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Friday, May 25, 2001
By ROWAN HOOPER
* Japanese name: Haruzemi * Scientific name: Terpnosia vocua
* Description: Cicadas are big insects, true bugs, with a piercing mouthpiece. They have large clear wings that are held rooflike over the abdomen. But you're more likely to hear them rather than see them -- cicadas are famous for the distinctive buzzing noise they make. Each species makes a different sound. Spring cicadas make a "gee, gee, gee" noise. Adults are 23-32 mm long.
* Where to find them: Perched on trees, from Honshu to Kyushu, between April and June. Listen for the call, and look very carefully for its source. The larvae live in the ground, feeding on the tree roots. When they are ready to metamorphose into the adult stage, they crawl up the tree. Here the adult will gradually break out of the larval skin (you might find the empty shell). For several hours after emerging, the adult is green, soft and vulnerable.
* Food: Cicadas pierce the bark of trees and drink the sap. This is a dilute mix of water, amino acids and minerals. Larvae use water to cement the walls of the holes they build in the ground.
* Special features: Only male cicadas make the distinctive buzzing noise, which they do to attract females. They have a kind of drum in their abdomen called a tymbal, and they vibrate the membrane of the drum by blowing air over it from special air sacs. The call changes speed according to the time of day and the temperature. Each season in Japan is associated with the call of a different species of cicada. Females listen to the calling males and choose the one they like best to mate with. After mating, males seal up females with a plug, so they can't mate with a different male.
Metamorphose: Many insects change their form from the larval stage to the adult stage, as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. This change is called metamorphosis. Amino acids: The building blocks of proteins are simple chemicals called amino acids.