An article on the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald had the headline: The Sounds of Summer: Cicadas, Cricket and ‘C’mon!’ We Aussies all know that we’ve just smashed the Poms 5-0 to win the Ashes (that’s cricket for those poor souls who live in some remote corner of the Universe – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ashes). And “C’mon!” refers to Leighton Hewitt’s self-improvement yell as he grinds his way to yet another unlikely win on the tennis court – this time over Roger Federer no less!
And then there’s cicadas, the third and by far the loudest sound of an Aussie summer. This year has brought a bumper crop of cicadas to many parts of Australia, with their all-too-familiar high-volume (up to 120 decibels) screeching, which is said to be the loudest insect-produced sound. Actually it’s only the males which “sing”, the purpose being (of course) to attract females. “There’s no accounting for taste,” said the old woman as she kissed the cow.
Cicadas spend most of their life – some say up to 17 years – under the ground, before emerging, shedding their shell, then spreading their diaphanous wings. Their above-ground life can often be short and brutal, as their screeching advertises their presence to nearby birds looking for a tasty morsel.
Most Aussie kids are familiar with cicadas, and refer to them by their common names – green grocers, yellow Mondays, cherry noses, brown bakers, etc. Although green grocers have often been the most prevalent kind seen in Sydney, this year nearly all the ones I’ve seen have been black princes. A friend in Alice Springs reports that golden drummers are common up there this year.
It wouldn’t be summer without the cicadas.
PS: Friend Peter Inman sent this picture of cicada shells on a tree on his farm on the Macdonald River north of Sydney: