Thursday, December 12, 2013

Double Drummer Cicada

Holy cats:

Found this beauty at the tide pool here in Collaroy yesterday. It's Thopha saccata, the Double Drummer cicada, native only to a sliver of far eastern, primarily coastal New South Wales and Queensland. (Wikipedia page here.)

They're enormous:

A good deal larger than the cicadas I knew growing up in Buffalo, New York. (Or in Oregon.)

They're also loud. From
One of the loudest of all cicadas, the Double Drummer's high-pitched erratic whine sounds a bit like a bad bagpipe player. When populations are dense, these cicadas are almost unbearable to be near when they sing in unison.
Here's a good article on how cicadas produce their amazing sounds. And a video. And a recording.

In this photo, of our cicada's underside, and still on the subject of sound, you can see where the Double Drummer gets its name:

Do you see those reddish-brown sacs on either side of its abdomen? Those are the Double Drummer's "double drums," as it were. They're the two air sacs all cicadas have and use to amplify the sounds they produce, and while all cicadas have them, they are usually not as large and visible as they are on this variety—hence this one's name.

Also in that belly up photo, you can see the cicada's long, black, tubular mouthparts that it uses to pierce plants in order to feed:
The mouth parts of the cicada are enclosed in a long, thin, beak-like sheath. The sheath (labium) passes backwards from the lower surface of the head between the legs when the insect is not feeding. It contains four fine, needle-like stylets used in feeding.
(Just to note, this cicada appears to have had its butt end eaten off. They normally have a nice pointy end, as seen in the images provided in the links above.)

An interesting note about the Double Drummer, from the link above:
The Double Drummer seems to have a tendency to fly out to sea. Thousands of individuals have been reported as far as 8 km offshore. Their bodies are sometimes washed up on beaches. 
Which may be why I found this guy in the tide pools.

All in all a beautiful bug:

• Here's a good ABC article on Australia's many cicada species.

Note: Thanks to commenter honeyheights below for informing me that this is not a Black Prince cicada. Corrections made accordingly.


  1. Very cool! American cicadas are much smaller. The 13-year variety which I actually got to see in Iowa are much really small, maybe an inch long with bright red eyes. Our Oregon ones are a bit bigger but not as big as yours! Check out this post with pix taken right outside our apartment door:

  2. Awesome. They - and that sound - were part of my childhod in Buffalo, but I never did get to wtach one emerge. Nice job.

    And that Buffalo sound - nothing like here. Honestly mind rattling when they really get going.

  3. Great photos ! .. but this cicada is a Double Drummer (Thopha saccata), which is pretty common around the Northern Beaches area of Sydney right now. It's actually the largest cicada found in Australia, and pretty impressive if you ever get the chance to hold a live one.

    1. ARRRRRRG - I HATE when this happens! I try to be so thorough!

      Look at this, from "Brisbane Insects":