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About Cicadas (the insect)

Picture the scene. Sitting on the deck at home in Patumahoe, late summer 2001 in the heart of the Franklin countryside, thinking of a name for our new Internet venture. "Can't hear myself think with the noise from them cicadas.... Eureka!".

Ever since launching our first website we have attracted a steady stream of enquiries from school kids asking for more information about the insect to help them with their school project or other studies. Well this is what we've found out, so far...

Some facts about the greatest communicator in the insect world!

Cicada Face

Little CicadaA cicada has three very different looks for the different stages of its life. It starts off as an egg about the size of a grain of rice. When the cicada hatches it is a creamy white nymph with 4 legs and two big pincer-like ones at the front, a bit like crabs claws.

Little CicadaWhen a cicada becomes an adult it loses its pincer-like legs at the front and instead has 6 legs and four wings which are totally see- through.

Little CicadaCicadas naturally climb upwards after they come out of their holes in the ground. They climb and at random points they will moult. Moulting is the process of shedding their exoskeleton by splitting open the back of their brittle exoskeletons and wiggling out.

Cicada SkinLittle CicadaAn adult cicada’s colour depends on the type of cicada it is – they’re usually green or black or brown.

Little CicadaCicadas are often called locusts, but locusts are migratory grasshoppers that often travel in vast swarms. The appearance of cicadas in large numbers apparently caused the early European settlers in North America to mistakenly equate them with the plague of locusts mentioned in the Bible.

Little CicadaCicadas may give away their pending emergence by building thousands of 'chimneys' or 'stovepipes' made of mud on the ground, especially near trees. They will emerge through these structures when they leave the ground and crawl up trees and shrubs.

Cicada ChimneyLittle CicadaExperts say that the best way to eat cicadas is to collect them in the middle of the night as they emerge from their burrows and before their skins harden. When they are in this condition—like soft-shell crabs—they can be boiled for about a minute. It is said they taste like asparagus or clam-flavoured potato.

Little CicadaIn China, male cicadas are kept in cages in people's homes so that the homeowners can enjoy the cicadas' songs.

Little CicadaThe transparent wings of cicadas are said to filter out ultraviolet light. People who have placed a cicada wing on their skin prior to exposure to the sun have noticed that they do not tan under the wing.

Little CicadaCicadas feed by piercing the surface of plants with their mouth stylets. They then suck up the sap through a tube formed by the concave surfaces of two of the stylets.

Little CicadaCicadas have large compound eyes situated one on each side of the head. They also have three very small glistening simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of the head.

Little CicadaDifferent cicada species can be heard at different times of the day. While some prefer mating during the day, others prefer the evening hours.

Little CicadaThe male cicada makes the loudest sound in the insect world; they have their own built-in sound system.

Little CicadaEach male cicada sound organ consists of a large plate-like structure, the operculum, which covers a cavity containing a white or yellowish membrane and an oval, ribbed, drum-like structure called a timbal. Timbals are vibrated by strong muscles to produce the cicada song.

Cicada Molt

Little CicadaOnly male cicadas sing. The females are lured to the sound and fly nearer. A female responds to a male with a flick of her wings. The two gradually draw close to one another until they meet for mating.

Little CicadaMale cicadas die soon after mating. Females lay 400 to 600 eggs in as many as 40 to 50 different nests before they die. A female cicada lays her eggs in the twigs of trees and shrubs. She places the eggs in small holes that she makes with a saw like organ near the tip of her abdomen.

Little CicadaEach cicada species has its own distinctive call and only attracts females of its own kind even though rather similar species may co-exist.

Little CicadaIt is easy to tell the sex of cicada adults. Females have blade-like ovipositors visible on the bottom surface of the abdomen, and the males do not. Males possess a pair of sound-producing, or 'singing', organs located on the sides of the first abdominal segment.

Little CicadaThe mäori name for the chorus cicada is kihikihi wawa, matua kihikihi, ngengeti. The scientific name is Amphipsalta zealandica (Boisduval). Order = Hemiptera; family = Cicadidae

This information was compiled from articles featured on the following websites: