Cicadas at Bishop’s Ranch

“Gosh, it seems like the trees are vibrating” said a 3rd grader. Their hiking buddy said the sound was like tiny chainsaws revving. The Bishop’s Ranch staff was leading groups of Westside Elementary Students on a hike through Gina’s Orchard in mid-May and were impressed by the calls of the male Cicadas.
These insects are diminutive in size but mighty in sound and it is Cicada season here at the ranch. Eggs are laid in niches in tree bark and when hatched, the tiny larvae feeds on tree fluids and then falls to the ground where it burrows into the soil and feeds on roots for a couple of years. The tiny nymphs emerge from the earth and make their way up into trees and shrubs and shed their outer skins. Free of their old skins the wings are unfurled and filled with fluid and their adult skin hardens.
The sounds they make are largely attributed to the males and they are saying, “Don’t eat me!” “Honey come see me” and “I found the love of my life!” The male cicada makes the noise using “timbals” located at the base of his abdomen (see picture). He uses strong muscles attached to the timbals to make them vibrate rapidly, which creates the slightly electrical sounding hum. Females flick their wings to make a clicking sound in response.

By, Julie Miller, Guest Services

Photo by Mark Aanonsen

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