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  • Writer's pictureKatja

The love-life of the cicada

During the Andalusian winter we may not have been able to hear the screeching buzzy cicadas, but they were everywhere BENEATH the ground. Now it's May, and they're out and about and boy! are they singing!

The cicada's life story, or more precisely, it's love-life is so interesting, it's definitely worth a post.

Cicadas are fascinating creatures. They hatch out of an egg in a tree and crawl down to the ground where they burrow under the roots. Here they will survive living on sap from the roots for between 10 to 17 years. Yes, really, SEVENTEEN years sucking away at a root in the dark. These nymphs, as they are called, will only emerge when the temperature seems right, but scientists still don't really know why they choose one summer over another. Maybe they just get tired of sucking.

So once they have decided to come out, they crawl back up the tree and molt. This means that they shed their shell (a bit like a crab) and out comes the adult cicada. This is what you and I recognize as a cicada, which is interesting, seeing as this insect spends years and years looking like a nymph and only a few weeks as a cicada. One could ask, which is the real 'look' of the species? Probably the one we don't see.

And now, as an adult, they're on a mission! It's no surprise that their one goal is to mate after all that time in the dark. The males will start singing, using their abdomens to make their screechy noise and attract a female cicada. The mating call can be as much as 110 decibels, which is quite some, as your average lawnmower is about 90. Each song is specific to its species, which means the ladies won't get confused about who they should shack up with, which is great seeing as they have been waiting for this for almost two decades.

Once the cicadas mate, the female uses a ovipositor (sort of long sword-like tube) to deposit between 400-600 eggs in cracks in the bark. And then she and her mate die. In any given acre of land where there are trees, there may be up to 1.5 million cicadas. That's why, come June, July and August, it can be deafening as the males buzz away trying to catch the attention of their lady-love.



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