August 21, 2011

Locust or Cicada?

Why do I love finding these ugly, little, lifeless, fragile skins of a bug?

I guess it's because it's reminds me of childhood when I thought they were the coolest thing ever!

I grew up calling them locust shells...but in doing some research, I've found that they actually belong to that of the cicada!

It is true that people often refer to cicadas as locusts. I've heard people say "Aren't they the same thing?"

Locusts are actually a member of the grasshopper family, and look very much like a grasshopper. They are quite destructive, swarming and eating their way through crops, sometimes causing such devastation that leads to famine and starvation.

On the other hand, cicadas aren't really destructive like locusts. Here's a little information about cicadas. They have a stout body, broad head and beautifully clear membrane wings. Their distinct large, shiny eyes bulge from the sides of their head.

I love the sound that cicadas make! The males vibrate their abdomen producing a buzzing, clicking sound. To me, it's a rather soothing, hypnotizing sound to fall asleep to on a hot summer night.

Here's an amazing fact...there are over 2,500 species of cicadas!! Holy cow!

I'm sure all of you have heard of the "17 year cicadas", living in their nymph stage, in the earth and then emerging in force. These are known as "periodical" cicadas, but they aren't destructive like locusts. Although, it is true that locusts can cause some damage to crops, shrubs or trees...but only by way of "scarring" left on tree branches while females lay their eggs deep in the branches.

The most common cicada that most of us are familiar with is the "dog day cicada" that reappears every year, mid-summer. They are what's known as "annual" cicadas. To me, it just wouldn't be summer without these little critters singing their songs in the trees. That sound is a key essential to summertime!

Do you find empty, shed cicada skins in your neck of the woods??