How to differentiate cicada species

How to Differentiate Cicada Species: Easy Tips & Tricks

Cicadas are fascinating insects with a diverse range of species, each with its own unique characteristics. Learning how to differentiate between cicada species can be an exciting journey into the world of backyard entomology. By understanding the distinguishing features and behaviors of different cicada species, you can enhance your knowledge and appreciation of these incredible creatures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Observing the size and color variations can help in identifying different cicada species.
  • Paying attention to preferred habitats and geographic distributions can provide clues for identification.
  • Distinctive mating calls and wing patterns are essential in distinguishing among different cicada species.
  • Locating and observing cicadas during their emergence periods can aid in identification.
  • Comparing cicadas to other plant-feeding insects can help in differentiating them.

Now that you have a brief understanding of how to differentiate cicada species, let’s delve deeper into the topic and explore the fascinating world of cicadas and their diverse characteristics.

Understanding Cicadas: An Overview

When it comes to cicadas, there’s so much more than meets the eye. These fascinating insects, belonging to the Magicicada genus, showcase a variety of cicada species with unique traits and characteristics. Let’s dive into the world of cicadas and unravel their mysteries.

First and foremost, let’s talk about their life cycles. While most cicada species have life cycles of 2-5 years, the Magicicada species stands apart with either thirteen-year or seventeen-year life cycles. Yes, you read that right! These cicadas spend an incredibly long time underground, patiently waiting for their moment to emerge and make their presence known.

What makes cicadas even more captivating are their distinct physical characteristics. With a wide head, adorned with two big eyes, they have an unmistakable appearance. Their bodies are equipped with a rostrum, enabling them to feed on plant sap, and specialized body parts that produce loud mating calls, a hallmark of cicada communication.

Curious about where these enchanting creatures call home? They can be found in various habitats across the globe, including North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Their adaptability and tenacity have enabled them to thrive in diverse environments, showcasing the incredible cicada diversity we witness today, with over 3000 species worldwide.

Exploring the world of cicadas opens up a gateway to understanding the wonder of nature. Their unique life cycles, physical characteristics, and diverse habitats capture our imagination and remind us of the marvels that exist right in our own backyards.

Cicada Identification: Key Features

To differentiate cicada species, it’s important to focus on key features. While cicadas share a common body shape, they exhibit variations in size and color. Some species, like the Megapomponia imperatoria, are the largest cicadas in the world with a wingspan of up to 8 inches.

Additionally, observing the preferred habitats of different species can provide clues for identification. Cicadas can be found in a variety of environments, ranging from forests to grasslands. Some species prefer moist areas near rivers or ponds, while others thrive in drier habitats.

Another distinguishing characteristic of cicadas is their mating calls. Male cicadas produce unique sounds to attract females. These calls can vary in pitch, rhythm, and duration among different species. By familiarizing yourself with the mating calls of various cicada species, you can further aid in their identification.

Distinctive wing patterns also play a role in distinguishing between cicada species. Some species have intricate patterns on their wings, such as stripes or spots, while others have more solid-colored wings. Observing these wing patterns can provide valuable insights into the specific cicada species you encounter.

By paying attention to these key features, including size and color variations, different species’ preferred habitats, mating calls, and distinctive wing patterns, you can develop the skills necessary for accurate cicada identification.

cicada identification

Locating and Observing Cicada Species

The emergence of cicadas occurs periodically, and it’s essential to understand their geographic distribution to locate specific species. One notable example is the Brood XIX periodical cicadas, which have the largest population and can be found throughout Indiana and the southern states. By knowing where to look, you increase your chances of observing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

When trying to identify cicadas, one useful method is to search for their shed nymph shells. These discarded exoskeletons closely resemble the nymphal cicadas themselves and can provide valuable clues for distinguishing between cicada species. Look for these shells on tree trunks, branches, or vegetation. They often remain attached even after the cicada has emerged.

It’s important to note that cicadas may be mistaken for other plant-feeding insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, or katydids. To avoid confusion, pay close attention to their distinguishing features. Cicadas have large, transparent wings, broad bodies, and prominent, widely spaced eyes. Additionally, their characteristic songs, produced by males to attract mates, can assist in identification. Each species has its unique song, ranging from high-pitched buzzing to rhythmic chirping.


Q: How can I differentiate between different cicada species?

A: To differentiate cicada species, focus on their size, color, preferred habitats, mating calls, and wing patterns. These unique characteristics will help you identify the specific species.

Q: What are some key features to look for when identifying cicadas?

A: When identifying cicadas, pay attention to their size and color variations. Notice their preferred habitats and listen for their distinctive mating calls. Additionally, observe the unique patterns on their wings.

Q: How can I locate and observe different cicada species?

A: Look for shed nymph shells, which resemble the nymphal cicadas themselves. Differentiate cicadas from other plant-feeding insects like crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids. Lastly, listen for the loud and distinctive songs of cicadas, which can help you locate and identify different species.

Q: Where can I find different cicada species?

A: Cicadas can be found in various habitats across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The geographic distribution of specific species may vary, so it’s important to research the regions where different cicada species are known to be found.

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