NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Periodical cicadas (Magicicada septendecim and five other species) are amazing insects. They spend most of their lives as tiny to fairly large nymphs feeding on roots of trees (usually 13 or 17 years!). In late April and May, nymphs then emerge from the soil to molt into adults that live only a few weeks. Male cicadas sing a shrill mating call to attract females. After mating, females jab their eggs into the bark or twigs in a double row up to four or five inches long. Tiny pale nymphs hatch six to ten weeks later and drop to the soil. Broods numbered I to XVII are seventeen year cicadas and broods XVIII to XXI are thirteen year cicadas. However, some periodical cicada broods have gone extinct so now there are only twelve distinct seventeen-year broods, and three distinct thirteen-year broods that emerge in various parts of the eastern United States. We have six broods that emerge in North Carolina: brood X will emerge in 2038. Brood XIX will emerge in 2024 and 2041. Brood XIV will emerge in 2025 and 2042. Brood XXII will emerge in 2027 and brood VVIII will emerge in 2028. Brood II will emerge again in 2030 and 2047. Brood II is the most abundant of the periodical cicadas. It emerges in the foothills of North Carolina all the way up into New England. Brood II includes Linnaeus' seventeen year cicada, Magicicada septendecim. Brood VI will emerge in 2034 and 2051. Brood IX will emerge in 2037 and 2054. Other broods emerge in areas to our west and north.

Cicada nymphal exuviae (skin) left behind after molting

Adults leave behind the nymph skin on vertical surfaces.

A periodical cicada

A periodical cicada on an oak twig.

Twigs damaged by cicada egg laying

Scars from oviposition may kill twigs.

Tree with periodical cicada oviposition damage

An oak covered with dead twigs or flags.

Host Plants

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Cicada nymphs feeding on tree roots can reduce wood accumulation and flowering of shrubs and trees. Adults also feed on plant juices, but usually not enough to be noticeable. The only aparent damage cicadas cause happens during oviposition as females jab their eggs into small stems of numerous kinds of handwood trees. These stems eventually die and “flag' over before finally dropping to the ground weeks, months, or even years later. Sometimes trees are able to callous over the oviposition scars and the stem survives.

Residential Recommendation

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Although it seems a shame to kill these amazing animals, Sevin is actually labeled for cicada management. On apple trees, Sevin can cause premature fruit drop.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: May 8, 2013
Revised: May 7, 2023

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