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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

 Family: Cicadidae (cicadas)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Paraneoptera > Condylognatha > Hemiptera (bugs) > Auchenorrhyncha > Cicadoidea

Male cicada Capcicada decora Adult cicada in fynbos, Kleinmond
adults cicada, Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail Shed skin of a cicada nymph

Top left: A male cicada Capcicada decora feeding and calling on Protea repens in the fynbos; top right: Adult cicada in fynbos, Kleinmond, Western Cape; bottom left: adult cicada on bracken frond, Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail, Eastern Cape; bottom right: shed skin of a cicada nymph on the side of a rock from which it had emerged as an adult. [photos Hamish Robertson]

Cicadas are those insects you will have heard but possibly not seen. The males of some species make a loud constant buzzing sound together that is a familiar background sound at the hottest time of day in many places in South Africa. Males, of other cicada species, especially in the Cape, fly around fast while producing a clicking sound. They are quite common but incredibly difficult to catch so they are poorly represented in insect collections. After mating, the female cuts and levers up the surface of a branch and lays the eggs underneath. After hatching, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil, aided by their enlarged forelegs, and consume roots and tubers. In the final nymphal instar, the nymph crawls out of the ground up a branch, clings on to the branch with its forelegs and then emerges as an adult.

 Cicadas and lacewings - a peculiar association.


  • Williams, K.S., & Simon, C. 1995. The ecology, behavior and evolution of periodical cicadas. Annual Review of Entomology 40: 269-295.