How long do Cicadas live?

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Cicadas, those enigmatic insects that emerge in periodic bursts, have long fascinated entomologists and curious minds alike. In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of cicadas and explore the duration of their remarkable lives. From their lengthy underground existence to the brief but captivating above-ground symphony, let’s uncover the secrets of these captivating insects.


  1. Cicadas are insects known for their distinctive buzzing sounds, which often fill the air during the warmer months. They are a fascinating group of insects with a lifespan that varies depending on various factors, including their species, location, and environmental conditions.

The Life Cycle of Cicadas

2.1 Egg Stage

The life cycle of cicadas begins with the egg stage. Female cicadas lay their eggs in the crevices of tree branches or twigs. After a few weeks, these eggs hatch, giving rise to the next stage in their life cycle.

2.2 Nymph Stage

Cicada nymphs, often referred to as “nits,” drop from the trees and burrow into the soil. Here, they feed on tree root sap for a prolonged period, which can range from a few years to several decades, depending on the species.

2.3 Adult Cicada Stage

After their lengthy underground sojourn, cicada nymphs finally emerge from the soil as adults. This marks the most familiar phase of their life cycle. Adult cicadas typically live for a relatively short period, typically ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

Longevity Variations

3.1 Annual Cicadas

Annual cicadas, as the name suggests, have a shorter life span, with most individuals living for only a few weeks. They appear annually and are known for their rhythmic buzzing, which can be both mesmerizing and overwhelming.

3.2 Periodical Cicadas

Periodical cicadas, on the other hand, are the outliers. They have one of the longest lifespans among insects, with certain broods remaining underground for 13 or 17 years before emerging as adults. Once they surface, their adult phase lasts for a few weeks.

Factors Affecting Cicada Lifespan

4.1 Predators

Cicadas face various predators during their above-ground phase, including birds, mammals, and even some insects. This predation pressure contributes to their relatively short adult life span.

4.2 Environmental Conditions

The climate and environmental conditions play a crucial role in determining cicada longevity. Favorable weather conditions, such as adequate rainfall and mild temperatures, can enhance their survival rate.

4.3 Disease and Parasites

Disease and parasites can also affect cicada populations. Fungal infections and parasitic wasps are among the natural threats that can significantly reduce their numbers.

The Remarkable Adaptations of Cicadas

Cicadas have evolved unique adaptations to maximize their chances of survival during their brief above-ground existence. Their synchronized emergence in large numbers confounds predators, making it harder for them to consume all the cicadas.

Cicadas and Their Impact on Ecosystems

Cicadas play a crucial role in ecosystems. Their emergence provides a substantial food source for various animals, and their burrowing activity helps aerate the soil, benefiting plant growth.

Cultural Significance

Cicadas have held cultural significance in various societies throughout history. They often symbolize themes of rebirth, transformation, and even immortality in some cultures.


In conclusion, the lifespan of cicadas is a fascinating subject that varies greatly depending on species, environmental factors, and other variables. From annual cicadas with brief lives to periodical cicadas that spend most of their existence underground, these insects continue to captivate our curiosity. Their unique adaptations and cultural significance further emphasize their importance in the natural world.


9.1 How long do cicadas live on average?

Cicada lifespans vary depending on the species, with annual cicadas living for a few weeks and periodical cicadas spending years underground and only a few weeks above ground.

9.2 What is the longest cicada lifespan ever recorded?

The longest cicada lifespan belongs to periodical cicadas, with some broods spending either 13 or 17 years underground before emerging as adults.

9.3 Do all cicadas have the same lifespan?

No, cicada lifespans differ based on their species, environmental conditions, and geographic location.

9.4 How do cicadas protect themselves from predators during their short above-ground life?

Cicadas employ a survival strategy of synchronized mass emergence, making it difficult for predators to consume all of them.

9.5 Are cicadas harmful to plants and trees?

Cicadas are not typically harmful to plants or trees, and their burrowing activity can actually benefit the soil and plant growth.

In this article, we’ve explored the intriguing world of cicadas, their varied lifespans, and their significance in both ecosystems and culture. These insects may have short above-ground lives, but they leave a lasting impression on the natural world and human imagination.

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