Last week I gave you this big bug to identify:
I had a feeling it would be fairly straightforward for some of you, since insects as big as this are reasonably distinctive, and I was therefore not disappointed with the flurry of correct identifications.
The first with a correct identification in the comments was Chris, who hinted at the scientific name with this suggestion:
Trying to identify this Cic-sac? Tho phar, Tho good! (Excuth the lithp!)
On social media people made suggestions relating to the common name for the species, mostly pointing out that it’s very loud. Putting the various hints together gives you the Double-drummer Cicada Thopha saccata (Fabricius, 1803).
Cicadas are weird. They’re in the Order Hemiptera (the true bugs) and the Suborder Homoptera (although that’s disputed and it’s probably safer to say Auchenorrhyncha). Best known for being noisy and having some species with synchronised emergence times that vary between every year and up to every 17 years, or somewhere in-between depending on species and environment. They have widely spaced eyes and a blunt head that is pretty distinctive.
As jennifermacaire pointed out regarding cicadas:
According to Plato, “[This species] used to be human beings who lived before the birth of the Muses. When the Muses were born and song was created for the first time, some of the people of that time were so overwhelmed with the pleasure of singing that they forgot to eat or drink; so they died without even realizing it. It is from them that the race of the [these insects] came into being; and, as a gift from the Muses, they have no need of nourishment once they are born. Instead, they immediately burst into song, without food or drink, until it is time for them to die. After they die, they go to the Muses and tell each one of them which mortals have honored her.”
The implications of this is that adult cicadas have a general inability to feed, although this isn’t quite true, since adult cicadas may still feed on sap.
This particular cicada is Australian and is one of the loudest insects on the planet, able to produce a call of over 120 decibels – loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage if right up against a human ear.
The abdomen is fairly hollow in the males of these insects, creating a resonating chamber, but sadly the last segment of this specimen has fallen off, making it hard to be sure of the gender on the basis of the genitals. However, the males have a couple of resonating sacs behind the hind-wing that is missing from this specimen, suggesting that it’s a female.
As far as noisy neighbours go, these insects are an occasional disruption, popping up every 4-6 years and making a noise that is apparently similar to high-pitched bagpipes.
It doesn’t sound great to me, so I’m (not so) secretly glad that I only have to deal with dead examples of these fascinating insects.
More mystery object fun next week!
I as lucky enough to see a brood NY in 1967 or ’68 – my mother was fascinated with nature and when the cicadas emerged, we ran outside to see them pushing through the dirt, and later, we collected their husks. The bugs were everywhere and made so much noise we could go from tree to tree and spot them right away. The 17 year cicadas in NY are magic, my mother told me. Only later, when I looked them up, did I see she’d said Magicicada, but the word magic stuck, and I’ve been fascinated with them ever since.
Growing up in Texas, summer would not have been the same with these critters.