DSCF2749There’s been plenty of cicada activity this Summer, both in the bush and on local blogs (here, here and here). Their calls, or song, are the hallmark of a hot Summer and are usually the easiest way to identify the species in your area (here again). As I write, I can hear at least three species calling in the surrounding forest. But, identifying the real thing can be a bit trickier – a cicada in the hand is not necessarily worth two in the bush. At our recent  Violet Town Mothing Evening in Nov. 2012, (part of the SR CMN’s Butterfly festival),  the moth sheet set along Honeysuckle Ck in town (near the bowls club) seemed to attracted as many cicadas as moths. With our focus well and truly on moths, we paid scant attention to the cicadas and only got a few ordinary pics of them (see below) and no specimens.  One month later (and 300 m higher), whilst working and walking along the Seven Creeks at Strathbogie, I noticed nymphs of a similar looking cicada species emerge from their underground home and climb up the nearest vertical structure (a tree, car tyre, wooden post), and they did it in their hundreds. It was an amazing sight! The newly emerged nymphs are not fully pigmented and look quite different to the adult.

I’ve struggled to ID the specimen illustrated here, partly because I’m not sure what song/s they ‘sing’ and also because I know very little about cicadas. After correspondence with Peter Marriott who led the mothing evening and who prompted the closer examination of the Violet Town observations, I bought Max Mould’s 1990 guide to Australian Cicadas (only available second hand). According to that text and subsequent advice from the author,  the Strathbogie specimens most closely resemble Cicadetta abdominalis (no common name), and the Violet town specimens are most likely Cicadetta landsboroughi.

After having a good look at Max Mould’s guide, I’m now convinced that I knew even less about Cicadas than I thought; cicadas are truly fascinating organisms and largely because they spend so much of their life underground in larval form, relatively little is known about them. And, as with many other insect groups, because there’s so much more to learn, the names we use to identify and describe them change on occasion. For a review of the genera of Australian cicadas, free-download Max Mould’s 2012 monograph on the subject:  http://mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/zt03287p262.pdf. And by the way, the genus of the above species has been renamed Yoyetta, as per the image captions.

Australia has a rich cicada fauna with over 200 described species, of which 198 (98%) are endemic! Although they fly, they are not particularly mobile, adults spending their lives pretty close to home. Notwithstanding this, many species have wide distributions and cicadas occur in almost every part of Australia (Moulds 1990).

I knew we had the Redeye (Psaltoda moerens) and Greengrocer (Cyclochila australasiae) around here, but it seems certain that there are other species as well – in future I’ll have to pay more attention to these Summer specialists.

Thanks to Peter Marriott and Dr. Max Moulds for comment and advice.

For on-line information about Australian cicadas see:

The cicadas on central and eastern Australia.

Cicadas at the Australian Museum.

Cicadas at the CSIRO.