Annual cicadas usually begin appearing in June, making their presence known by the loud singing of the males. Unlike 13-year cicadas, annual cicadas occur every year, but this does not mean they have a one year life cycle. Depending on the species, it takes two to three years, or more, for them to complete a generation, but the generations overlap so that some adults emerge every year. Most of the annual cicadas here in the state belong to the genus Tibicen, but there are many different species of Tibicen cicadas, and their songs vary considerably. Pay attention to the cicadas you hear singing this summer and you will probably notice several different types of songs. Some species of annual cicadas are more common in pine forests, while others are more common in hardwoods.
Yes, these are the same insects you probably learned to call “locusts” as a child, but this name actually refers to a particular group of grasshoppers, such as the plague locusts mentioned in the Bible, or the, now extinct, Rocky Mountain locust of western North America. These are also the same insects that leave those empty tan-colored husks clinging to tree trunks. These are left behind by the nymphs as they emerge from the ground, shed their nymphal skins, and transform into adults. Although the nymphs spend their life sucking sap from tree roots, and the adults also feed on sap from twigs, annual cicadas do not cause significant damage to their hosts and are not considered as pests.
You can hear recordings of the songs of various annual cicada species on this web site: http://www.insectsingers.com/100th_meridian_cicadas/ . The song of Tibicen auletes will probably sound quite familiar.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
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