Cicada Nature Study

by Jimmie

Spend the hot days of summer observing the cicada and its exoskeleton which it leaves behind on tree trunks.

Cicadas make a great summer nature study topic simply because these insects are most active from May to October. You can easily identify cicadas in your area because of their loud humming noise during the hot days of summer.

Use this page to guide your study as you do these things: listen and observel; collect; sketch; and read.

Planning a Cicada Nature Study

Chose from these nature study activities.

Listen and Observe

Although you may not see the cicadas at first, their loud sounds are easy to identify, normally coming from trees where the insects have congregated. Some people dislike the loud, almost deafening sound. Others find it comforting.

Xenarchos (obviously a sexist) said, "Happy is the cicada, since its wife has no voice." It is true that the males are the ones who buzz and humm while the females are silent.

Keep your eyes open, for occasionally you will spot a dying cicada on the porch, possibly attracted to the light of your home. It will buzz around in a circle loudly when you go to prod it. Capture it in a jar and study it with a magnifying glass. 


Collect the dead cicadas you find and add them to your insect collection. Take a tour of the back yard or neighborhood park, looking for the dried, brown exoskeletons that the cicadas leave behind. Look carefully on the bark of trees, especially pine trees, for these thin shells. Pluck them gently from the tree to keep all the legs in tact. To transport them home, cary a small box or simply attach them to your clothing. The legs still have rough grippers that will allow them to adhere to most woven fabrics with ease.

You may be fortunate enough to find a cicada in the process of emerging from its exoskeleton. Do not disturb it, but do take the chance to watch it carefully over the next few hours.


Draw the cicada or its exoskeleton in your nature journal. Younger students may benefit from a coloring page (linked in the printables section below). 


After you've done your own observation, read some fact sheets or books about cicadas (options are listed below).

Make notes in your nature journal based on what you learned.

The Cicada

Live, Molting, and Empty Exoskeleton
A Live Cicada
A Live Cicada
A Cicada Emerging from the Exoskeleton
A Cicada Emerging from the Exoskeleton
Abandoned Exoskeleton
Abandoned Exoskeleton

Folding Pocket Magnifier

Perfect for Observing Insects Up Close in the Field
SE Folding Magnifier 8X
Only $3.02

Looking Closely at Insects

Because insects are fairly small, a magnifiying glass is helpful for close observations. The detail that you can see with assistance is amazing and opens up a whole new level of nature study.

The pocket magnifier is perfect for taking outdoors because it folds up neatly for easy carrying. A traditional magnifying glass can be cumbersome to carry because of its long handle.

Getting Up Close With a Magnifying Glass

Curious Child Studying Nature
Curious Child Studying Nature

Listen to the Cicada Sound

Living Science Books

About Cicadas
Cicadas!: Strange and Wonderful
$16.95  $8.72
Cicadas (Bugs Bugs Bugs)
Only $7.29
Cicadas (True Books: Animals)
Only $6.95

Scientific Classification of Cicadas

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Insecta
Order Hemiptera
Family Cicadidae


There are 166 species of cicadas in North America.

Cicada Printables

Cicada Coloring Pages
Choose the realistic version instead of the cartoon style. Teach your children what cicadas really look like, not a cartoon version.

Cicada Mania Teacher Materials
Worksheets, coloring page, origami crafts, and vocabulary lists.

Life Cycle of Cicada
This site requires a free sign up to access the printables.

Crayola's Cicada coloring page
A simple outline plus several facts about the cicada.

Do You Like Cicadas?

Free Resources about Cicadas

in the Public Domain

Popular Science Article "Return of the Seventeen-Year Locust"
A 1940 article that is now in the public domain with lots of illustrations, text, and photographs.

Updated: 01/07/2013, Jimmie
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dustytoes on 11/08/2011

I remember the loud buzzing of the Cicadas when I lived in Florida. We used to see their skeletons all the time. They are fun bugs when they aren't screeching!

TerriRexson on 11/08/2011

We don't have cicadas so we'll have to do an online nature study for this one! My son is currently fascinated by creatures that come from different parts of the world.

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