What Do Cicadas Eat?

What Do Cicadas Eat?

What Do Cicadas Eat? Cicadas are winged insects notable for their clicking and buzzing sounds. These insects are oval-shaped.

Cicadas are famous for their unique disappearing acts which can last for years only for them to reappear after a regular interval.

Cicadas are herbivores meaning they primarily feed on vegetation. The young ones (nymph) use their modified mouthparts to feed on includes juices and sap obtained from plant roots while the molting cicadas eat twigs.

What Do Cicadas Eat?

Type of Cicada Diet
Linnaeus’ 17-year Cicada (Magicicada septendecim) Juices from plant roots (young ones) & sap from trees (adults)
13-year Cicada (Magicicada tredecim) Sap from vegetation.
Robinson’s Annual Cicada (Neotibicen robinsonianus) Juices drawn from plant roots.

Cicadas Diet by Types

Scientists have described over 3,000 cicada species. In general, two types of cicadas exist.

  • One type is referred to as the annual cicadas. These cicadas emerge every year (not in a swarm) and they are often green with black eyes.
  • The other type is the periodical cicadas. These emerge in a swarm at different intervals (17 years or 13 years).
  • They are typically orange or brown with bulging red eyes. The examples of cicadas described in this section will be drawn from the two broad types.

What Do Linnaeus’ 17-year Cicadas Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Hemiptera Cicadidae Magicicada Magicicada septendecim
Magicicada Septendecim
Source: Wikimedia

The young ones of Linnaeus’ 17-year Cicada feed by sucking juices (using their unique mouthparts) from plant roots. The adult cicadas feed by sucking sap from trees.

  • The 17-year cicada is also referred to as the Pharaoh cicada.
  • This species is classified under the periodical type, and it is native to the United States, particularly the eastern parts of the high plains.
  • Its habitat includes temperate terrestrial lands, especially forests.
  • They can also be found in suburban areas.

What Do 13-year Cicadas Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Hemiptera Cicadidae Magicicada Magicicada tredecim

Members of 13-year Cicada feed by sucking sap from vegetation.

  • The 13-year cicada resembles the 17-year cicada, especially when looking at its behavior and appearance.
  • The main difference is the fact that it has a low-pitched voice, and it spots dark bands on the lower side of its abdomen.
  • The 13-year cicada inhabits terrestrial underground areas (the nymph stage).

What Do Robinson’s Annual Cicadas Eat?

Because they live underground, the nymph of Robinson’s annual cicada feed by sucking juices drawn from plant roots. Their sucking mouthparts which resemble sharp straws come in handy for feeding.

Robinson's Annual Cicadas

  • The Robinson’s annual cicada appears after every year as its name suggests.
  • This means that compared to the periodical cicadas identified earlier, Robinson’s cicada has a more frequent generational emergence.
  • They tend to spot green, black, and brown colors. This cicada species inhabits terrestrial lands with shrubs and trees.
  • In such areas, the nymphs crawl underground where they stay for long periods.

How Do Cicadas Hunt?

Cicadas are herbivorous meaning they draw all their nutrients precisely from plants. As such, they do not hunt for meat protein.

When Do Cicadas Eat?

Most cicada species are diurnal meaning they will tend to be active during the day.

When Do Cicadas Eat?

  • These species can often be found eating during daylight hours.
  • Some few species are known to be nocturnal and will thus be found to be active at night.

How Often Do Cicadas Eat?

Feeding among cicadas depends on many factors. One such factor is age.

  • Young cicadas will tend to feed very often, and this is linked to their need for growth.
  • Adult cicadas which have emerged from their ground do not feed as often.
  • Other works indicate that adult cicadas do not feed at all. Adult cicadas spend most of their time mating.

What Eats Cicadas?

Cicadas are predated upon by organisms like cats, dogs, squirrels, spiders, turtles, and fish.

What eats Cicadas? Squirrels

  • Humans from various parts of the globe where cicadas are found consider them to be a nutritious delicacy likened to the taste of shellfish.
  • One reason that indicates why cicadas have so many predators is that adults are poor at flying.
  • This behavior, in turn, makes them easy targets for predators, especially birds and mammals.
Suggested Reading: Did you know one of the Texas birds loves eating cicadas? Find out more.

Where Do Cicadas Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Cicadas play an essential role in the animal food chain.

  • They provide a critical source of nutrients for organisms like birds (robins), wasps, seagulls, dogs, raccoons, and squirrels.
  • Cicadas are easy to pick, and because of this, they help boost the populations of a wide array of organisms, including the ones mentioned earlier.
  • The implication from this is that cicadas help a wide array of the members of their ecosystem survive by providing nutritious food to them.

Cite This Page

BioExplorer.net. (2023, March 25). What Do Cicadas Eat?. Bio Explorer. https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-cicadas-eat.html/.
BioExplorer.net. "What Do Cicadas Eat?" Bio Explorer, 25 March 2023, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-cicadas-eat.html/.
BioExplorer.net. "What Do Cicadas Eat?" Bio Explorer, March 25 2023. https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-cicadas-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “Cicadas of Kentucky – University of Kentucky Entomology”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “What's the difference between the 13-year and 17-year cicada? – Scientific American”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Magicicada tredecim”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Annual Cicadas Dog-Day Cicadas; Harvest Flies; Jar Flies; Locusts | MDC Discover Nature”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Robinson’s Annual Cicada”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Cicada Season 2017: When and Where the Next Brood Will Hatch | Live Science”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Cicadas’ bizarre survival strategy – Technology & science – Washington Post | NBC News”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Cicada Recipes: Bugs Are Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Food”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Cicadas low on food chain but high in taste – Chicago Tribune”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.


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