Cicadia (Hemiptera auchenorrhyncha)
The name is a derivation of the Latin 'cicada', meaning "tree cricket".
The Cicadia is a fairly large insect 0.75" - 2" (2 - 5cm) long, with well developed wings, showing conspicuous veins. Prominenent, brown eyes are set wide apart, on each side of its head. A short 'antennae' is between the eyes and they have long proboscises under their heads, which they insert into plant stems & trees, in order to feed on sap.
Females lay several hundred eggs into the crevice of a tree, or a cut the female makes. Nymphs hatch from the eggs and drop to the ground, where they burrow underground.
The majority of a Cicadia's life is spent underground, as a nymph, feeding on the sap from plant roots. Their strong legs dig and find their way from plant to plant. They finally dig their way to the surface and shed their skins, emerging as adults.
The cicadia lives for up to 5 years, depending on the chances of predation.
Cicadia are prone to predation by Praying Mantis, birds, Squirrels and the Cicadia Killer Wasp.
Cicadia are the 'voice of Kenya' after dark, when males make a high-pitched noise like a continuous click. The noise comes from an organ known as a 'tymbal', situated below the hollow abdomen. Tymbals are skelatal, formed into flexible structures that expand and contract. When the muscles controlling this structure contract, the tymbal colapses inward, producing a 'click'. When the muscles relax, the tymbal returns to its original position and another 'click' is made. Rapid movements make the continuous sound that we recognise. The hollow abdoment acts like an amplifier. The purpose of the sound is to attract mates.
Cicadia use their proboscis to insert into the bark of trees, to extract sap.
Other Cicadia Facts
Cicadia are eaten by the Chinese population as a delicacy. Skewered, stir or deep fried.
Cicadia can mistake a person's body for a tree and insert their proboscis, attempting to feed, if left on the body for some time.
Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.
Keywords:cicadia, insect, kenya, wildlife