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Cicadas feeding habits

Cicadas are the largest Colorado insects in the order Homoptera, which includes other sap-sucking groups such as leafhoppers, aphids and spittlebugs. Twenty-six species occur in the state. The largest, the "dog-day cicadas," are stout-bodied insects over 2 inches long.

Although abundant, cicadas are far more often heard than seen. Males make a variety of sounds to attract females. Most commonly heard are loud, often shrill, buzzing, sometimes with several individual insects synchronizing their songs. Other cicadas make clicking noises.

picture of a cicada nymphDespite their large size, cicadas cause little injury. The immature stages (nymphs) develop slowly underground. They feed on roots but cause no detectable harm to the plants. The greatest injury occurs when large numbers of certain cicadas, such as the Putnam's cicada, insert eggs into stems of trees and shrubs. This egg laying injury can cause some twig dieback.

Cicadas are sometimes mistakenly called locusts, a term properly used to describe certain migratory grasshoppers. This error originated when early European settlers encountered large instances of periodical cicadas in the Northeast. As they had not previously seen cicada outbreaks, they likened them to the locusts described in the Bible.

Members of the infraorder Cicadomorpha: cicadas (Cicadoidea) and spittlebugs (froghoppers, Cercopoidea) are distant relatives of the grass-, leaf- and leaf hoppers. Other, still more distant, relatives include planthoppers, aphids, whiteflies, psyllids, scale insects, and true bugs.