Bladder Cicada Arthur Chapman/Flickr

Bladder Cicada

Cystosoma saundersii

Did You Know?

  • Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world (120 decibels); loud enough to be painful to the human ear
  • The male’s large, hollow abdomen acts as an echo chamber and enables a single call to last up to half an hour
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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.

A green, stout body with opaque green, leaf-like wings and pink-brown eyes 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

Female 3 – 3.5 cm long, Male 4.5 – 5 cm long; Wings 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.

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What to Observe

  • Presence (to establish the first and last sighting for the season)

  • Courting/Mating

  • Calling

  • Synchronised emergence

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When and Where

When To Look

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

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
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What Else?

Similar Species

Green Grocer/Yellow Monday Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae) has transparent wings, not leaf-like, and doesn’t have an enlarged bladder on its underside.

Lesser Bladder Cicada (Cystosoma schmeltzi) also occurs in Queensland and northern NSW. It is smaller (wings less than 3.6 cm long) and its call is a continuous staccato, with a higher frequency.