The Sounds of Summer

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.

IMG_1735Cicadas 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:

cicada shells

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to The Sounds of Summer

  1. Anne Ludstrom says:

    Funny about the black princes. Its the same up here and its certainly a plague of them. The birds are having a feast and my lawn is littered with nothing but wings. My poor father used to complain that his hearing aid made it all the louder. It is sometimes actually painful to step outside I find. Has anyone noticed if its a seven year cycle like my American friends have said?

  2. Anne Newton says:

    Oh Rob, Cicadas are one of my favourite things. We collected them up as kids, and you knew it would be a hot day when they started their chorus. In Melbourne they are predominantly the bright green ones (Cyclochila virens), with their jewel studded head and their tiny hooked appendages. I have never heard them call a green grocer before! I’d love to see the Golden Drummer from the NT but don’t think I’d survive the build up” to the Wet.
    I only realised how few we have had over the past 3 or 4 years when I heard them start to sing recently. So far, I’ve rescued two from that insidious pest the Indian Myna.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Hi Anne, try a Google image search on “golden drummer cicada” — some great shots there. Also “green grocer cicada” — I’m pretty sure they’d be the same ones you mentioned.

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