ClimateWatch

An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 151 Photo by Arthur D. Chapman
  2. 151_0 Photo by Arthur D. Chapman
  3. 151_1 Photo by Arthur D. Chapman

Bladder Cicada

Cystosoma saundersii

Appearance

  • Colour: a green body with opaque green, leaf-like wings and pink-brown eyes.
  • A stout body with two pairs of wings that are strengthened with veins. Its antennae are small and bristle-like. The male has a greatly enlarged hollow bladder.
  • Size: a female is 3 – 3.5 cm long and a male is 4.5 – 5 cm long. Its wings are 4 – 5 cm long.

Behaviour

  • Call: a distinctive, deep, frog-like sound produced by the male to attract a female. It is made around dusk and lasts for up to 30 minutes.
  • Diet: sap from a range of plants, including eucalypts and grasses. The cicada pierces the surface of plants with its mouth to suck out the sap.
  • Movement: a poor flyer that will fly only short distances. It gains some protection from predators (such as birds) by confining its activity to dusk.
  • Breeding: mating occurs from September. The female cuts small slits in the branches of a plant into which she lays her eggs. The eggs hatch into nymphs, drop to the ground and burrow into the soil where they feed on sap in the roots of plants. They remain underground for several years (possibly six or seven!) until fully grown, then emerge as adults at night from September. They climb up trees and shed their complete brown shells before flying off to find mates. After so long underground, they live for only a few weeks more.

What to Observe

  • Presence (to establish the first and last sighting for the season)
  • Calling
  • Courting/mating
  • Synchronised emergence

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

Because cicada nymphs live underground for most of their lives, they will be somewhat shielded from the effects of climate change. Little is known about the factors which determine the distribution of Bladder Cicadas but, as they are not strong fliers, they could have difficulty accommodating any changes in climate. Their distribution may slowly drift or contract (reduce in area). (Ian Endersby, personal communication). Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?" by making the following simple observations above.

When To Look

  • From September through to May.
  • Adults emerge from September and die a few weeks later.
  • Listen for them at dusk.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of these events so remember to keep a lookout from August!

Where To Look

  • Amongst dense foliage on a range of trees, shrubs, hedges and lantana. It can be found in open forest as well as in gardens and parks in urban areas.
  • From northern Queensland to Sydney in inland and coastal regions.
  • Look on the trunks and branches of trees, particularly those with dense foliage.

 Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout beyond these regions!

References

More information:

  • Moulds, MS 1990. Australian Cicadas. New South Wales University Press, Kensington, NSW.
  • Ryan M (Ed.) 1995. Wildlife of Greater Brisbane. Queensland Museum, Brisbane.
  • The Insects of Australia: A Textbook for Students and Research Workers.Second Edition. Melbourne University Press, Australia.
  • Zborowski P and Storey R 1995. A field guide to insects in Australia. Reed Books Australia, Chatswood, New South Wales.

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    • Green Grocer/Yellow Monday Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae): its wings are transparent, not leaf-like, and it doesn’t have an enlarged bladder on its underside.
    • Lesser Bladder Cicada (Cystosoma schmeltzi): also occurs in Queensland and northern New South Wales, it is smaller (its wings are less than 3.6 cm long) and its call is a continuous staccato, with a higher frequency.
  1. Did You Know?

    The male’s large, hollow abdomen acts as an echo chamber and enables a single call to last up to half an hour!

    Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world! They can sometimes be loud enough to be painful to the human ear (120 decibels).

    It is likely that by all emerging at the same time of year, cicadas can increase their chances of survival by overwhelming predators with their huge numbers. This means that at least some of the cicadas survive to lay eggs, ensuring the survival of the species.

  1. Listen to the Call

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