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. And then can be gone in an instant. Heard close up, it’s like Barbie’s washing machine on a manic, high-pitched spin-cycle.
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.
We never thought we’d get close to one until our cat Tinkerbell 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. Luckily it didn’t want to make its on-off racket. Apparently it’s the loudest insect in the world at 120dB – loud enough to cause hearing loss in a human.
The sound isn’t caused but 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. Maybe it’s a bit like sucking and blowing into a crisp packet very quickly (best not to try this, you’d probably faint).
The Latin word cicada 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. Makes a change from vanilla and chocolate.
© con jamón spain