By Paul Ward
As soon as the UK summer starts to show itself, and the winter draws to a swift end, it makes me remember the things I miss about the summers back home in South Africa. The long hot days out in the bush with the buzzing of the Cicada in the trees, the warm nights with the crickets chirping all through the darkness.
While we all live in the concrete silent jungle of the UK, life is not all doom and gloom in the UK we have the freedoms we need and miss from the days gone by. So with the winter rolling in I though it may be a good place to start with the tiny Summer Screamer the Cicada for the magazines fauna and flora article.
There are over 1300 cicada species world-wide with a 150 of them to be found in South Africa. The cicada belongs to the suborder of Auchenorrhyncha which puts them in a group with spittlebugs and leafhoppers.
We have all seen a cicada but never knew what it was as they get mistaken for moths, flies or crickets. The life cycle of a cicada is synchronised and can range from two to seventeen years before they reach adulthood which would put our little bug in the running for the longest larval development stage.
The strange sound is made from an organ in the little bug called the tymbal that is in front of the hollow body of the male which works like a sound box. The male then produces the noise by contracting muscles against the tymbal. Each species has its own distinctive sound which will attract the appropriate mate.
Some Interesting Facts
In China, male cicadas are kept as pets in cages so people can enjoy the songs
Cicadas give away their pending emergence by building thousands of “chimneys” or “stovepipes” on the ground, especially near trees. They will emerge through these structures when they leave the ground and crawl up trees and shrubs.
The transparent wings of cicadas are said to filter out ultraviolet light. People who have placed a cicada wing on their skin prior to exposure to the sun have noticed that they do not tan under the wing.
These little guys are like nature’s Christmas treat and serve as an important part of the ecosystem as they are food for many birds, reptiles, mammals and other insects. The cicada contributes to the biodiversity by preventing their host tree populations from out competing other tree species.
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Paul Ward is owner of Jabulela – a traditional South African mobile food vendor based in Suffolk, UK. All their food is cooked on an open coal and wood fire. You can book them for any event.