Insect Identification - Black Cicada

Insect Identification - Black Cicada

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

I came across a black cicada in northwest Missouri last week (May 2015). I am only familiar with brown cicadas. What makes this black one different? Is it a different species, or do the brown cicadas change color at some point in adulthood?

A little digging on wikipedia seems to have answered my question. This picture of a 17 year cicada, Magicicada septendecim is pretty close to what I saw.

Furthermore, this seems to match the time and place, as the Kansas Brood of 17 year cicadas is scheduled to emerge this year and should appear in the Missouri-Kansas area. It also explains why I'm not familiar with these cicadas, 17 years ago I wasn't paying attention to them.

Short answer

This is Magicicada septendecula, one of the three species of 17-year cicada (colloquially, "17 year locust") native to the Eastern United states.

Credit: C. Simon, Fontaine et al (2007)1

Long answer

Periodic cicadas are the only group of dark-bodied cicadas with bright red eyes and orange/red-tinted wings (at least I don't know of any others). These cicadas, all of which are in the genus Magicicada, can be divided into 13-year and 17-year cicadas, each with multiple potential species:

  • 17-year species: M. septendecim, M. cassinii, M. septendecula

  • 13-year species: M. tredecim, M. neotredecim, M. tredecassini, M. tredecula

These species tend to form mixed-species cohorts called broods in which all members of a brood synchronously emerge at the same time (every 13 or 17 years). There are 23 broods found in the US that emerge in different years, and the broods are identified by Roman numerals (I-XXIII). [Source: Scientific American]

  • You can read more about periodic cicada broods on Wikipedia, and you can see range maps of both 13- and 17-year species here (from here) and all together in one map here: Liebhold et al (2013)2.

Importantly, only 3 broods are found anywhere in Missouri: one 17-year brood (Brood IV, the Kansan Brood) and two 13-year broods (Brood XIX, the Great southern Brood, and Brood XXIII, the Mississippi Valley Brood).

Modified from: Liebhold et al (2013)

  • Brood XIX is by far the biggest brood in terms of coverage in Missouri, but these 13-year cicadas last emerged in 2011 (not 2015).

  • The other two broods both emerged in 2015, when the OP photographed the specimen in question, but only Brood IV is found in Northwest Missouri. So we can safely narrow the potential species down to just one of the three 17-year cicadas.

    • However, Brood IV does contain all 3 species of 17-year cicadas, so we'll have to keep digging… provides the following tips for IDing these fairly similar looking species:

  • M. cassinii: Smaller (2.4-2.7 cm long) with black ventral abdomen

  • M. septendecula: smaller (similar to M. cassinii) with orange/yellow stripes on ventral abdomen

  • M. septendecim: larger (2.7-3.0 cm long3) with orange/yellow stripes on ventral abdomen.

We don't have the greatest view of the abdomen and we have no definitive reference for size (at least to differentiate a couple of mm), so this makes ID a bit more difficult. However, it does appear that there are bands of orange striping seen on the lateral sides of the abdomen in the OP's image, suggesting we can rule out M. cassinii.

Lucky for us, there is one additional way to identify between the other two species. Again from

The pronotal extension is an extension of the pronotum that lies between the Magicicada's eye and its wing (outlined in green in the photo below). M. septendecim have orange coloring in that area, which gives us a key way to visually distinguish them from M. septendecula.

Orange pronatal extension of M. septendecim ; Source: Cicada Mania

Sure enough, the OP's specimen does not have an orange pronatal extension…

… suggesting that the OP's species is M. septendecula!

Also, FYI: cicada adults do not change colors. The 5th molt prior to the adult stage, which leaves behind the familiar exuviae clinging to a tree trunk, is the final anatomical change cicadas undergo in their life cycle. [See here for more]


1. Fontaine, K.M., Cooley, J.R. and Simon, C., 2007. Evidence for paternal leakage in hybrid periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Magicicada spp.). PloS one, 2(9), p.e892.

2. Lloyd, M. and Dybas, H.S., 1966. The periodical cicada problem. I. Population ecology. Evolution, 20(2), pp.133-149.

3. Evans, A.V., 2007. National Wildlife Federation field guide to insects and spiders & related species of North America. Sterling Publishing Company.

It's difficult to be sure without seeing the specimen more from the side (or ventrally), but the lack of visible orange color between the eye and the wing articulation suggests that it could be one of two other 17-year cicada species, Magicicada cassinii or M. septedecula (all three species emerge synchronously; their different songs isolate them reproductively). M. septendecim has the lateral orange color. M. cassinii is the most common of the three species in the 17-year brood that came out in 2015.

Cicadas do not change much in appearance during their short adult lives.

Biology professor readies to research 17-year cicadas

While he has a Ph.D. in entomology and works with insects on a regular basis, Dr. Evan Lampert has never seen a 17-year cicada alive.

"The last time that brood of cicadas emerged was in 2004, and I was in graduate school in Fargo, North Dakota," said the professor of biology at the University of North Georgia (UNG). "The closest cicada population to me was in southern Illinois. So I was a long way away from seeing them."

This spring, Lampert expects to see thousands of the 17-year cicadas as they emerge in late April and early May across northeast Georgia. He plans to collect them for research purposes after the insects pop out of the ground to mate for a few weeks before dying.

"The adults will emerge together in massive numbers and stay alive for a very short time," Lampert said, explaining this year's cicadas are designated as Brood X. "It's their strategy to remain alive and not go extinct."

With a short timeframe, Lampert and a handful of students will search for the cicada populations, identify their location and collect data such as their species and other characteristics.

"My main interest is the geographic range of Brood X," Lampert said. "I want to know where they are located in Georgia and if they have grown in population. The only way to find that out is to take samples of the cicadas."

To do that, he and his students are fanning out across northeast Georgia to search for signs of the insects. Signs include the mounds on the top soil from which they emerge, their attachment to trees, and their loud mating call.

"Their mating call is over 100 decibels," he said. "We can drive around with the windows down to find them at different locations."

With so much ground to cover, Lampert knows he can't conduct his project alone. He seeks help from UNG students on all five campuses as well as community members to locate the cicadas.

The 17-year cicadas are easy to recognize. They are less than 2 inches in length with a black body, orange wings and bright red eyes.

"They are noticeably different from the annual cicadas that have green-brown bodies and dark eyes," Lampert said.

Songs of Insects

Dog-day cicada with mouth parts inserted into the tree’s bark.

M any find cicadas to be grotesque and frightening in appearance however, cicadas do not bite and are actually harmless to handle. They are members of the order Homoptera, close relatives of the aphids and leafhoppers. Most cicadas, including all of our eastern species, are excellent fliers and spend their adult lives high in trees, where they are difficult to see. Some species, however, frequent city parks and woodlots, and injured specimens may sometimes be found along sidewalks or on window screens, or else cats may catch them and bring them home. Cicadas are also drawn to bright lights at night. Unlike crickets and kaytids, which do well in captivity, cicadas usually die within several days and should not be kept as pets. While some cicadas can be recognized at a glance, others look very much alike and are best identified by their loud songs, which people notice, even if they don’t know they’re being made by cicadas. There are lots of cicadas in North America, about 155 species represented by fourteen genera, although most of these are western in distribution. We cover thirteen species in this guide (in four genera) and include the common species most likely to be heard in the East.

Annual cicada having shed it’s last juvenile exoskeleton and now drying as a newly emerged adult.

The typical cicada life cycle lasts many years. Females generally lay eggs in the bark of limbs or twigs. The eggs hatch into tiny nymphs that fall from trees and then burrow into the ground, where they feed on roots. The nymphs remain underground for a number of years, growing steadily and shedding numerous skins. Finally, they emerge from the ground, crawl up tree trunks, and then shed their last skins to become adults, leaving their nymphal cases attached to the bark. Over most of our region, emergences begin in midsummer. Adults live only about a month, feeding on plant juices, which they obtain by inserting their piercing and sucking mouthparts into the bark.

Male cicadas have loud buzzing songs that are produced by special organs called “tymbals,” located on the first segment of the abdomen. Most species are easy to identify by song. A male’s song attracts females and may also serve to attract other males, especially in those species that form noisy mating aggregations.

Nearly all of our eastern cicadas are of the annual type, meaning that adults emerge every year, although some years may yield greater numbers than others. In other words, the life cycles of individuals within a population are staggered, so that there are nymphs emerging as adults every year. In contrast, the “periodical” cicadas have populations in which all individuals are synchronized in their life cycles. The example we include in this guide is Linnaeus’ 17-year Cicada, in which individuals in a population emerge all together just once every seventeen years.

A piercing whine heard in the heat of the day .

Biting Black Flies

We have about two dozen to three dozen different species of black flies in the Midwest, Liesch said.

They can be pests to large livestock, like horses. And there are a few that can bite humans.

"Unfortunately, we're at the mercy of Mother Nature with these black flies," Liesch said. "Adults may be active for several weeks at a time. And there aren't great ways to eliminate them because the source that they come from, often a stream or river, could be some distance away from us. They can blow in or fly in from some pretty long distances."

For protecting horses, Liesch suggested trying a topical spray-on — like pyrethroid-based repellent — or fly masks and maybe a light sheet to reduce contact. He also recommended putting horses or other livestock in an area with decent airflow, which can help keep the flies moving.


Control is not necessary on established mature trees.

Insecticides are ineffective for significantly reducing cicada abundance and damage. Insecticides also pose a risk to people, pets, beneficial insects, and birds.

If you intend to plant trees or shrubs in a year when periodical cicadas emerge, consider delaying planting until fall when the cicadas are gone.

Small ornamental trees, shrubs, and fruit trees may be protected by covering them with insect netting sold in garden centers, nurseries, and online. It was observed in 2004 that insect netting with openings ranging from 1/4-in. to 3/8-in. (0.6-cm. to 1.0 cm.) prevented injury to small trees. Bird netting openings are too large to exclude cicadas. Tulle and other breathable fabrics are available that can be draped over small or newly planted trees and shrubs and held to the ground with rocks, bricks, or landscape pins or secured to the base of the trunk to prevent cicadas and wildlife from becoming trapped. The plants should be protected from the time cicadas emerge until they are gone 6-8 weeks later. If left on too long, barriers may physically impede new foliage/stem growth, reduce air circulation (which can promote fungal infection), and shade leaves which will later become sunburned when their full-sun exposure is resumed. Barriers may also prevent pollination, depending on plant flowering times.

Shrubs are rarely harmed. Any visible injury can be easily trimmed away later.

Cicadas do not target herbaceous plants (annuals and perennials, including vegetables and herbs) for feeding or egg-laying. They may climb onto them for support, but won't harm them.

Organic mulches spread around garden and landscape plants, up to a 3-in. depth, will not interfere with the cicada lifecycle. Prop up or remove any items in your yard that cicadas might fall on.

Ornamental ponds should be covered with screening or plastic mesh to prevent cicadas from accumulating. Large numbers of decomposing cicadas could cause problems with oxygen depletion in the water.

Clean pool skimmers/filters frequently during cicada emergence to keep them from getting clogged.


Cicadas are large, loud, buzzing insects that create a deafening chorus on hot summer nights. Often mistakenly called “locusts," cicadas have unusual life cycles. Some types, known as periodical cicadas, emerge all at once every 13 or 17 years, depending on their range. Annual cicadas, also called “dog day" cicadas, emerge sporadically every year throughout the hot, muggy period known as the "dog days" of summer. Cicada noise can be disruptive, but these pests can also damage plants above and below ground.

Identification: Many species of cicadas exist in various regions of the United States. All are distinctive, yet they clearly resemble each other. Cicada wings typically extend almost double the length of their bodies and may be anywhere from less than 1 inch long to nearly three times that length. Periodical cicadas are black with bulging reddish-orange eyes and orange-veined wings. Larger annual cicadas have green bodies with black markings and green-veined wings.

Signs/Damage: Cicadas spend much of their life cycle underground, where they suck sap from plant roots. Extensive feeding stunts plant growth. Once cicada nymphs emerge from the ground, they climb up trees or other vegetation and molt. The outer skin, left clinging in place and split right down the midback, is a certain sign of cicadas. After adults go through their noisy mating period, females slice holes into small twigs of trees and shrubs and lay their eggs. The split twigs droop and die back. Small plants may be damaged severely or killed.

Control: Effective control of cicadas starts as soon as you see emerging nymphs or hear the shrill, buzzing call of adults. GardenTech ® brand offers several options to kill and control cicadas and prevent plant damage:

  • Sevin ® Insect Killer Concentrate, used with pump-style sprayer, is ideal for treating lawn areas and small trees and shrubs at risk for cicada damage. Spray all plant surfaces thoroughly, concentrating on small twigs where cicadas may lay eggs.
  • Sevin ® Insect Killer Ready to Spray attaches to a common garden hose to treat lawn areas and homes perimeters along with small trees and shrubs. It mixes with water as you spray, providing thorough coverage for cicada-prone areas.
  • Sevin ® -5 Ready-To-Use 5% Dust kills periodical cicadas on ornamental shrubs and flowers. Apply a thin, thorough dusting to affected parts of the plant at the first sign of cicada damage.

Tip: Large, mature trees can withstand most cicada damage, but young trees suffer when populations are high. Cover young trees with netting to protect against egg-laying adults.

Always read product labels and follow the instructions carefully.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.

Periodical Cicadas

These cicadas have 17 or 13 year life cycles. Visit the Periodical Cicada Information Page for when and where.

Magicicada cassinii (Fisher, 1852)

  • Short Name: M. cassini
  • Common Name: Cassini Periodical Cicada or 17-Year Cicada
  • Locations: GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 17 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs.

Magicicada neotredecim Marshall and Cooley, 2000 ©Insect Singers.

  • Short Name: M. neotredecim
  • Common Name: 13 Periodical Cicada or 13-Year Cicada or John and David’s Cicada
  • Locations: AR, IA, IL, IN, KY, MO, TN
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 13 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs. Orange stripes on abdomen. Orange between eye and wing.

Magicicada septendecim (Linnaeus, 1758)

  • Short Name: M. septendecim
  • Common Name: Decim Periodical Cicada or Linnaeus’s 17-Year Cicada or 17-Year Cicada
  • Locations: CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MO, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, WI, WV
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 17 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs. Orange stripes on abdomen. Orange between eye and wing.

Magicicada septendecula Alexander and Moore, 1962 © Joe Green.

  • Short Name: M. septendecula
  • Common Name: Decula Periodical Cicdada or 17-Year Cicada
  • Locations: GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, VA, WV
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 17 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs. Orange stripes on abdomen.

Magicicada tredecassini Alexander and Moore, 1962

  • Short Name: M. tredecassini
  • Common Name: 13-Year Cicada or 13-Year Cassini
  • Locations: AL, AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MO, MS, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, VA
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 13 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs.

Magicicada tredecim (Walsh and Riley, 1868) ©Insect Singers

  • Short Name: M. tredecim
  • Common Name: 13-Year Cicada or 13-Year Decim
  • Locations: AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, VA
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 13 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs. Orange stripes on abdomen. Orange between eye and wing.

Magicicada tredecula Alexander and Moore, 1962

  • Short Name: M. tredecula
  • Common Name: 13-Year Cicada or 13-Year Decula
  • Locations: AL, AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, VA
  • When: May-June. Peak in June. Every 13 years.
  • Eyes: reddish orange
  • Collar: black
  • Description: Black body with orange wings and legs. Orange stripes on abdomen.
  • >More info, photos, sounds, video and references

Related Resources

Most sound files are Copyright of Insect Singers.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Try these websites about the cicadas of North America, or these blog posts about United States and Canada.

Click the images for larger versions, the species name, and the name of the photographer.

What are Cicadas?

An illustration of cicada tymbals from C.L. Marlatt's The Periodical Cicada. c shows the muscles and tendons connected to the tymbals, and d & e show the bending of the tymbal.

Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cicadidae) are insects, best known for the songs sung by most, but not all, male cicadas. Males sing by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Small muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out of shape. The sound is intensified by the cicada's mostly hollow abdomen.

Female and some male cicadas will also make a sound by flicking their wings, but it isn't the same as the sound for which cicadas are known. Listen to some of the songs cicadas sing.

A Magicicada drinking from a tree. Photo by Roy Troutman.

Cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha, superfamily Cicadoidea and families Cicadidae (the vast majority of cicadas) or Tettigarctidae (only two species). There are five subfamilies of Cicadidae: Derotettiginae, Tibicininae, Tettigomyiinae, Cicadettinae, and Cicadinae. Leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and jumping plant lice are close relatives of the cicada. Hemiptera are different from other insects in that both the nymph and adult forms have a beak (aka rostrum), which they use to suck fluids called xylem from plants. This is how they both eat and drink.

The body of a cicada is composed of a head, thorax & abdomen. The head features two antennae, two compound eyes, three simple eyes (ocelli), a clypeus that connects the beak to the head (the clypeus looks like the grill of a combustion vehicle). The thorax features two sets of wings (forewings & hindwings), six sets of legs, spiracles for breathing, opercula covering the tympana ("eardrums"), and in males of species that have them, tymbals & tymbal covers. The abdomen features tergites (dorsal) & sternites (ventral), more spiracles for breathing, and reproductive organs. Cicadidae and Tettigarctidae have major differences in anatomy, which you can learn about here.

The Name

The Latin root for the word for cicada is cicada. Cicadas are called semi in Japan, cigale in France, and cigarra in Spain. Names for cicadas in countries around the world. The pronunciation of the word cicada depends on your local dialect. You can say “si-kah-da” or “si-kay-da”.

Life Cycle

Cicadas begin life as a rice-shaped egg, which the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb, using her ovipositor. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. These grooves can kill small branches. When the branches die and the leaves turn brown, it is called flagging.

Once the cicada hatches from the egg it will begin to feed on the tree fluids. At this point, it looks like a termite or small white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. It will typically start with smaller grass roots and work its way up to the roots of its host tree. The cicada will stay underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species. Cicadas are active underground, tunneling, and feeding, and not sleeping or hibernating as commonly thought.

After the long 2 to 17 years, cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest available vertical surface (usually a plant) and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid (haemolymph) and their adult skin will harden (sclerotize). Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life.

Adult cicadas, also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing (or otherwise vibrate the air or their surroundings), females respond, mating begins, and the cycle of life begins again.

Top, Left to Right: cicada egg, freshly hatched nymph, second and third instar nymphs. Bottom, Left to Right: fourth instar nymph, teneral adult, adult. (Photos by Roy Troutman and Elias Bonaros).

Different Types of Life Cycles

There are three types of cicada life cycles:

  1. Annual: Cicada species with annual life cycles emerge every year, for example, Swamp Cicadas (Neotibicen tibicen) emerge every year in the United States, and Green Grocers (Cyclochila australasiae) emerge every year in Australia.
  2. Periodical: Cicadas species with periodical life cycles emerge together after long periods of time, for example, Magicicada septendecim will emerge every 17 years (Find out where they'll emerge next). Magicicada periodical cicadas are organized into Broods, which correspond to the series of years in which they will emerge. Only periodical cicadas are organized by Roman-numeral Broods.
  3. Protoperiodical: Cicada species with protoperiodical life cycles might emerge every year, but every so many years they emerge together in large numbers, like certain Okanagana depending on factors like proximity to other species and rainfall accumulations (Chatfield-Taylor 2020).

How Many Cicadas Are There?

There are over 190 varieties (including species & subspecies) of cicadas in North America, and over 3,390 varieties of cicadas around the world. This number grows each year as researchers discover and document new species. Cicadas exist on every continent but Antarctica.

The Largest Cicada:

The world's largest species of cicada is the Megapomponia imperatoria, which is native to Malaysia. The largest species in North America is Megatibicen auletes, aka the Northern Dusk Singing Cicada. Other notably large cicadas include the Bear Cicada of Japan (Cryptotympana facialis), and Tacua speciosa of south-east Asia.

The Loudest Cicadas:

The world's loudest cicada is the Brevisana brevis, a cicada found in Africa that reaches 106.7 decibels when recorded at a distance of 50cm (

20"), according to researcher John Petti.

The Megatibicen pronotalis walkeri (formerly known as Tibicen walkeri) is the loudest cicada in North America and can achieve 105.9 decibels, measured at 50cm.

That said, Australian species of cicadas, like the Double Drummer (Thopha saccata) are said to approach 120 (deafening) decibels at close range. It is unknown how many decibels Thopha saccata can create at 50cm.

Double Drummer aka Thopha saccata

Longest Lifecycle:

The most well-known cicadas in North America are the Magicicada periodical cicadas, aka "locusts", which have amazingly long 17 or 13 year lifecycles. Brood VIII (17-year life cycle) will emerge in Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2019. Magicicada have been documented to emerge after 22 years. Read more: How long do cicadas live?

The cicada information on Cicada Mania is not limited to North America. We have some cicada photos and information for Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America thanks to contributors around the world.


Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 5/1/2021).

© 2021 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.

Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.

Songs of Insects

Song of a Lyric Cicada (scroll down for explanation and additional recordings!).

T he Lyric Cicada is variable in appearance, with some individuals sporting prominent red-brown patterns on their head and thorax, and others having just a touch of red- brown on the top of their head, usually in a T-shaped pattern. Preferred habitats include deciduous forests, wooded residential areas, and orchards. Sings all day long on warm days, but there is usually a peak in singing at dusk.

Song: A buzzy, rattling trill with a peak frequency of about 7 kHz, and lasting from 30 seconds to a minute or more. Lyric Cicada songs are fairly easy to identify because they do not have the pulsating character of the songs of most other cicadas in their range. Songs start soft then increase in volume and may exhibit distinct changes in volume before finally ending.

Watch the video: Die Zikade. Karambolage. ARTE (August 2022).