Sun 8 Nov 2009
If you’ve ever spent any time in Australia over Summer, you will have heard the unmistakeable shrill chirruping of cicadas. These noise from these insects can be so deafening that I’ve known Summer events to be forced to retreat indoors in order to escape from the ear-crushing sound pressure.
But they don’t appear every Summer. The life-cycle of the cicada (of which Australia has over 200 species) is interesting in that most of it (anywhere from 3 to 17 years)(i) is spent underground. After this interminable period in the dark, feeding on nothing but tree sap sucked from a convenient root, the cicada climbs to the surface in crysalis form, breaks free of its drab brown shell and emerges in colours of emerald green, burnished bronze, buttery yellow and even polished coal black. It then makes its way to the branches of a leafy tree to commence a short (but cacophonous) period of mating and reproduction.
Except if it gets squashed in a sliding door.
- In most cicada species this period is defined by a prime number. No-one is quite sure why, but it is probably to do with surviving predation [↩]