Cicadas Are Not Locusts

cicadasWhile some people call them “locusts”, cicadas are definitely not locusts. A locust is one of several species of grasshopper. In fact, I often wonder when and why the confusion started and why some people are still confused.

There are cicadas in the Philippines, just like almost every other place with a temperate or tropical climate. You won’t find them in cold climates like Alaska or Norway (or at least I don’t think you will).

Cicadas in the United States

I grew up listening to the cicadas that inhabited the elm trees on my parents’ property and other yards in our neighborhood. It was a yearly cycle, but I can’t remember what month the noise started and what month the noise ended. The elm trees have long since been replaced by other trees, and the noise no longer comes from those yards. Well, at least according to one sibling still living there.

When I was young, we had cats in our backyard. I don’t remember why, but we had a few that just seemed to live there. I think the “mother” of all of them was the only cat that started out as a pet, but they were just as tame. Anyway, when the cicadas would land near the light near the top of the back door, a lot of the cats would scramble up the side of the wall to snatch them and eat them.

Our family wasn’t poor, but we weren’t very well off either. Our family was just too large (11 in all). We couldn’t afford expensive toys like gas-powered airplanes. We had to make do with what was available.

I and some of my brothers would tie strings around cicadas and treat them like gas-powered airplanes while spinning in a circle. It was incredible, but the cicadas would fly and buzz and do exactly what we expected them to do.

Cicadas in the Philippines

I didn’t know they existed in the Philippines until after I moved to the Philippines in 2006. The cicada noises were coming from some nearby trees, close to my house, as the house was being built. I didn’t know which trees they were hanging out in, and I wasn’t inclined to investigate any further.

After that, one of my relatives captured a few that flew in near my mother-in-law’s front door, where the overhead light was. He didn’t know what they were called in English. When talking about cicadas, a lot of Filipinos call them ipis, which is Tagalog for cockroach. These are not cockroaches!

Kuliglig is a Tagalog word that can mean either cicada or cricket. Well, my relative had fun messing with the cicadas and causing them to reproduce the cicada noises somehow.


Cicadas have been around for centuries. In some places, they’re eaten (like locusts in that regard) as a delicacy, with the female being preferred as “meatier”. In Australia, there are around 220 species to contend with. I don’t know which species is in the Philippines, but they look different (with a green underbelly) from the ones I’ve seen in the United States.

Cicadas have predatory enemies such as the cicada killer wasp (which I’ve never seen) and the praying mantis (something I’ve seen a lot of). The biggest enemies in the Philippines, as near as I can tell, are the birds that feed on them. I don’t know which birds are which, but they’re small (like sparrows).

I’ve seen them snatching and munching on cicadas from my upstairs window because I have a pretty good view of a nearby tree. The only thing I don’t like about the birds is when they perch at my window and chirp like there’s no tomorrow while I’m trying to sleep. I really don’t care what they eat as long as they do it elsewhere.

Image by Bruce Marlin, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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