ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Kindly Cicada

Updated on November 22, 2011

The cicada looks like the kind of thing you wouldn't like to meet in the dark. Perhaps you wouldn't like to meet him at all. Yet he is quite harmless in spite of his looks-and when grown-up, he is actually very handsome. Strange as it may seem-this youngster (or nymph) will one day be a long-winged, loudly-singing, summer-loving cicada.

You do not often see a cicada at this stage, for while it is like this, it lives under the ground, as though it didn't want to be seen looking so ugly. Sometimes it goes to extremes, and lives very far under the ground indeed-about 20 feet-and it stays there for several years, in the dark, with nothing to eat except a bit of sugary sap out of the roots of plants.

Then, one night, after it has had enough of this kind of life, it makes its way up to the surface of the soil, climbs on to something and clings there waiting for its skin to split open. When it does split open, wedging and pushing movements can be seen, and at last a beautiful creature comes out of it, with long transparent wings.

It doesn't look very beautiful at first-just pale, soft, and rather shapeless. But by morning it is already straightening out, and a few hours later-with darkened color and strengthened wings-it is a full-grown cicada. And you know what fine fellows they are.

You also know how noisy they can be, on summer days and evenings. And, considering how long they have been living here, it is possible that their singing was the first sound made by any animal on Earth. Why, there are fossils of them which prove that they were here 400 million years ago - looking just the same as they do today.

There are many strange things about a cicada's singing. First, the lady is quite silent-it is only the male who sings. The next strange thing is that the whole idea of the song is to attract the lady's attention-yet cicadas have no ears, and are quite deaf. The third is that the sound is made with a sort of little drum on the cicada's abdomen. But instead of being tapped, this drum is crinkled in and out by movements of the cicada's muscles-and as it crinkles, it makes a surprisingly loud noise.

Although the lady cicada doesn't hear this "song", she feels it. She feels the vibrations it makes, and she likes them so much that she agrees to marry the clever "singer". Then, after a while, when she has eggs to lay, she chooses a suitable branch on a gumtree, and cuts a lot of little slits in its bark, until it looks quite fuzzy. Into each of these slits she places a few eggs, and when the baby cicadas hatch out, you would never guess what they were going to be, for they are black and very small, like fleas.

Also, you would be really lucky to see them at ail, for as soon as they come out of their eggs, they can think of only one thing - getting underground as fast as possible. They do not even waste time climbing down the tree. They just let themselves drop to the ground-and the next moment they have disappeared, to begin their long life as nymphs in the little dark and silent room they dig for themselves below the earth's surface.

Slowly, as the years go by, they grow bigger, and moult their skins, and grow bigger again, until at last they come up for a few weeks of summer sunshine in the glory of their final, winged form.

But now, as well as sunshine, they find danger, for birds and other animals go after them hungrily, and children are always catching them-quite often hurting them, also, I am sorry to say.

Yet of all insects, cicadas least deserve to be hurt, for they themselves do no harm to anything, and cannot even defend themselves against their enemies. They do not bite or sting, they do not burrow in the branches of plants or eat their leaves-and the small amount of plant juice that they suck, does no damage at all.

If you have ever hurt a cicada in the past, you never would again, would you? Knowing how good-natured it is, and how long it has lived underground in the darkness, I am sure that you would never wish to rob it of one precious moment in the light and warmth and joy of the sun. You might gently lift it off a branch to admire it, of course, but then, quickly, you would let it go again, marveling at this strange, bright insect who lives peacefully amongst its enemies, and whose song has resounded on our Earth through almost endless time.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)