Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cicada heralds the arrival of the rainy season

Abe V Rotor
Male cicada of the genus Tibicens (topmost) attracts females love struck by its singing. NOTE: There is a third female that is barely visible.

Skin casting shows the shape and size of the final nymph before emerging into adult.

The shrilling song of the cicada or kuliglig is the loudest in the insect world and one of the most pleasant sounds of nature.

It heralds the arrival of habagat, the rainy season. It lifts the spirit after a long, hot and dry summer. Up there in the tree it sings beautifully, and without pause, the song of Romeo until a Juliet comes around. And if the singer has the touch of Caruso, two or three love struck females arrive. And the world stands still.

It is the opposite of Shakespeare's masterpiece. But this is nature.

From here on we expect the rains to intensify, peaks in July and August and tapers off towards the end of the year with the once beautiful song fading out as well.

There are two types of cicada: the annual or biennial of the Genus Tibicens, and the periodic - Magicicada. The latter emerge after 13 years in one group and 17 years in another. Hence the name 17-year old "locust" or cicada. The periodic cicada are mainly in temperate countries like the United States.

Adult cicadas are short lived, and the main function of such brief sojourn is reproduction. After that they die. Cicadas lay their eggs on twigs of trees. The newly hatched nymphs fall off to the ground and burrow into the root area of perennial plants whose roots serve shall serve as their food the rest of their underground life.

Then when their biological clock strikes, they push their way out through the softened earth, metamorphose into adults leaving their skin castings behind on the trunk of some trees.

Singing is actually a continuous and rapid high-pitched sound - tick-tack-tick-tack… produced by a pair of drums attached on the male's abdomen. Imagine the lid of a tin can pressed and released in rapid succession. Amazingly each species has specific codes insuring orderly love making even in the midst of an orchestra of different species.

It is in the world of the cicada where the female is obligingly quiet - because she is completely mute.

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