Author Andrew Turner

When I was young and living in Sydney, I remember going out to collect cicadas. All of us kids use to collect them, admiring them, on occasion putting them on each other, and yelling “haha you got a cicada on you”. The girls with long hair, would get them tangled in their hair. Throwing them at each other, meant the cicada would just fly away.

On occasions we would get a cicada still alive, but half of its back had been eaten by birds. We would solemnly tell each other that this cicada did not have long to live and place it back down.

Some years there appeared to be only a few hundred cicadas, but then there were the times when you could not hear above the noise, as there seem to be thousands of them. Amongst those collected were the Green Grocer and the Black Prince (which was smallest of the cicadas).

Then there was the ‘yellow pisser’. They were fun. We would pick them up carefully, always making sure you picked them up with their legs away from yourself. Aiming them at your friends you would try to make sure their piss hit them, laughing if you managed to get them. Those were innocence times.

Now much older and living in the heart of Australia, I still have a fondness for cicadas. We had just come through a population explosion of the Orange Drummer in November. It was truely amazing to see them, their empty nymph casings and the cocophony of sound as the emerged cicadas sang for mates.

You could see the holes in the ground, where the nymph had emerged to begin the metamorphose into the adult cicada. This emergence in itself is not an annual process, as sometimes it can take many years. In some places, I’ve heard they only emerge on average around every 17 years.

It is something to ponder about cicadas, that in all that time they remain underground. I do recall once, lifting pavers in the garden, as we were changing the paving and finding the presences of cicada casings and presumably the dead cicadas. They had tried to emerged from below the ground, but were trapped within the layer of gravel base underneath the pavers. It did make me sad.

It was only early this week I was walking around the park when I heard what seemed to be a lone cicada. That was strange, as the orange drummers had been and gone. I stopped to focus on where the cicada song was coming from. It seemed to be coming from a tree. I walked over and the sound stopped. I froze and the cicada started to sing again. I scanned the trunk of the tree and then my eyes caught sight of it above my head.

Wow, it appeared to blend in with the bark. I have never seen a camouflaged cicada before. I pulled out my mobile and started to snap away… getting closer and closer to the cicada. Suddenly it took off into the air and as it flew away, a spray of liquid rained down on me… oh my god… the memories came flooding back, the bloody cicada had pissed on me… and I laughed at the thought of a camouflaged pisser.

Want to know about these delightful creatures… checkout the Fauna section – Cicadas