CICADAS

 

Greek Cicadas 'Tibicen plebejus' are known as Tzitzikas and are the largest European cicada. Their sudden appearance in the hottest season of the year, their mysterious feeding habits, and above all their striking musical performances have attracted mankind's attention to the Cicadas for thousands of years. It is a bulky, brownish insect, with transparent brown-veined wings, characterized by its loud, piercing call, which can be heard from a considerable distance. The males alone make the loudest distinctive sound through 'timbals' which are on the sides and of the abdomen. Their singing is not produced in the same way as other insects, such as the cricket, where two structures are rubbed against one another. Their noise is made by contracting the internal timbal muscles produces a clicking sound as the timbals buckle inwards. As these muscles relax, the timbals return to their original position producing another click. The interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound. A cicada rapidly vibrates these membranes, and enlarged chambers making its body serve as a echo chamber, greatly amplifying the sound. They adjust their noise by wiggling their abdomens. What is most fascinating is that, each species has its own distinctive song.

 

Average temperature of the natural habitat for this species is approximately 29C (84F). During sound production the temperature of the timbal muscles were found to be slightly higher. Cicadas like heat and sing their loudest during the hotter hours of a summer day. Some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB, among the loudest of all insect that produce sound. Species have different mating songs to ensure they attract the appropriate mate. It can be difficult to establish which direction a cicadas song is coming from, because the low pitch carries well and because it may, in fact, be coming from many directions at once, as cicadas in various trees all make a noise at once. 

 

Many species also have a distinct distress call, usually a somewhat broken and erratic sound as well as a courtship song, which is often a quieter call and is produced after the male has beguiled the female by his song.

   

LIFE CYCLR

 

After mating, the female cuts a slit into the bark of a twig, depositing her eggs. She may do so repeatedly, until she has laid several hundred eggs in different branches. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow. 

 

Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts from two to five years.  This long life cycle, developed perhaps as a response to predators such as the wasp and praying mantis. Cicadas live underground as nymphs for most of their lives, at depths ranging from about 30 cm (1 ft) up to 2.5 m (about 8 ft). The nymphs feed on root juice and have strong front legs for digging. In the final stage they construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge. They then shed their skins, on a nearby plant for the last time and emerge as adults. The abandoned skins remain, still clinging to the bark of trees.

    

FOOD

   

Sucks sap from plants.

  

ACTIVE

 

Late May - September

  

HABITAT

 

 In and around trees and open woodland. Prefers pines, particularly umbrella pines.

 

DISTRIBUTION

 

Throughout southern Europe. Does not extend far north.

  
 
 
 

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