Subject: Thousands of these things spotted!
Location: New South Wales, Australia
January 13, 2014 5:15 am
Dear bug experts,
While wandering around a forest in the Hawkesbury River area of NSW, Australia, we saw thousands of these things clinging to every tree. Any idea what they are please?
Signature: Curious bug watcher
Dear Curious bug watcher,
Did you hear a cacophony of sound emanating from the treetops? These are the exuviae or shed exoskeletons of Cicada nymphs that have been living underground awaiting maturity. When conditions are right, they sometimes emerge in exorbitant numbers, molt for the last time and emerge as winged adults. Adult Cicadas produce loud sounds during the mating season. Australia is blessed with an incredible diversity of Cicada species, and each year during the summer months down under, we receive images of adult Cicadas. We just posted a photo of a Cherry Eye a few days ago.
Wow – thanks Daniel!
That’s a brilliantly informative answer, and puts me out of my misery 🙂 You are spot on as usual.
Yes, it was incredibly noisy, and now that you mention it, none of the things moved. I had given up trying to search myself (though did learn a lot about beetles in the process).
PS, I have copied another photo to Dropbox which looks like the adult after it emerged. I didn’t link it to the exoskelton when I was researching it, but it seems to confirm the exact species I was listening to. Take a look if you’re interested, here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xvxehurjqpiyoa6/DSC03507.JPG
We are really excited to be able to add the adult Cicada to the posting. It appears to us to be Double Drummer, Thopha saccata, and according to the Brisbane Insect Website, they are: “the largest cicadas in Australia. They make loudest sound in the insect world. They are brown to orange-brown in colours with black pattern. On each side of the males’ abdomen there are the small pockets, the double drums, which are used to amplify the sound they produce. Females do not have the double drums but with longer abdomen tip.” Your individual has very tattered wings, but appears to be a male.
Great work again, Daniel! Fascinating info.
Yes, I noticed the wings were in poor shape too. And as to the noise, imagine being unable to hear someone talking right next to you without them shouting… That’s what they sounded like.