Saturday, 7 January 2012

Those Noisy Cicadas

It's the time of year when the cicadas make themselves known by their calls. They are not random callers but seem to divide the time appropriately. As noted below, the Northern Green Grocer commences its season by calling at about 6.45 pm each night. That has now progressed a half hour so they commence calling around 7.15. And the singing period lasts only a few minutes.

Henicobsaltria rufivelum Moulds is at its zenith at the present time. Males sing during the sunniest times of the day, usually in synch. The fellow making most of the noise below was quite angry with me and kept running up and down the trunk of the tree and playing a bit of peek-a-boo without missing a note.

Calling Song of Henicopsaltria rufivelum Moulds

Henicopsaltria rufivelum- a noisy but rather average-looking cicada.
Note the pink ocelli. A good common name might be "Pink-Eye" if this is a consistent character.

There are some other species that frequently show up at the lights like those that follow.

The Floury Baker, Aleeta curvicosta (Germar)-with some of the grey bloom that gives it its common name rubbed off. This cicada has a mostly coastal distribution from the Daintree River south to southern New South Wales.
A more tidy example of the Floury Baker.

A female of Tamasa doddi (Gooding and Froggatt). Named in honour of the Butterfly Man of Kuranda, this is a rainforest species occurs only in coastal north Queendland in the vicinity of Cairns, Kuranda and the Daintree.
Males of Chlorocysta suffsa (Distant) have a bulbous abdomen that must be associated with sound production. This species has a distribution similar to that of the above but with some outlier populations in Iron Range and Cooktown.
Cicada bits n' pieces

This overturned cicada illustrates the long beak that it inserts into the trees to feed. The large brown flanges are called opercula. They protect the tympana. both sexes have these structures but they are better developed in males.

 Here we see at the base of the wings the tymbals. This structure produces the sound that is distinctive for each species. The tympanum is within the opening just beneath. This latter structure receives incoming sounds.
Cicada skins are a common site in most forested regions of Australia. Cicadas emerge in the cover of darkness and move slowly to an appropriate perch to complete their moult to adulthood. The larval stages last for a much longer time than the adult lifespan. As nymphs on the soil, they feed on roots and are subject to much predation as are the adults. But they make up for this with shear numbers. With a little careful study you can determine the species by features of the cast skin.

This individual chose to emerge on a wet night. Note the mud and sand grains ahering to the body. That will all be left behind on emergence and the cicada will be hardened up and ready to sing come morning.
The Bible for Australian Cicada information. This book is available on the web and is a must for anyone planning to study these insects in Australia.

Thanks to Max Moulds for help with the identifications.


Snail said...

Another thumbs up here for the cicada Bible.

On a different tack, but do you know of anyone who's working on FNQ sawfly at the moment? I've got a few that have just emerged from what I have tentatively identified as Siphonodon membranaceus fruit. I thought someone might be interested in them.

Mr. Smiley said...

That's a good one. You could try Stefan Schmidt in Germany. He's looking for an elusive Stem Sawfly, family Cephidae. There is only one known specimen and so it's probably a new species. It's just observations like your that will turn it up someday.

Snail said...

Thanks. I'll send him an email. I'm not collecting in a systematic way, esp. groups with which I'm unfamiliar, but I thought these might be a bit difficult to find under normal circumstances. (Of course, they could be something that swarms in malaise traps or summat!)

Patricia K. Lichen said...

Gracious--what amazing photos!

It's chilly here in Western Oregon in the US, but oddly not raining, as is usual this time of year. No cicadas for us!

randomtruth said...

Well done, Dave. The pink is the natural color - not "red-eye" from the flash?

Mr. Smiley said...

The pink-eye was present on that individual and stood out. You could see it from about .5m. So it was not the usual "red-eye" from the camera-flash relationship.