Any insect in the order Homoptera that has two pairs of membranous wings, prominent compound eyes, and three simple eyes (ocelli). Most of the 1,500 known species are in the family Cicadidae and are found in tropical deserts, grasslands, and forests. Males produce loud noises by vibrating membranes near the base of the abdomen. Most North American cicadas produce rhythmical ticks, buzzes, or whines, though the song of some species is musical. The species are easily distinguishable by song, behaviour, and appearance. Periodic cicadas (species that occur in large numbers in chronologically and geographically isolated broods) appear in regular cycles, including the well-known 17-year cicada (often erroneously called the 17-year locust) and 13-year cicada. The larvae (nymphs) burrow into the ground, where they remain for 17 or 13 years, feeding on juices sucked from roots; they then emerge in large numbers to live aboveground as adults for a single week.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cicada, visit Britannica.com.