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The cicada is a large-bodied, dark-colored, flying insect with four long, transparent wings and large eyes. When at rest, the cicada holds the wings peaked over the body like a tent. Cicadas are not locusts (locusts are a type of grasshopper). Cicadas can damage twigs when eggs are laid in the twig (unlike locusts and grasshoppers who damage plants by defoliation - leaf eating).
Noise: Males make a shrill, buzzing call by vibrating two drum-like membranes (called tymbals) covering hollow chambers on the abdomen using muscles (females do not make this noise) - they usually do this while perching high up in trees. (This is unlike grasshoppers, who make noise by rubbing their back legs together.) Male cicadas call to attract females. The loudest insect in the world is the African cicada (Brevisana brevis); it regularly produces sounds at 106.7 dB at a distance of 50 cm (this is about as loud as a power saw).
Diet: Cicadas eat plant sap while in their long juvenile (nymph) stage.
Anatomy: Like all insects, the cicada has three body parts (the head, thorax and abdomen), two large, compound eyes, clear wings, and six jointed legs. They breathe through spiracles - small holes in the abdomen. The antennae are short and bristly. Adult cicadas range in size from 1 to 2 inches (2.5 - 5 cm) long.
Life cycle: The cicada has the longest life cycle of any insect, ranging from 2 to 17 years. A rice-shaped egg is laid in tender twigs and plant stems. The egg hatches into a nymph (the larval stage) and drops to the ground. The nymph burrows into the soil and crawls to a tree root (using its claw-like front legs). The nymph will eat the tree's sap. The nymph stage lasts up to 17 years in periodical cicadas; dog day cicadas have a shorter life cycle. There is no pupal stage. When the nymph is fully grown and the temperature is optimal, the nymph tunnels to the surface and goes through its final molt (shedding its hard outer skin) and emerges as a winged adult. When the wings dry and harden, the cicada flies in search of a mate. Unlike many other insects, all of the periodical cicadas in an area emerge at once.
Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), Class Insecta (insects), Order Homoptera (aphids, cicadas), Family Cicadidae (all cicadas), many Genera, including Genus Magicicada (long period, red-eyed cicadas - with a 13 or 17 year life cycle) and Genus Tibicen (dog-day cicada -- with a 2 to 5 year year life cycle).
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