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Insects and other arthropods

Cicadas

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Description

Cicadas are often large insects from 25 to 50 mm long. Their bodies are generally black, brown or green, with markings of different shapes and colours depending on the species.

A cicada’s wide head is flattish in front, with a pair of large eyes, three small eyes (ocelli), two short antennae and piercing-sucking mouthparts.

There are two pairs of transparent, membranous wings on the thorax. The forewings are about twice as long as the hindwings.

Life cycle

After mating, the female uses her ovipositor, at the tip of her abdomen, to make slits in the bark of tree or shrub twigs and lay her eggs. The eggs, resembling grains of rice, hatch after one month. Some species overwinter as eggs, but it is generally the nymph that lives through the cold weather.

When it emerges from the egg, the nymph drops to the ground, where it digs itself a hole with its forelegs. The nymph, often a pale brown colour, develops underground, moulting several times. Before becoming an adult it emerges from the ground, climbs onto a tree or other support and hangs on with its claws. The adult crawls out of the exoskeleton through a slit in the back, generally at night so as to avoid predators. When its wings and new exoskeleton are dry, the adult flies off in search of food. It lives for about four to six weeks.

The length of the life cycle varies from species to species. The nymph stage alone can last from less than one year to as long as 17 years. In Quebec, the life cycle is about two to three years.

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