(Superfamily Cicadoidea)

photo of a cicada Images

Selected Links

Selected References

Male cicadas command attention the world over through the distinctive "songs" they produce to attract a mate. The relatively large size of most cicadas also makes these insects conspicuous in the environment. The superfamily Cicadoidea includes two extant families, 4 subfamilies, 41 tribes, 413 genera, and more than 2900 described species. Except for two Australian species in the family Tettigarctidae, all extant cicadas belong to the family Cicadidae. Systematists believe that hundreds of species remain to be discovered, especially in Australia and Africa.


The family Cicadidae occurs worldwide, but the tropics are especially species rich. With few exceptions, most genera seem to be restricted to a single major biogeographic region, and within genera, most species appear to have a relatively limited geographic range. The two living species of the primitive family Tettigarctidae occur only in Australia (one in the southeastern mainland; one in Tasmania).


Cicadas differ from related groups in having three ocelli (simple eyes) located between the two large compound eyes. Other auchenorrhynchous Hemiptera have only two ocelli (exception: certain cixiid planthoppers have 3 ocelli, but differ from cicadas in having mesothoracic tegulae). Cicadas range in length from a colossal 110 mm (including the wings) down to 14 mm. The hind legs of adult cicadas are not modified for jumping. Males of most species (and also females of the Tettigarctidae) have abdominal organs called tymbals, which are used to produce acoustic signals. In addition, unlike most Auchenorrhyncha, members of the family Cicadidae (both males and females) have distinctive sound receptor organs (tympana) on the underside of the abdomen. Cicada nymphs differ from the immatures of other Auchenorrhyncha in having fossorial forelegs (modified for digging).

Ecology and Behavior

Female cicadas generally deposit their eggs in twigs or branches of woody host plants, but some oviposit on grasses. Soon after hatching, nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil where they feed on roots. Like froghoppers, cicadas feed mostly on plant xylem. The subterranean nymphs develop relatively slowly, taking from a few years to as long as 13 or 17 years in the periodical cicadas of North America (genus Magicicada). Mature nymphs emerge from the ground and molt to adults, often leaving their nymphal exuviae on tree trunks. Insect enemies of cicadas include formidable species of the genus Sphecius (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae), which prey on cicada adults. Members of the Australian cicada family Tettigarctidae display some distinctive behaviors. Unlike most cicadas, they communicate by way of vibrational signals transmitted through plant parts rather than through the air. During the daytime, adult tettigarctids hide under bark, but are active at dusk and dawn. Their nymphs feed on Eucalyptus roots.

Cicadas prepared by L. L. Deitz, A. F. Sanborn, C. H. Dietrich, and P. A. Alvarez. 1 December 2008 (updated 7 March 2014).


Explore the diversity among cicadas through GigaPan images from the NCSU Insect Museum (includes Z. P. Metcalf's collection).


Tettigarctidae (as Cicadidae: Tettigarctinae)

Cicadas: Selected Links (General, Periodical Cicadas, Sites for Children)

Compiled by P. A. Alvarez, L. L. Deitz, and D. R. Nimocks. 1 December 2008. Potentially useful sites may have been omitted because reviewers [Acknowledgments] noted significant misidentifications or other concerns.


Cicadoidea Database (A. Sanborn & D. Dmitriev) Recordings of North American cicadas

Cicada Mania. Numerous links on cicadas, questions, gallery, sounds, articles, etc.

Open Directory Project. Extensive list of links on cicadas.

Australian Faunal Directory: references on Cicadoidea.

Bibliography of Cicadoidea [T. J. McNary].

List of Cicada Literature.

Cicada Central.

Cicadas of Central Eastern Australia [Lindsay Popple].

Between Bioacoustics and Music: songs of cicadas [Matija Gogala].

Cicadas of South-East Asia and the West Pacific [Hans Duffels].

Cicadas of Michigan [John Cooley & David Marshall].

Cicadas of South Africa [Martin Villet & Rudi Mijburgh].

The Singing Cicadas.

Songs of European Singing Cicadas.

Welcome to Cicadas.

Cicadidae in Japan. In Japanese and English.

Cicadidae (Russia). In Russian.

Sites on Periodical Cicadas: Magicicada

Sites for Children on Cicadas

Selected References on Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea): 1956-2008

Prepared by L. L. Deitz, A. F. Sanborn, P. A. Alvarez, and J. M. Stephens. 1 December 2008 (updated 7 March 2014).

Alexander, R. D. 1960a. Sound communication in Orthoptera and Cicadidae. pp. 38-92. In Lanyon, W. E.; Tavolga, W. N. (eds). Animal Sounds and Communication. American Institute of Biological Sciences [Publication 7], Washington. xiii + 443 pp. + audio disc.

Alexander, R. D. 1967b. Singing Insects: Four Case Histories in the Study of Animal Species. Rand McNally, Chicago. 86 pp.

Beirne, B. P. 1961a [not dated]. The Cicadas (Homoptera: Cicadidae) and Treehoppers (Homoptera: Membracidae) of Canada. Scientific Information Section, Research Branch, Canada Department of Agriculture, [Ottawa]. ii + 54 pp. + 9 pls. [year assumed to be 1961]

Boulard, M. 1976b. Un type nouveau d'appareil stridulant accessoire pour les Cicadoidea. Révison de la classification supérieure de la superfamille [Hom.]. J. Natur. Hist. 10: 399 407. [NC State University Libraries: QH301.J65 v.10 (1976)]

Boulard, M. 1990a. Contributions à léentomologie générale et appliquée. 2. Cicadaires (Homopteres Auchenorhynques) première partie: Cicadoidea. École Pratique Hautes Études [ÉPHÉ], Travaux Lab. Biol. & Evol. Insectes Hemipteroiodea 3: 55-245.

Boulard, M. 1998a. Nomenclature et taxonomie supérieures des Cicadoidea ou vraies cigales: histore, problèmes et solutions (Rhynchota Homoptera Cicadomoprha). École Pratique Hautes Études [ÉPHÉ], Biol. & Evol. Insectes 10: 79-129. [see also English translation: Boulard 2001a]

Boulard, M. 2000a. Métamorphoses et Transformations Animales. Oblitérations Évolutives. Société Nouvelle des Éditions Boubée, Paris. 311 pp. + 16 color pls.

Boulard, M. 2001a. Higher taxonomy and nomenclature of the Cicadoidea or true cicadas: history, problems and solutions. École Pratique Hautes Études [ÉPHÉ], Biol. & Evol. Insectes 14: 1-47. [English translation of Boulard 1998a]

Boulard, M.; Mondon, B. 1995a. Vies & Memoires de Cigales: Provence, Languedoc, Mediterranee / Textes de Michel Boulard & Bernard Mondon. Barbentane (Draille de Magne, domaine Fontgisclar): Ed. de l´Equinoxe. 159 pp + audio disc.

Chen, C. H. 2004a. [Cicadas of Taiwan]. Big Tree Culture Enterprise, Taipei. 206 pp. + CD-ROM. [in Chinese; author sometimes cited as Chen, Z. X.]

Chou, I.; Lei, Z.; Li, L.; Lu, X.; Yao, W. 1997a. The Cicadidae of China (Homoptera: Cicadoidea). [Ilustrataj Insect-Faunoj: 2.] Tianze Eldoneio, Hong Kong. ix + 380 + 5 pp. + 16 pls. [in Chinese, with English summary; citations of authors´ names vary--first author sometimes cited as Zhou, Y.]

Cooley, J.; Marshall, D.; O'Brien, M. 1999a [updated periodically]. Miscellaneous References Containing Information on Cicadas. Online.

Dietrich, C. H. 2005a. Keys to the families of Cicadomorpha and subfamilies and tribes of Cicadellidae (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Florida Entomol. 88(4): 502-517.

Duffels, J. P.; Ewart, A. 1988a. The Cicadas of the Fiji, Samoa and Tonga Islands: Their Taxonomy and Biogeography (Homopterea, Cicadoidea). Brill/Scandinavian Science Press, Leiden. 108 pp.

Duffels, J. P.; Laan, P. A. van der. 1985a. Catalogue of the Cicadoidea (Homoptera, Auchenorrhyncha) 1956 1980. Junk, Boston. xiv + 414 pp. [a supplement to fascicle VIII of the "Catalogue of the Homoptera"; citation in part from WorldCat]

Kato, M. 1956a. Semi no seibutsugaku. [The Biology of the Cicadas]. Bull. Cicadidae Mus. (Iwasaki Shoten, Tokyo) 10: 1-319 [+ 46 plates]. [in Japanese, with English headings, captions, and index]

Kato, M. 1961a. Fauna Japonica: Cicadidae (Insecta). Biogeographical Society of Japan, National Science Museum, Tokyo. xiv + 72 pp. + 34 plates.

Kritsky, G. 2004a. Periodical Cicadas: the Plague and the Puzzle. Indiana Academy of Sciences, [Indianapollis]. xii +147 pp.

Lee, Y.-J. 2005a. Cicadas of Korea. Geobook, Seoul. 191 pp. [in Korean; author sometimes cited as Li, Y.-J. or Yi, Y.]

Metcalf, Z. P. 1962c. A Bibliography of the Cicadoidea (Homoptera: Auchenorhyncha). North Carolina State College [now University], Raleigh. iv + 229 pp.

Metcalf, Z. P. 1963a. Fascicle VIII, Cicadoidea. Part 1. Cicadidae (In two sections). General Catalogue of the Homoptera (North Carolina State College [now University], Raleigh) 8: (Section 1, Tibiceninae) i-vii, 1-586; (Section 2, Gaeaninae and Cicadinae) i, 587-919. [with introduction by Metcalf, Z. P., and Young, D. A.]

Metcalf, Z. P. 1963b. Fascicle VIII, Cicadoidea. Part 2. Tibicinidae. General Catalogue of the Homoptera (North Carolina State College [now University], Raleigh) 8(2): i-vi, 1-492. [with introduction by Metcalf, Z. P., and Young, D. A.]

Moulds, M. S. 1990a. Australian Cicadas. NSWU Press, Kensington, NSW, Australia. 217 pp.

Moulds, M. S. 2005a. An appraisal of the higher classification of cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea) with special reference to the Australian fauna. Rec. Australian Mus. 57(3): 375-446.

Moulds, M.S. 2012a. A review of the genera of Australian cicada (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea). Zootaxa 3287: 1-262. [available as online publication]

Rakitov, R. A. 2002b. Structure and function of the Malphighian tubules, and related behaviors in juvenile cicadas: evidence of homology with spittlebugs (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea & Cercopoidea). Zool. Anz. 241(2): 117-130.

Remane, R.; Wachmann, E. 1993a. Zikaden: kennenlernen, beobachten. Naturbuch Verlag, Augsburg. 288 pp.

Sanborn, A. F. 2002a. Periodical cicadas: the magic cicada (Hemiptera, Tibicinidae, Magicicada spp.). pp. 225-230. In Holzinger, W. E. (ed.). Zikaden: Leafhoppers, Planthoppers, and Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Denisia 4 (Zugleich Kataloge des Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseums), Neue Folge 176: i-viii, 1-556.

Sanborn, A. F. 2002b. Cicada thermoregulation. pp. 455-470. In Holzinger, W. E. (ed.). Zikaden: Leafhoppers, Planthoppers, and Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Denisia 4 (Zugleich Kataloge des Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseums), Neue Folge 176: i-viii, 1-556.

Sanborn, A. F. 2007a. Additions to the cicada fauna of Venezuela with the description of a new species and checklist of the Venezuelan cicada fauna (Hemiptera: Cicadomorpha: Cicadidae). Zootaxa 1503: 21-32.

Sanborn, A. F. 2007b. New species, new records and checklist of cicadas from Mexico (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae). Zootaxa 1651: 1-42.

Sanborn, A. F. 2014a. Catalogue of the Cicadoidea (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Academic Press/Elsevier, London. viii +1001 pp. [includes extensive bibliography]

Sanborn, A. F.; M. S. Heath. 2012a. The Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae) of North America North of Mexico. Thomas Say Publications in Entomology, Monographs. Entomological Society of America. 227 pp.

Sanborn, A. F.; Phillips, P. K.; Gillis, P. J. 2008a. The cicadas of Florida (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae). Zootaxa 1916: 1-43.

Sanborn, A. F.; Phillips, P. K.; Sites, W. R. 2007a. Biodiversity, biogeography and bibliography of the cicadas of Thailand (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae). Zootaxa 1413: 1-46.

Wade, V. 1964a. Fascicle VIII, Cicadoidea. Species Index. General Catalogue of The Homoptera. North Carolina State College [now University], Raleigh. 26 pp.

Williams, K. S.; Simon, C. 1995a. The ecology, behavior, and evolution of periodical cicadas. Ann. Rev. Entomol. 40: 269 295.

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