Anyone in a hot country like Spain will know all about cicadas, or at least the sound they make. That rattling-cum-buzzing cacaphony that reaches a peak on the hottest days. Heard close up, it’s like Barbie’s washing machine on a manic, high-pitched spin-cycle. Then, they can be gone in an instant.
They care not that some of us want a bit of rest and relaxation. In the insect world, it’s the equivalent of an all-day disco. No surprise that people with hearing aids find them a menace.
We never thought we’d get close to one until one of our cats caught, or found, one. Her looping paws were spotted tossing an object around in the grass. Previously, we had stared at the eucalyptus trees trying to spot where the noise was coming from. They’re the invisible critters causing mayhem on the eardrums – the soundtrack to a million holidays abroad.
The cicada was about 2.5cm long with exquisite, crystal-like wings. It’s the loudest insect in the world at around 120dB – loud enough to cause hearing loss in a human.
The sound isn’t caused by it rubbing anything together (like crickets); instead the insect has tymbals – a thin membrane over a ribbed skeleton. By first contracting, and then relaxing its ‘muscles’, the clicking sound is made. It’s a bit like repeatedly sucking and blowing into a crisp packet very quickly (best not to try this, you’d probably faint).
The word cicada has its roots in Latin and means ‘tree cricket’ but they’re actually related to froghoppers and the like.
It may come as no surprise that people do eat them. Not in Spain (we don’t think) but places like Latin America and China where they are fried. In 2011, someone in Columbia, Missouri came up with the cracking idea of making ice-cream out of them. Well, it makes a change from vanilla.
© con jamón spain