What do Cicadas look like?
Cicadas have stout bodies and two pairs of wings. Their strong veins are very prominent and can be seen through the transparent wings. These wings can be anywhere from 2.5cm to 15cm long. They have large compound eyes coming from the side of the head and three extra simple eyes on top of the head! They have three pairs of legs, and a hidden mouth.
Some of the most common cicadas you may see or hear are:
Greengrocer (Cyclochila australasiae): Also known as a Yellow Monday this regular visitor to Sydney backyards can range from brilliant green to yellow or even blue in colour.
Cherrynose (Macrotristria angularis): With a black body and transparent brown wings its the reddish nose that gives this cicada its name.
Floury baker (Aleeta curvicosta): Found alng the coast of QLD and NSW, this dark coloured cicada looks like it has been dusted with flour.
Double drummer (Thopha saccata): The biggest and loudest of Australia’s cicadas. It is mostly brown with black patterns across its back.
Where are Cicadas found?
There are more than 200 species of cicada found across Australia.
Do you live in NSW? Report cicada sightings to The Great Cicada Blitz (Sydney, AUS).
- Each species of cicada has its own distinct song to attract only the right partners to mate with. Some species can sing as loud as 120 decibels. The Double drummer is thought to be the loudest insect in the world.
- Cicada movement and behaviour is being used as a yardstick to measure climate change. Some northern Australian species are turning up in Victoria, others are breeding later in the year, and in the United States, they are emerging from the ground years ahead of schedule.
Cicadas – the full story
It’s not an Aussie summer without the deafening concert of thousands of cicadas. Around October, you can see the first empty shell of a newly hatched cicada on a tree trunk or your fence.
They will soon fill the air with their song before they disappear again for winter. But where have they been during the colder months?
At the end of summer, each female cuts small slits into plant stems and branches and places her eggs inside. From these eggs nymphs hatch, which drop to the ground and dig themselves into the soil.
They find a root, attach themselves and start sucking the sap. Some species remain in this state for a few months; others stay underground for years.
On the first hot days of late spring or early summer, especially after rain, the nymphs will make their way to the surface. They climb up a vertical object, often the tree on which they were born and that they have been feeding on, and shed their shell. It is now a winged insect with a wing span of up to 2 centimetres and a pair of drum-like organs called tymbals, which they use to sing their song.
Cicadas are a food source for so many animals, no wonder they breed in such massive numbers. They are prey for rodents, marsupials, reptiles, birds, fish, insects, and spiders. They can come to a particularly nasty end if they are spotted by a Cicada Killer Wasp. The adult female wasp will paralyse the cicada with her venomous sting and carry it to her nest and lay an egg under the cicada’s leg. When the egg hatches, the larvae begin to eat the cicada alive.
Did you know?
Each species of cicada has its own distinct song to attract only the right partners to mate with. Some species can sing as loud as 120 decibels. The Double drummer is thought to be the loudest insect in the world.
After spending years underground, the male cicada has just a few weeks to find a mate. His piercing call is designed to both attract a female and repel hungry birds. In Australia cicadas can spend 6-8 years underground. There is a species of cicada in the United States that is known to spend up to 17 years underground.
Did you know?
Cicada movement and behaviour is being used as a yardstick to measure climate change. Some northern Australian species are turning up in Victoria, others are breeding later in the year, and in the United States, they are emerging from the ground years ahead of schedule.