Friday, 4 February 2011

A promise of things to come...

Cicada exuvium
Originally uploaded by joe with a camera
For those of us who want to know, that is. This here is the last moult of a cicada, those wonderful, noisy (and gigantic) relatives of leafhoppers and greenfly. The summer around here is positively buzzing with the racket of cicadas in the treetops. There are quite a few Chinese species, and they're unavoidable enough to feature quite widely in traditional folklore.

Now, I realise there are some among you, dear readers, whose reaction to this might differ to mine. "Yuk!" and "Eurghhh" spring to mind. Well, you're going to have to get use to it, because there will be lots more where this comes from, and with any luck over the coming months I'll manage to persuade you about how gorgeous these little bugs and beasties really are.

Cicadas are "true bugs" (order Hemiptera), as are aphids, shieldbugs and assassin bugs. Every entomologist has their favourite groups (simply because there are far too many to know about all of them!) and this one is mine. It was the amazing colouring and patterns on British leafhoppers that got me interested in the first place, and the Chinese ones should be just as spectacular, if not more so. Cicadas are among the largest of bugs, and are remarkable in spending almost their entire life (several years in many species) underground as nymphs, feeding on roots. The American periodic cicada stays underground for 17 years, before appearing, all at once, over the space of few days. How they co-ordinate this feat is one of those things that just needs to be admired and not worried about too much...
So that's how I know this was the last moult - if it wasn't, it would still be underground. I can't wait until the summer, when i can show you just how gorgeous the adults are. Assuming we can find them.

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