The Border Watch : January 10th 2014
18 NEWS VISIT US ONLINE borderwatch.com.au Cicadas herald summer arrival Noisy neighbours emerge for brief breeding season across South East PEOPLE may groan or cover their ears when they hear cicadas, but one thing is for certain - summer is here when the backyard critters are singing. Cicadas are one of the loudest insects in the world and are in song across the region, with many visitors to the Valley Lake precinct and other areas surprised by the loud sound. The males sing together in a chorus and the resultant sound can reach up to 120 decibels, which is loud enough to be painful to the human ear at close range. Male cicadas even have a method of blocking their hearing when they call so that they do not deafen themselves. Some kinds of cicadas sing their songs at a pitch so high it cannot be heard by the human ear. Cicadas only call for a few weeks and the males do so to attract a mate and breed. After spending much of their life underground as nymphs (up to six or seven years in some cases), cicadas spend a few noisy weeks above ground. Adult cicadas can be seen clinging to tree branches and trunks or on low shrubs and long grasses this month, although a discarded shell may be all that is left clinging on. Underground, cicada nymphs shed their skin as they grow and after they dig their way out to the surface they shed their skin one last time before becoming a fully-winged adult. They leave behind a brittle but amazingly detailed brown cicada shell. When so many cicadas are calling, it can be hard to spot an individual. It is thought the loudness of the cicadas’ chorusing call acts as a defence against predators, hurting their ears and making it more diffi cult to locate any single cicada since sound is coming from many different locations. There are about 2500 known species of cicadas in the world, with many more yet to be described. Australia alone is home to more than 200 cicada species and they have lots of interesting names. These include the black prince, double drummer, fl oury baker, cherry nose and razor grinder to name a few. One species even has at least four names - greengrocer, yellow Monday, chocolate soldier and blue moon all refer to the same species of cicada. Some cicada species call during the heat of the day, whereas others which are weak fl iers such as the bladder cicada mainly sing at dusk. Each type will sing unique songs to attract their own kind. Cicadas have long mouthparts to pierce and suck sap from plants including eucalypts and grasses. Gardeners do not need to worry though, cicadas do little damage to plants. After mating, the female SHELLS: Cicada shells are abundant in some Limestone Coast parkland over summer. Picture: NICKI DUGAN CICADA FACTS n There are about 2500 species of cicadas in the world and around 220 species in Australia. n Male cicadas can reach sounds of up to 120 decibels. LITTLE LEFT: Cicada nymphs shed their skin as they grow and then break out of their shells one last time before becoming a fully-winged adult after they dig their way out to the surface. cicada pierces a plant stem with an egg-laying spike at the tip of her abdomen, called her ovipositor, and inserts her eggs. This does not harm the plant either. The eggs hatch into small wingless cicadas, called nymphs, which fall to the ground and burrow down beneath the surface. Nymphs can burrow down as far as two metres and can even survive down there sucking sap from plant roots as bushfi res rage overhead. Cicadas live in almost every part of Australia. While the cicada’s call can be painful to people, it is music to the ears of bats, birds, spiders, ants, mantids, tree crickets and wasps, which carry off cicadas as food for their young. •Supplied by Backyard Buddies, a free program run by Australia’s Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. For more information visit www.backyardbuddies.net. au. 18 - The Border Watch, Friday, January 10, 2014 BIZARRE CREATURE: Areas of the South East, including the Valley Lake precinct, have been invaded by cicadas. Picture: DAVID LOCHLIN Picture: SEAN MURRAY n Cicadas are considered a great food source. They were eaten in Ancient Greece, as well as China, Malaysia, Burma, South America, and the Congo and methods for preparation include skewering, deep frying and stir frying. n Cicadas will not sting people, despite their ovipositor (organ by which eggs are laid) and its sap-sucking mouthpart. n Using the mouthpart, cicadas only feed on plant sap. n Cicada legs have strong hooks which help them stay attached to trees and plants as they feed and should be handled with care as they can scratch. n Cicadas are so prominent in Australia that most of their common names were given by children. n Most of their lives are spent as nymphs underground, and an adult life can last only a few short weeks. LOUD LITTLE FELLA: There are many varieties of cicadas across the nation. Picture: MICHAEL JEFFERIES n Different species have different songs.
January 9th 2014
January 14th 2014