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Cicadas in the Philippines – Not Locusts

- September 3, 2013

cicadas While some people call them “locusts”, cicadas are definitely not locusts. A locust is a kind of grasshopper. In fact, I often wonder when and why people get confused about them.

Well, we have cicadas in the Philippines (called kuliglig in Tagalog, which is also used for crickets) just like almost every other place with a temperate or tropical climate – you won’t find them in cold climates like Alaska or Norway (or at least I don’t think so).

Cicadas in the United States

I grew up listening to cicadas that inhabited the elm trees on my parents’ property in Arizona. It was a yearly cycle, but I can’t remember what month the noise started and what month the noise ended. The elm trees have long since been replaced by other trees and the noise no longer comes from those yards.

When I was young, we had cats in our back yard. I don’t remember why, but we had a few that just lived there. I think the mother and grandmother of all of them was the only cat that was an actual pet. Anyway, when the cicadas would land near the light at the back door, a lot of the cats would scramble up the side of the wall to snatch and eat them. Munchy, munchy, crunchy!

Our family wasn’t poor, but we weren’t very well off either. Our family was just too large. We couldn’t afford expensive toys like gas-powered airplanes. We had to make do with what was available. I and some of my brothers would tie strings around cicadas and treat them like the gas-powered airplanes while spinning in a circle. It was incredible, but the cicadas would fly and buzz and do exactly what we expected them to do.

Cicadas in the Philippines

I honestly didn’t know they were here in the Philippines until after I moved here in 2006. I first heard the cicada songs while inspecting my house as it was being built. I don’t know which trees they were hanging out in and I wasn’t inclined to investigate any further.

After that, one of my wife’s cousins captured a few that flew in near my mother-in-law’s front door, where the overhead light was. He (Julius) didn’t know what they were called in English. When talking about cicadas, most Filipinos call them ipis, which is Tagalog for cockroach. These are not cockroaches! Cockroaches are the nastiest creatures alive that I can think of. kuliglig is a Tagalog word that can mean either cicada or cricket. Well, Julius had fun messing with the cicadas and causing them to reproduce the cicada songs somehow.




Cicadas Elsewhere

Cicadas have been around for centuries. In some places, they’re eaten (like locusts in that regard) as a delicacy with the female being preferred as “meatier”. In Australia, there are around 220 species to contend with. I don’t know which species we have in the Philippines, but they look different (with a green underbelly) than the ones I’ve seen in the United States.

Cicadas have predatory enemies such as the cicada killer wasp (which I haven’t seen) and the praying mantis (something I’ve seen a lot of). The biggest enemies in the Philippines, as near as I can tell, are the birds that feed on them. I don’t know which birds are which, but they’re small (like sparrows). I’ve seen them snatching and munching on cicadas from my upstairs window — I have a pretty good view of a nearby tree. The only thing I don’t like about the birds is when they perch at my window and chirp like there’s no tomorrow while I’m trying to sleep. I really don’t care what they eat as long as they do it elsewhere.

[This Mashable article on cicadas is absolutely hilarious. I remember all of it.]

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