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Updated: Apr 1, 2022

What do we know about periodical cicada? Clear-membrane wings, the repeated “ziiiiit,

ziiit” sound they make during summer, the short life cycle and the amazing transformation.

Cicadas, are sap-sucking plant insect, classified in the order of Hemiptera and family of

Cicadidae. Common ones that could be found in eastern Australia including the Greengrocer

cicada (Cyclochila australasiae), Razor grinder (Henicopsaltria eydouxii) and Double

Drummer (Thopha saccate). As we know they make quite a noisy ‘calling song’ but do you

know what’s the mechanism behind the sound-production? The noise they produce contain

several types of meaning including protesting, mating, and defending. They can make songs

through several ways: tymbal, wing flicks/clicks and stridulations. The domed tymbals

(membrane) located on both side of the abdomen is the primary equipment of making

sounds; the tymbal contain a row of curved ribs and attached by the tensor tympani

muscles (Bennet, 1998). Through the rapid contraction of muscles, the tymbals compressed,

creating a sequence of sound pulses and producing a sympathetic resonance. Since cicadas have a hollow abdomen, it helps in amplifying the broadcast of sound pulses to outside world,

sometimes it can be up to a rate of 4-6 kHz (Bennet, 1998).

Want to know more about cicadas? Here are some lists to find out:
  1. “A photo guide to the common cicadas of the Greater Sydney Region” by Nathan Emery

  2. Bennet-Clark, H. C. (1998). How Cicadas Make Their Noise. Scientific American, 278(5), 58–61.

  3. “Cicada” by Shaun Tan

  4. “The Cicadas Are Coming! Invasion of the Periodical Cicadas!” by Doug Wechsler

  5. “Cicada Symphony” by Lisa Kobman

  6. “The Cicada Olympics: Engaging kids in Live Insect Activities” by Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Smith, Ph.D. & Richard Grover




Typical Cicadas found in Australia

Figure 1. Image of identified well-known cicadas in Australia

(Source: David Emery,

Green Grocer Cicada
Figure 2. Image of Green grocer cicada

(Cyclochila australasiae)

Double Drummer Cicada
Figure 3. Image of Double Drummer cicada

(Thopha saccate) (Source: Australian Museum,

Razor Grinder Cicada
Figure 4. Image of Razor grinder cicada

(Henicopsaltria eydouxii) (Source: magdalena_b,

Tymbal of a Cicada
Figure 5. Image demonstrated the tymbal located on the side of the abdominal segment

GIF of a Cicada's Tymbal distorting
Figure 6. GIF of how cicada producing vibrating clicking noises; the tymbal plate distorts and
bend inwards through muscle contraction


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