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Esperanza’s World – Cicada Center

Esperanza’s World – Cicada Center

Activities / Teacher Resources

Description of the Apache Cicada

Cicadas are commonly heard in the hot summers buzzing or “singing” in trees. Cicadas are 1-1/2 to 2 inches long with thick bodies, wings, 6 legs and bulging eyes. The most common species in the Arizona desert is the Apache cicada, which is dark-colored with a pale tan band just behind its head. The adult males produce a loud, shrill-like noise to attract or court females. The male Cicada may be the loudest insect; their “songs” can be heard as far away as 450 yards.Cicadas are not harmful to humans in any way. They do not bite or carry diseases. The cicadas spend most of their lives as nymphs feeding underground on the roots of trees or other plants. The nymphs emerge from their underground habitats during summer evenings, beginning in June.  Holes in the soil about one half inch in diameter mark their exits. They crawl up nearby tree trunks, plants or buildings and cling there.  Eventually the back of the nymph begins to split open and the adult winged cicada emerges. Often their hard, transparent leftover skins or exoskeletons are found attached to trees or buildings.

Cicada adults live only three to four weeks. After mating, the female cuts open twigs with her saw-like egg-laying body part, and deposits her eggs in the slits. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil in search of food. The species of cicada found in Arizona finish their life cycles in two or three years.  This is not true of all cicadas.

~Cicadas are sometimes referred to as the “rain bug” because they seem to sense the monsoon is approaching and come out from their underground burrows, a week or two before the Arizona monsoon season begins.  Esperanza was right about the cicadas liking the heat and thinking that the arrival of the cicadas was linked to the summer rains.