By: Karin Bolcshazy

This time we are looking at Cicadas – even though I am supposed to write about birds and butterflies (mostly, I choose cicadas, so I could use the picture I took in my garden of one departing its exoskeleton downwards)!

Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadoidea and sport stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membraned wings, and large compound eyes. There are more than 3,000 species of cicadas, which fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are spotted every year, and periodical cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only emerge once every decade or two. Cicadas are famous for their penchant for disappearing entirely for many years, only to reappear in force at a regular interval. Despite their name, annual cicadas generally live for two to five years. They typically live in trees, feeding on watery sap, and laying their eggs in a slit in the bark. The vast majority of species are active during the day as adults, with some calling at dawn or dusk.  Cicadas begin life as an egg laid in a slit of a tree twig. Some species lay eggs in living twigs, others in dead twigs. Upon hatching, the tiny nymph drops to the earth and burrows down, where it will live most of its life, sucking juices from plant roots. The nymphs of annual cicadas remain underground for 2–5 years. When ready, during the dog days of July and August, they claw to the surface, climb a tree or other object, and molt to become a winged adult. The shed skin remains behind, while the adults sing, mate, and produce the next generation.

Cicadas are also known for their buzzing and clicking noises, which can be amplified by multitudes of insects into an overpowering hum. Males produce this species-specific noise with vibrating membranes on their abdomens. The sounds vary widely, and some species are more musical than others.  Though cicada noises may sound alike to humans, the insects use different calls to express alarm or attract mates.

Info: Wikipedia, National Geographic, Cicadamania