Locusts. Or Cicadas.

While I was on my Founding Fathers theme weeks, I noticed the first sound of fall – cicada.  We called them locusts when I was growing up but that was a misconception.  One of my aunts used to say it was 6 weeks to fall when you started hearing the locust.  So did they start singing later in the summer back then?  If so, by my aunt’s reckoning fall would be coming in mid-August this year!  But I’m getting off subject – locust and cicada are not the same insect.  In fact, they’re barely related.

CicadaCicada are from the superfamily Cicadoidea of the insect world – are part of the Hemiptera order or true bugs.  They closely related to aphids and bed bugs (EW!).  Cicadas have prominent eyes, short antennae and transparent wings.  Typically, they live in trees and feed on watery sap.  There are annual species of cicada that emerge every year and there are periodic species that spend most of their lives as larvae underground and only emerge every 13 or 17 years.

Locust.jpgLocusts are a type of grasshopper from the insect order of Acrididae and they’re most memorable for their voracious appetites and swarming behavior.  Remember the plague of locusts from the Bible story of Moses?  Typical locusts.  In adulthood, they move in swarms of millions or even billions of insects – but fortunately for us here in North America, there are no species of swarming locusts located here.

So why do we so often call cicadas locusts?  The confusion goes back to colonial times when periodical cicadas (like the 17 year cicada) showed up in huge numbers that were mistaken for swarms.

Want to know more about cicada and locust?  Check out these links:

As for me, I’m just going to wait for the cicada to start singing this evening – it’s a nice sound don’t you think?