Friday, January 04, 2008

Cicada time in Australia

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
The cicadas make themselves known on these hot days all around Australia, which has about 220 in 38 genera of the 2,000-plus species of the world's large Cicadidae family (of the order Hemiptera, suborder Homoptera).

After seven years underground as nymphs (some species have much longer life cycles, eg the Magicicada goes through a 13- or even 17-year life cycle) at depths ranging from about 30 cm (1 ft) up to 2.5 m (about 8½ ft), they begin emerging in the spring. The earliest I have heard the drumming of one of them in Sydney was October 11; it was at Forestville, a northern suburb. The earliest I have heard one anywhere was at Bellingen on September 9, 2009.

Over generations, Australian children have bestowed names on some of the species. The most common and thus best known is the Green Grocer (Cyclochila australasiae). The Floury Baker (Abricta curvicosta) and the Black Prince (Psaltoda plaga) are less common – the latter especially so and their scarcity might help explain the dubious folklore of children that you can sell them to pharmacists for a tidy sum, and their wings will be ground up and used in important medicines. It might be that during the Australian Gold Rush days of the 1850s, Chinese herbalists really did grind up Black Prince wings for their elixirs.

Another famous Aussie cicada is the Double Drummer (Thopha saccata), and I suppose just about everyone here knows the Yellow Monday (pictured), which is also Cyclochila australasiae like its Greengrocer sibling (Greengrocer and Yellow Monday are simply two different colour forms of the same species). No one really knows when the colourful names were first given, but the terms 'Yellow Monday' and 'Green Grocer' were in popular use as early as 1896.

Green Grocers, Yellow Mondays and Double Drummers can crank up a noise intensity of more than 120dB at close range, approaching the pain threshold of the human ear. And we won't mention the attributes of the Pisswhacker.

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