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the '70s.

Debi Snider on May 31, 2016:

Two weeks ago the Cicada returned after 17 years. In Somerset, Ohio. Yes here are some every years but not like this. I wish I new about the netting before they got here.

Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on June 20, 2013:

Wow! I had no idea. It's unusual for insects to live so long. Voted up and interesting

Melanie Casey (author) from Indiana on June 19, 2013:

I couldn't believe how intact the skin stays. Even the leg skin stays intact. When I first saw them, I thought it was an actual Cicada until I saw that it was hollow!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 18, 2013:

When I was a little girl, collecting the skin left by the cicada was such a treat. Not sure why it was; perhaps because they were so perfect formed. It was an experience that remains crystal clear today. I learned a great deal by reading this article...thank you for sharing.

Angels are on the way to you this evening. ps

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