First sounds of Spring

The first humid, warm night in Toowoomba, and a strange, throbbing, continual buzz fills the air.  Toowoomba’s first Bladder Cicadas (Cystosoma saundersii) have emerged.

This is such a common, loud, and ever-present summer song in Toowoomba that I am surprised more people do not comment on the deafening racket that surrounds them on dusk. The calls of the male cicada only continue for 30 minutes to an hour, and fade out as the air gets cooler.

The stunning, large green cicadas reponsible for the sound are hard to track down, as they are fabulously camouflaged, are ventriloquists, and will instantly drop to the ground if you get too close to them. They are 40-50mm in length, and the calling male has an enormously inflated, hollow abdomen. They are found from Fraser Island in Queensland to coastal New South Wales.

Cicada expert Max Moulds reports that there are three colour forms – green, turquoise or yellow, depending on the prescence or absence of two pigments – yellow and turquoise.

Their large hollow abdomen acts as resonant sound radiator, and the song has a remarkable ability to carry great distances with little apparent lack of volume. I have often been lured across paddocks believing all the while that my quarry was in a bush only a short distance ahead.

Max’s wonderful Australian Cicadas, is a must-have book for anyone interested in these fabulous creatures.

Bladder cicada

Closing in on the Bladder Cicada.

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Once they select a spot to call from, the male Bladder Cicada returns from daytime hiding to the same location each night. They live for about two weeks.

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