The continuous buzzing sound of the cicada is typical of Maltese summer days.
The cicada appears punctually during the second
week of July. The larva digs its way out of the soil in it had lived for many
years. It then climbs up the nearest vertical object which is usually the trunk
of the tree of which it had been sucking juices. Occasionally instead of a tree
it finds a wall or other stone structure.
Once it is high enough it expands slightly and
this causes its external skeleton to break along a weak line at its back. It
then pushes itself out of the exoskeleton and slowly walks away from it. This
is a very vulnerable moment for the now adult insect. Its new external skeleton
is still soft and in case of danger it is not able to fly.
The new external skeleton and the wings do not
take long to harden and soon the male cicadas start singing while the females
start their search for singing males.
When a pair of cicadas meets, they start courtship
and then they mate. Courtship consists of repeated hugging and touching each
other with their legs.
Soon after, the cicada lays its eggs in the soil
close to the surface. The eggs hatch in late summer or early autumn in well
enough time for the newly hatched larvae to dig their way further down into the
soil where they will be spending the rest of their lives as larvae.
Once mating takes place and eggs are laid adult
cicadas have no further need to stay alive and start dying. The number of
singing cicadas has started to decrease and soon the last one will stop singing
leaving behind a silence that indicates that the end of the summer season is
This article was published in the Times of Malta on 28 August 2013.