What Do Cicadas Eat: Unveiling the Diet of These Noisy Insects

Cicada Diet Essentials

Hey there! It’s time to get the buzz on what cicadas nibble on. Cicadas are not your typical backyard bugs, and their eating habits are quite fascinating. Let’s eat our way through the bite-sized facts about their diet:

Nymph Noshing:

  • Plant Sap: You’ll find nymphs underground sipping on xylem sap from plant roots using their straw-like mouthparts. This sap is their exclusive underground buffet.

Adult Eats:

  • Young Twigs: Adult cicadas are all about those tender, juicy young twigs. They use their specialized mouthparts to tap into the tree sap without causing significant damage.
  • Symbiotic Protein: While they might not chow down on insects or meat, cicadas still get their protein fix thanks to friendly bacteria that live in their cells.

Plant Preferences:

  • Favored Flora: Some of their top pickings include oak, maple, willow, and ash trees. Good taste, right?

Dietary Dangers:

  • Egg Laying: The real plant drama happens when females lay eggs. They might make small slits in plants, but it’s usually more of a superficial scratch than a health hazard.

Feeding Habits and Predation

When you’re peeking into the treetops, you might just catch a glimpse of cicadas indulging in their favorite pastime: sipping on plant sap. These little symphony conductors have quite the streamlined diet.

Adult cicadas, specifially, are known for their sap-sucking habits. They’ve got a specialized mouthpart, a beak, that they use to tap into the xylem of plants.

Here’s the lowdown on how they dine:

  • They cling to woody shrubs and trees.
  • Their beak penetrates plant tissue to reach the sap.
  • Young twigs are their preferred sap sources — think of it as their version of a juice bar.

Now, despite how this sounds, they’re actually pretty gentle with plants, not usually causing significant harm.

Get the full scoop on their dietary preference from What’s That Bug?.

But it’s not all sipping sap in peace for these critters. No, sir! The circle of life has them on the menu for many predators.

Here’s a quick peek at who’s hunting them:

  • Birds: They relish the protein-rich cicada snack, especially during mass emergences.
  • Small mammals and other insects also won’t say no to a cicada feast.

Get a ringside view of this predatory action from Wildlife Informer.

Cicada Lifecycle and Nutrition

Cicadas are intriguing insects with a unique lifecycle that includes three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Here’s a fun dive into their dining habits at each stage:


  • After mating, the female cicada lays eggs in tree slits.
  • These eggs hatch into nymphs, which fall to the ground and burrow.


  • Nymphs live underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species.
  • They primarily feed on sap from tree roots, gaining nutrients for growth.


  • Adult cicadas have a short, above-ground lifespan of about 4 to 6 weeks.
  • They fancy sapping young twigs for nutrition.

Here’s a quick snapshot of their diet:

  • Tree sap provides water, sugars, amino acids, and minerals.
  • They leverage their straw-like mouthparts to tap into plant fluids.

Tips for Cicada Watching:

  1. Spot cicadas in moist environments where they have access to their plant fluid buffet.
  2. Listen for their iconic songs; that’s usually the males serenading potential mates.

Reflect on the fact that these little creatures spend most of their lives unseen, fueling up for their brief moment in the sun.

Your backyard trees are like cicada cafés, serving up the vital sustenance they’ve waited years to enjoy.

Plant Impact and Cicada Feeding

When you hear the buzz of cicadas, you might wonder what impact these noisy neighbors have on your garden. Cicadas, specifically the periodical ones, have a very specific diet that relates closely to plants:

  • Nymph Stage: Burrowed underground for most of their life, cicada nymphs suck nutrients from tree roots. Fear not; this is usually harmless to the trees.
  • Adult Stage: After emerging, adults feed chiefly on plant fluids from young twigs, but don’t cause significant harm.

Here’s what you need to know about their feeding habits:

  • Cicada feeding is non-destructive: It’s a myth that cicadas are detrimental to plants. They’re like gentle juice sippers, not ravenous leaf munchers.
  • Twig damage: Occasionally, the egg-laying process may cause some twig injury, but trees recover.

Protecting Your Plants

If you’re still concerned about your plants during cicada season, consider:

  • Netting: Use fine mesh netting to protect young or delicate trees.
  • Avoid Pruning: Pruning can attract females for egg-laying; hold off if cicadas are singing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cicadas captivate with their unique life cycle and the symphony they create when they emerge. Dive into the specifics of their diet and lifestyle with these direct answers to your buzzing questions.

What is the primary diet of cicadas when they are above ground?

Once cicadas are above ground, they primarily feed on plant fluids from the young twigs of trees which provide them nourishment.

For what duration do cicadas typically live?

Adult cicadas live for about 4 to 6 weeks after emerging, but the entire life cycle can be either 13 or 17 years, depending on the species.

Is it true that cicadas prey on mosquitoes?

No, cicadas do not prey on mosquitoes. They are not predators; their diet consists of plant fluids instead of other insects.

What kind of impact do cicadas have on human beings?

Cicadas can affect you in several ways; their loud mating calls are a notable auditory hallmark of their presence, and occasionally, you may find them as a nuisance in outdoor spaces. They can also impact the young trees through their feeding and egg-laying practices.

What kind of vegetation do cicadas consume?

Cicadas tap into the xylem of plant roots, branches, and twigs to consume plant sap, which is their primary food source.

What entices cicadas towards human presence?

Cicadas aren’t particularly attracted to humans.

They may be found in human-dominated areas due to the abundant vegetation available in gardens and parks.

These areas are suitable for feeding and egg-laying.