What Do Cicadas Eat?

Cicada or Locust?

It is important to differentiate cicadas from locusts since they are two very different groups of insects.

While locusts look like grasshoppers and are ravenous consumers of plants, cicadas are much different in the amounts and parts of plants they feed upon.

Locusts

Locusts have chewing mouthparts that enable them to chew and consume almost all or any part of a plant that is above ground.

Cicadas

Cicadas have piercing/sucking mouthparts (similar to a mosquito) they use to obtain their nourishment from below ground roots and young twigs. Unlike locusts, cicadas usually do not heavily feed on plant leaves.

Cicada Diet

So, what do cicadas eat? The answer to this question depends upon the cicada’s development stage. Cicadas go through three life cycle developmental stages – egg, nymph and adult.

Adults

As adults they feed on plant fluids from the young twigs of trees and woody shrubs.

Contrary to popular opinion, adult cicadas do not cause serious plant damage from their feeding activities, but do damage plants as the result of their behavior of cutting small slits in the plant they use for places to deposit their eggs.

Preferred hosts for cicadas include trees such as oaks, maples, willows and ash species, but cicadas are very opportunistic feeders that will likely be attracted to whatever large plant is nearby the nymphs underground habitat.

Cicada Nymphs

Nymphs do not feed on plant leaves or stems; instead they feed on plant roots and usually do not cause noticeable damage to the plant.

Nymphs use their piercing mouthparts to puncture the roots and suck up the fluids located in the plant’s xylem. The xylem is the part of the plant that functions to transport moisture and nutrients from the roots to the plant’s leaves.

Cicada nymphs may not directly cause plant damage, but plant growth may be reduced if there is an extremely large number of nymphs feeding on the plant’s root system.

What Don't Cicadas Eat?

Cicadas do not prey on other insects, are very unlikely to bite someone, do not suck blood, do not transmit any known diseases to people or animals and do not possess the type of mouthparts that enable them to consume the plants in your vegetable or flower gardens.