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Cicada Capers

Australia is the cicada capital of the world with about 700-1000 species.

Although we don’t do research on cicadas at the Gardens, one of our scientists loves them so much he spends his free time studying the fascinating little creatures.  

Dr Emery says  “I am a plant ecologist with a poorly kept secret – I love cicadas! Indeed, I spend many of my summer hours outside of work time at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan undertaking personal research on our noisy invertebrates. If I count back to the summers spent helping my dad catch cicadas in bushland areas around Sydney, I can safely say I have over 20 years of experience working in cicada research.” You can read more about Dr Emery and his work here.

It can often be tricky to catch a glimpse of invertebrates but there are some ways we can tell that they’re around. One of these ways is by listening for sounds that they make. Fortunately for us, cicadas have noisy calls that we can listen for.   

Did you know? Cicadas’ life cycle includes spending up to 7 years underground as nymphs, and their life above ground in summer is as short as a few weeks. Cicadas are the loudest insect in the world, but only the males sing. 

Explore the life cycle of cicadas in the video below. Video by Dr Nathan Emery and Alan Kwok 

Activities - Cicada Capers

1. Watch and listen

Watch the Cicada Life Cycle video and drag the words into their spaces to test your listening skills.

2. Listen and imagine

Listen to the soundtrack of five different cicadas. Choose your favourite cicada from the soundtrack and write 3 sentences of what you think they are saying to each other. 

3. Match the cicadas to their name

Practice matching the cicadas with their name. When you have them all correct, see if you can imitate the sound they made and test yourself by looking at the video again.

4. Explore outside

Sound is not the only clue that invertebrates are around.  Use the Invertebrate Detective Worksheet and visit the school or home garden to find clues that other invertebrates have been there. You could use this worksheet like bingo by putting small sticks or rocks onto the picture when you find them. Add up the totals. If you find any cicada shells, why not collect them. (Hint: they are often stuck in the bark of casuarina trees).

The Silver Princess Cicada (Yoyetta celis) image in the widget game was sourced from Project Noah: https://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/1947296002

The image of half moon discs on leaves (within the Invertebrates Detectives activity sheet) was sourced from the Missouri Botanical Gardens website: https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/bees/leaf-cutter-bees.aspx