Many species of cicada can be heard singing during the heat of the day while others only sing at dusk.
Australian summer chorus
Cicadas are familiar to most Australians and regarded by some as the true heralds of summer when their singing is heard during the heat of the day and on warm summer evenings.
1 January 2008 | Updated 8 February 2013
Cicadas are members of the insect Order Hemiptera, which also includes aphids and bugs.
They are found across a wide range of habitats including:
Adult cicadas are stout bodied insects with a wing span ranging in size from 20 millimetres up to 150 millimetres, depending on the species.
They have two pairs of membranous wings, with well developed wing venation.
The wings are usually glass-like although some species may have opaque or pigmented forewings.
Cicadas have two large eyes positioned at either side of the head as well as three small eye-like spots, called ocelli, positioned in a triangle shape on top of the head.
Cicada nymphs are rarely seen as they spend almost their entire life under ground feeding on small roots and sucking sap through their piercing needle-like mouthparts.
However, the dry empty skins left behind by mature nymphs after they emerge as adults can often be seen on tree trunks, grass stems and other vertical objects.
Female cicadas lay their eggs into small slits, which they cut into branches or stems using their ovipositor.
Different kinds of cicadas each have a unique song so they only attract a mate of their own species.
On hatching nymphs drop to the ground, following cracks into the soil and digging deeper to reach a suitable spot to construct an air cell.
Here they seek the nearest root, which is often one penetrating their cell and begin feeding on the sap.
Depending on the species, nymphs may remain feeding underground for a few months up to several years.
When conditions are favourable, fully developed nymphs make their way to the surface where they climb a vertical object, usually the trunk of the tree they have been feeding on.
They fasten their claws into the bark and shed their outer skin to emerge as a fully winged adult.
Most cicada nymphs emerge from their final nymphal skins on warm evenings, often after rain in late spring and early summer.
The song of summer
Cicadas are best known for their distinctive calls, which are often heard during the summer months throughout the heat of the day and on warm evenings.
Cicadas produce sound by vibrating a pair of drum-like organs called tymbals, which are located at the base of the abdomen.
Male cicadas primarily 'sing' to attract a female.
Each species has its own unique call and it is often possible to identify a species by their song.
The crescendo of some species can reach 120 decibels, which is loud enough to damage the human ear.
While other species have songs so high-pitched humans cannot detect them.
CSIRO Entomology is not currently researching cicadas.
Read more about insects with CSIRO Entomology's Factsheets & Publications.
Moulds MS. 1990. Australian cicadas. New South Wales University Press. Kensington, New South Wales.
The Insects of Australia. A Textbook for Students and Research Workers. Second Edition. Melbourne University Press, Australia.
Zborowski P, Storey R. 1995. A field guide to insects in Australia. Reed Books Australia. Chatswood, New South Wales.