cicada, (family Cicadidae), any of a group of sound-producing insects (order Homoptera) that have two pairs of membranous wings, prominent compound eyes, and three simple eyes (ocelli). Cicadas are medium to large in size, ranging from 2 to 5 cm (0.8 to 2 inches).
Male cicadas produce loud noises by vibrating membranes (tymbals) near the base of the abdomen. Most North American cicadas produce rhythmical ticks, buzzes, or whines, although in some species the “song” is musical.
Female cicadas usually lay their eggs in woody plant tissues that drop from the plant when, or shortly after, the eggs hatch. Newly hatched nymphs burrow into the ground where they suck juices from roots of perennial plants. Nymphs usually undergo five molts during the several years required to reach maturity. Although not ordinarily considered a pest, the females, if numerous, may damage young saplings during their egg laying.
More than 3,000 species of cicadas are known. With the exception of two species of hairy cicadas in the family Tettigaretidae that are found only in southeastern Australia, including Tasmania, cicadas belong to the family Cicadidae and are tropical and occur in deserts, grasslands, and forests. In addition to the dog-day cicada (Tibicen and others) that appears yearly in midsummer, there are also periodic cicadas. Among the most fascinating and best-known are the 17-year cicada (often erroneously called the 17-year locust) and the 13-year cicada (Magicicada). These species occur in large numbers in chronologically and geographically isolated broods.
The several species are easily recognized by differences in songs, behaviour, and morphology. Males of each species have three distinct sound responses: a congregational song that is regulated by daily weather fluctuations and by songs produced by other males; a courtship song, usually produced prior to copulation; and a disturbance squawk produced by individuals captured, held, or disturbed into flight.
Cicadas have been used in folk medicines, as religious and monetary symbols, and as an important source of food. Their song once was considered to forecast weather changes. In China, male cicadas were caged for their song. The cicada appears in the mythology, literature, and music of many cultures, including that of American Indians.
short-horned grasshopper, (family Acrididae), any of more than 10,000 species of insects (order Orthoptera) that are characterized by short, heavy antennae, a four-valved ovipositor for laying eggs, and three-segmented tarsi (distal segments of the leg). They are herbivorous and include some of the most destructive agricultural pests known. The plague, or migratory, species are called locusts. See locust.
Short-horned grasshoppers range in size from 5 mm to 11 cm (0.2 to 4.3 inches) in length. The shape of the body may be long and slender or short and stout. Many species are green or straw-coloured, which helps them blend into their surroundings. The hind legs are adapted for jumping, with greatly enlarged femurs. Some species have wings, whereas others are wingless. Among the winged species, the males can produce characteristic noises by rubbing the front wings together or by drawing the hind legs across the edge of the wings. Most species have a pair of tympanal (hearing) organs at the base of the abdomen.
A female short-horned grasshopper lays about 100 eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch after a rest period, and newly hatched nymphs, miniature replicas of the adults, pass through a series of molts before they become adults. In temperate regions one to several broods are produced each year.
The family Acrididae is divided into three subfamilies. The spur-throated grasshoppers, subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae, include some of the most destructive species. In North America the eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) is 5–7 cm long and has large red wings bordered in black. The western lubber grasshopper (Brachystola magna), also called the buffalo grasshopper because of its size, has much smaller, pinkish wings. The slender grasshopper (Leptysma marginicollis), found in the southern United States, has clear wings. Melanoplus, the largest short-horned grasshopper genus, contains many of the most common and destructive grasshoppers of North America. These include the Rocky Mountain grasshopper or locust (M. spretus), the migratory grasshopper (M. sanguinipes), the two-striped grasshopper (M. bivittatus), and the red-legged grasshopper (M. femurrubrum).
The slant-faced grasshoppers, subfamily Acridinae, are characterized by a slanted face and clear hind wings. They are usually found around marshes and wet meadows in small numbers and do little damage to vegetation.
The band-winged grasshoppers, subfamily Oedipodinae, produce a crackling noise during flight. When they are not in flight, their conspicuous, brightly coloured hind wings are covered by their forewings, which blend into surrounding vegetation. The band-winged grasshoppers are the only type of short-horned grasshoppers that can produce sound during flight. One of the common species, the Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina), has black hind wings with a pale border. The clear-winged grasshopper (Camnula pellucida) is a major crop pest in North America.