article by Rose Collison
Cicadas begin life as a rice-shaped egg that the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb, using her ovipositor. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. These grooves can kill small branches. When the branches die and leaves turn brown, it is called flagging.
Once the cicada hatches from the egg, it will begin to feed on the tree fluids. At that point, it looks like a termite or small white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. It will typically start with smaller grass roots and work its way up to the roots of its host tree.
The cicada will stay underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species.
Cicadas are active underground, tunneling and feeding, and not sleeping or hibernating as commonly thought. After the long 2 to 17 years, cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest available tree, and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid and their adult skin will harden. Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their adult life.
Adult cicadas, also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing, females respond, mating begins, and the cycle of life continues. There are over 190 varieties (including species and subspecies) of Cicadas in North America, and over 3,390 varieties of cicadas around the world.