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Thread: Why do people mistake Cicadas for Locusts?

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* HighlanderNorth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Mid Atlantic USA

    Thinking Why do people mistake Cicadas for Locusts?

    From the time I was a very young child, I can remember people referring to Cicadas as Locusts. In fact, I'd say that in my experience, half of all people that I have heard speaking about Cicadas refer to them as Locusts. Maybe more. But Locusts and Cicadas do not look anything alike! In fact, they couldnt look much different. A locust basically looks like a large Grasshopper, while a Cicada looks kind of like a giant housefly!

    Here's the Wikipedia page on Cicadas, with pictures of a few different varieties:

    Here's the Wikipedia page on Locusts:

    In the Wikipedia page about the Magicicada, or "Periodical Cicada", which has a really long lifecycle of 13 and 17 years, mostly spent underground as nymphs, then after 13 or 17 years they become flying adult Cicadas, it points out their common name, which is "17 Year Locusts", even though they arent even Locusts! They are not in the same taxonomic order.

    Then there is the annual or "Dog day Cicada", so called since it becomes an adult and starts singing in the "dog days" of summer. But in the Wiki page it also mentioned them being commonly called Locusts.

    From the first time I ever saw and caught a Cicada as a kid, I never could understand why people would think they are Locusts. Many people who live in the city, or even people who live in suburbs or even rural areas have never seen a Cicada up close or in pictures, which is also hard for me to understand, as I see them all the time! Maybe the fact that they havent seen them is why so many people think they are Locusts. When I finally show someone a Cicada who has never seen one, they are usually surprised at what they actually look like.

    But what is it about them that ever made people think they were Locusts to begin with?

    What made me think about this was that I was outside about 45 minutes ago, and I watched the somewhat rare phenomenon of a "Cicada Killer Wasp" after having caught and after already having stung and paralyzed a large Cicada, was trying to fly it back to her burrow(wherever that is), but was having trouble because the Cicada was big, and the Cicada killer was medium sized(they get very large), so it gave up on trying to take off from ground level, and instead she climbed a tree while carrying the Cicada underneath her, then flew away from 20 feet up the tree so she could just glide back to her underground burrow, where she will lay an egg inside the paralyzed, but still living Cicada, which will hatch and eat the Cicada alive....(not a good way to go)
    Last edited by HighlanderNorth; 08-04-2012 at 11:59 AM.
    Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    Default Re: Why do people mistake Cicadas for Locusts?

    This same thing has always driven me nuts, but I gave up trying to explain the difference to people years ago.

    I've seen Cicada Killers in action too, I remember them as being huge! Scared the crap out of me the first time one buzzed past.
    Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
    -- Albert Einstein

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why do people mistake Cicadas for Locusts?

    In Oklahoma, growing up, I and the other kids I knew called them jar-flies. I had heard of them being referenced as locusts, but it was rare, usually in regard to the periodical ones that appeared about every 13 or 17 years. They were referred to often, even in the media, as 7 year locusts. School quickly taught the proper name of Cicada.

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