Cicadas belong to the superfamily Cicadoidea. They are related to leafhoppers and froghoppers and have large, prominent, wide set eyes. Unlike the leafhoppers, though, they are not able to jump; nor do they walk or run very well. They take to flight if they have to move more than a few centimetres. Their bodies are quite stout with their wings much longer than their bodies. Most are brown or black with some having green markings but there are some quite pretty species with colourful markings: even a blue species in Australia. Adult cicadas live in trees. Their most defining feature is their “singing”. They “sing” at night by vibrating tymbals, (membranes at the bottom of the abdomen) rapidly. Only the males make noises to attract a female with each species having its own song.

Adult size: 20mm-50mm (largest species is 70mm)

Out and about

Cicadas occur all over the world, mainly in tropical and temperate climates. After spending their nymphal stage underground, they emerge in late spring or early summer. There are many species throughout the world with about 200 species in Australia.

Reproduction and Life cycle

The female lay eggs in slits she has made in tree trunks. After the nymphs hatch they fall to the ground and burrow into the soil where they live on the sap from plant roots. Cicadas spend most of their lives underground in the nymph stage. An Australian species spends up to 6-7 years underground whilst a species of north America may spend as long as 13-17 years before emerging; although some species have a yearly lifecycle. The adults live only a few weeks. The nymphs go through moulting stages and, when they reach the last instar, they make their way to the surface where their final moult occurs. Nymphs are only about 3-4mm long when first hatched and at this stage are more likely to feed on grass roots. As they become larger and stronger the nymphs would be able to feed on larger tree roots.

To deter

To control

Plants to repel

Plants to attract


Birds/ bats/ spiders/ wasps (one species, Exeirus lateritius is called the cicada killer wasp) ants/ mantids/ tree crickets.
Why they are a Pest
They feed only on the plant sap of a huge range of plants such as coffee, eucalypts and grasses. This may cause cause stress to the plants and some stunted growth but generally it is not fatal to the plants. However, some feed on sugarcane roots and they are a problem, causing damage to the plants.