Cicada, the loudest insect in the world

There are about 3,000 species of cicadas in the world. I bet you can find hundred species in Malaysia, and they are equally noisy. In fact, they are rated as one of the noisiest animals by Discovery’s Most Extreme programme. If there is a human-size cicada sings next to you, its sound will be as loud as a Boeing jet engine and blow you away.

You can listen to this old sound clip that I recorded on Gaya Island. That was the noise of thousands of cicada in the forest and we can hear them even miles away. If you want to see only one cicada singing up-close, Click Here to view the video clip. Cicada was once a frequent visitor to my house when there was dense forest around. Their visit was always a pleasure surprise coz they came in different colors and size. A 3-inch (7cm) cicada was quite common too. Due to urban development, I don’t see them that often nowadays. If we caught the cicada, we would use our finger to gugi-gugi its abdomen for fun. When tickled, it will make noise so loud that it is like holding a vibrator in hand.

Cicada lays eggs into the soil. After the egg hatched, the cicada nymphs spend a few years underground, from 1 to 2.5m deep, feeding on the root juice. In the final nymphal instar, they dig an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge. Then they move up to a plant nearby, moult, sheding the skin and emerge as an adult. In forest, you can easily find many of these abandoned skins clinging to the tree bark. Such dry shell is used as an ingredient in making of certain Chinese medicines coz of its cooling effect.


Above: dry shell of cicada can be used in Chinese medicine that has cooling effect

It is a common belief among the local Chinese that if a person dies, his/her spirit will ride on a cicada (or moth or other insects) to visit the family on 7th day to say bye-bye, before he/she leaves our world forever. Therefore, we are forbidden to harm any insect at night during that period. Of course, cannot gugi-gugi it.


Above: cicada morphing in progress


Above: morphing completed!

Some Sabah natives eat cicada. The cicada is roasted in the fire and its hard skin is removed before consumption. All species are edible except the one in black & brown with yellow stripes.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre, Sabah, Malaysia

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