Difference Between Locusts and Cicadas

Locusts vs Cicadas

Locusts and cicadas are two different groups of insects with distinct features. Therefore, it is not difficult to observe significant differences between them. Locusts are famous for their swarming in uncountable large numbers. However, sometimes cicadas also show this behaviour to create a slight discrepancy with the acceptance that only locusts swarm. Therefore, sometimes people confuse cicadas with locusts, and it would be necessary to explore the actual differences between them as presented in this article.


Locusts are grasshopper species with the presence of swarming behaviour in a large number of individuals with coloured bands on the abdomen. In fact, the particular phase of the short horned grasshoppers’ lifecycle that shows the swarming behaviours is a locust. Therefore, locust could be regarded as a phase of the lifecycle of a grasshopper. It is interesting the way that grasshoppers have a locust stage in the life cycle, as it needs certain factors to be fulfilled such as very high number of breeding, migratory behaviours, and appearance of bands primarily. When there is plenty of food, grasshoppers start to breed at high rates because of the high nutrition; after the population size increased enormously, for easily more than millions of individuals, their food sources start to worn out rapidly. Therefore, to cover the great demand for food, the whole population start to migrate out from the place of birth. At this time, the swarming behaviour could be seen with few millions of locusts travel from one place to another in search of adequate food sources for the whole population. When they swarm, about 500 square kilometres of the atmosphere is covered, and the largest recorded swarm has covered more than 1,000 square kilometres. Since the agricultural crops are highly nutritional and are grown in large areas, locusts identify them as good sources of food, and damage the crops, for being serious pests for farmers.


Cicadas are the long-lived (about 17 years) hemipteran insects classified under the Family: Cicadoidea. Cicadas are a quite large group of insects in terms of the number of species with more than 2,500 species, and most of those species are unclassified so far. They have membranous large forewings for flying, which easily extend beyond their abdomen. The length from head to the tip of the abdomen usually varies 2 – 5 centimetres, but there are some tropical species with about 15 centimetres long bodies. Their eyes are located far apart in their head, and those are considerably large. There are three ocelli on top of their head, in addition to the large eyes. One of the most noticeable features of cicadas is the tymbals, which are used to make their characteristic noise called cicada song. The tymbals are located at the base of the abdomen, and males are capable of producing amplified songs while females have ordinary noisemakers. Some species of cicadas occur in large numbers and move along a way to find food sources. Sometimes they try to feed mistakenly on animals, as they misidentify the animal as a branch of a tree. Although cicadas do not wiretap on humans for feeding, people have been eating cicadas since the time of Ancient Greek.


What is the difference between Locusts and Cicadas?

• Locusts are Orthopteran grasshoppers while cicadas are hemipteran insects. Therefore, they belong to different taxonomic groups.

• Cicadas produce high-pitched noises from their tymbals, but locusts do not produce such noises.

• Locusts always swarm, but cicadas do not always fly in large numbers.

• Cicadas have larger eyes than locusts do.

• The forewings easily extend beyond the abdomen in cicadas but not in locusts.

• The diversity of cicadas is much greater among cicadas than in locusts.

• Cicadas have a longer lifespan compared to locusts.

  • patazdweller

    Thank you so much. Growing up my parents told us that cicadas were locusts. I always thought they were the same thing. I’m 68 years old and still learning everyday. Thanks again.