Got Cicada Questions?

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This week I want to address some questions related to cicadas. By now you have probably heard the buzz about the periodical cicada that is going to emerge this summer!

Q: Are cicadas and locusts the same thing?

A: No, even though people do use those terms interchangeably due to their similar behavior.

Locusts swarm, and cicadas—in particular, periodical cicadas—are often thought to swarm. However, cicadas don’t actually swarm. They just emerge all at once in large numbers.

Cicadas are related to aphids, leafhoppers, and other insects with sucking mouthparts. A locust is a grasshopper from the family Acrididae that has reached adulthood.

Cicadas do minimal damage to plants while a locust swarm can heavily damage crops.

Q: What is the difference between periodical cicadas and “dog day” cicadas?

A: Periodical cicadas are cicadas that synchronize their emergence, whether it’s 13 or 17 years, so that their large numbers swamp local predators’ abilities to feed on them.


Periodical cicadas have red eyes and an orange outline on their bodies.
Credit: Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University,

Periodical cicadas stay underground for 13 or 17 years and feed on the roots of trees. Once it is their time to emerge, they emerge in very large quantities. Under ideal conditions, they can emerge at the rate of millions per acre!

Periodical cicadas have red eyes and an orange outline to their body.

Dog day cicadas are cicadas that appear yearly in mid-summer. These cicadas are black and green in color and tend to be wary and fairly solitary to avoid predators.

dog day cicada

Dog day cicadas have black eyes with a green outline on their bodies.
Credit: David Stephens,

Q: Are cicadas harmful to plants and animals?

A: No. Cicadas do pretty minimal damage to plants. Female cicadas use a saw-like structure called an ovipositor to cut slits in twigs on trees, and then deposit their eggs safely in these cuts. This activity often causes the growth beyond the slit to wilt, or “flag.” This usually doesn’t hurt your tree.

Cicadas pose no threat to animals. They are not poisonous, even if consumed. Cicadas aren’t known to bite, either.

Q: When will our area experience another emergence?

A: Caldwell County’s next emergence will be in 2025 with Brood XIV. This particular brood is a 17-year cicada and will be seen from here all the way to Pennsylvania!

Active broods expected to emerge across the US. Credit: United States Forest Service

Active broods expected to emerge across the US.
Credit: United States Forest Service

If you have questions regarding cicadas contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Caldwell County office at 828-757-1290.