Sunday, 10 January 2010

Fully sick cicadas

At night, the living room lights attract a great variety of insects. I have no idea of the identity of many of them beyond order — Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, etc — but I can distinguish cicadas from other bugs. And I have a copy of Max Moulds' Australian Cicadas, a fully illustrated guide to … well … you can work it out, so all I have to do is match up the insects with the pictures and bingo!

So far I've recorded five species from the living room window: brown leaf cicada (Lembeja vitticollis), northern greengrocer (Cyclochila virens), a small green one that I'm not really sure about, and the two I photographed today.

The frog cicada (Venustria superba) is a laid back insect that sits on tree trunks in the middle of the forest and makes a croaking noise like a frog. Although it doesn't look like much from these photos, it certainly lives up to the specific epithet superba. The wings have a bronze sheen and the head and body are a patriotic green and gold. The monotypic genus* is endemic to the Queensland Wet Tropics.

Filiform antenna, the typical form in cicadas

The second species was a little more difficult to identify, but I think I've got it. Psaltoda antennetta doesn't have a common name, perhaps because it was only described in 2002. What characterizes this species is the shape of the antennae — each antenna is expanded (foliate) towards the tip. Psaltoda is another Australian endemic genus, with a number of species occurring along the east coast in all wooded habitats.

Foliate antenna characteristic of this species

Both species have similar distributions, occurring in forest from Mt Hartley, near Cooktown south to the Kirrama Range (Venustria) and Mt Fox (P. antennetta). They are also about the same size, with a forewing length of between 30 and 40 mm.

Both of these individuals had red erythraeid mites attached to them.

Venustria superba

Psaltoda antennetta


* A monotypic genus contains only one species

Moulds, M.S. (1990). Australian Cicadas. New South Wales University Press, Kensington, NSW.

Moulds, M.S. (2002). Three new species of Psaltoda Stal from eastern Australia (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae). Records of the Australian Museum 54: 325–334.


Boobook said...

Great macros as usual Bronwyn. What else is going to turn up on your doorstep? PS Great heading too :)

Dave Coulter said...

Lucky you! I'm a big fan of cicadas!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail
I like the shapes of their heads and eyes and the tiny "jewels" on their foreheads (rudimentary eyes, I understand).
Yours did not appear to have prominent "jewels". Maybe wet country Cicadas do not need them to be so prominent. Maybe just a factor of photographic lighting.
Hate their noise.
Absolutely hate it, especially when they all synchronise, into a kind of collective beating noise.

Snail said...

Boobook, there's a lot to choose from on the windows, but most of 'em are pretty small. Not so many moths at the moment, but plenty of leafhoppers and a few spectacular tiger beetles.

Dave, I like 'em too!

Denis, the ocelli are quite modest on those two, but much more prominent on the northern greengrocer. It might be an artefact of the lighting, as you say (I used the on camera flash rather than the macro flash) or it might be something to do with the complexity of the background?

The noise really isn't too bad here, apart from the fifteen minutes when the greengrocers go off together and you can't hear yourself think!

Susan said...

Amazing photos..I've never had te pleasure of a close up one on one with a cicada~!


Are the songs of superba & antennetta different?

Snail said...

Susan, I'm rather lucky to have such obliging insects!

Aydin, I can't find a reference to the call of P. antennetta but Moulds' book describes other Psaltodas as having a song that is complex and had yodelling segments. I can't wait to hear that.

Tyto Tony said...

Yodel? Fully sick indeed. My favourite cicada moment was being liberally showered on by them one hot Brisbane day in Boondall Wetlands.

Snail said...

Tony, the Bard said it best. "The quantity of cicada pee is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."

Lynette Weir said...

Hi Snail
Love cicadas - once did an interesting artwork back in my art college days using cicada shells which I gathered from a local cemetary! LOL These days just like photographing the live ones - too many great creatures as inspiration to get around them all.

Anonymous said...

So. The satellite works, I see. Koala stamp for the teacher, ay.
Don't know whose phrase it is, but "flying bejewelled cigar butts" goes with cicadas. In the SouthWest here, the only prominent one is the tick-tock (Cicadetta sp.), which appears to prosper more in suburban humid gardens and coast wetlands than out here in the drier original veg regions. I enjoy going into a trance when cicadas set up a loud beat in the humid heat.
Have a safe cyclone season.

Anonymous said...

"teacher" meaning Snail of course :-) Well done on fully equipping the new shell for what this reader hopes continues as a fully functional teaching outpost. Phew, pity the poor ESL reader for that tangle of inflections, but I'm logging off in a hurry now.

Snail said...

Lynette, that sounds likes an interesting project. Despite the large numbers of cicadas here, I haven't seen many cases. Maybe they get recycled very quickly?

Snail said...

D, how are ya! I'm learning heaps about cicadas here --- with minimal effort. (They way I like it!) They fly in through the windows, so I don't have to go looking. Six species so far, which is pretty cool. And all of them spectacular in their own way.

I adore them. Much rather have them around than people!

Woollybutt said...

Snail, do those mites parasite other species besides cicadas?

Last year that I found a jumping spider - Cytaea sp. that had several mites attached to it, and they looked remarkably similar to the ones in your post.

Snail said...

Woolly, I'm not sure that the mites would be the same species --- I think they're quite restricted in their hosts --- but they would probably belong to the same family.

(I'm afraid they all look alike to me.)

Did you know about Macromite's Blog --- a blog devoted (almost) entirely to mites in all their glory.