Lately I’ve been coming across these red-eyed insects in tall fields of vegetation. These are known as “periodical cicadas” and they’re only found in eastern North America. All other cicadas are “annual cicadas.”
Larva for periodical cicadas live underground and develop very slowly, taking either 13 or 17 years (depending on the species) to reach adulthood. Here’s a larva that I found in central Ohio, though I’ve also seen them in my yard on occasion, under rocks and logs.
Populations of periodical cicadas are called broods, and each emerge all at once as winged adults – sometimes by the thousands…and sometimes by the millions.
Annual cicadas don’t have red eyes. Their loud, buzzing sawlike call is the loudest in the insect world. Adults don’t eat and only live a few days. Here’s one that I found in Las Vegas in 2009.
When the larva emerges from underground the back of its shell splits and a soft, pale adult emerges. It takes a few hours for the insect’s exoskelton to harden and for its wings to dry. Here’s one that I saw on a tree in my backyard that had recently emerged.
This insect’s amazing lifestyle has been a source of fascination since ancient times. Several cultures, such as the ancient Chinese, regarded these insects as powerful symbols of rebirth. Here’s a carved jade sculpture of a cicada that I got in China Town (San Francisco) – it resides on my kitchen windowsill.