As the cicada season is rapidly approaching in southern Australia, it would seem appropriate to examine the cicada diversity in Australia’s most densely populated state: Victoria. The state of Victoria is included in the distributions of 49 species of cicadas illustrated in 'A web guide to the cicadas of Australia'. As for the vast majority of the other states and territories of Australia, this is almost certainly an underestimate of the true diversity. Many species still await discovery and at least 70 species are considered likely to be present in this state.
Victoria contains a wide variety of habitats associated with its different climates. Broadly, the east
and south receive more rainfall, on average, than the remainder of the
state. These medium to high rainfall
areas typically exhibit a cool temperate climate, with pockets of warm
temperate areas along the coastline. Such areas contain tall forest, open forest, woodland, heathland and grassland, with
localised patches of temperate rainforest in the east. In contrast, the north-west is conspicuously drier, with a
predominantly semi-arid climate, becoming arid in the far north-west. This portion of the state contains dry mallee woodland, box
woodland, mixed shrubland and grassland (including spinifex). The cicada diversity and species composition
reflects the variety of habitats and climates.
All cicada species in Victoria belong to the family Cicadidae, apart from Alpine Hairy Cicada, which is one of only two surviving representatives of the family Tettigarctidae. Within the Cicadidae, the subfamily Cicadinae contains the large, conspicuous and robust cicadas. Five species in Victoria belong to this subfamily, including Greengrocer and Redeye (pictured below), both of which are fairly widespread in Victoria and present around Melbourne. Another large cicada, Cherrynose, is restricted to eucalypt woodland in the Murray River region along the New South Wales border, apparently with several years elapsing between emergences. The remaining two species, Desert Screamer and Eastern Sandgrinder, are confined to the arid north-west. The other 43 species are smaller, thin-bodied, less conspicuous cicadas belonging to the subfamily Cicadettinae, which is extraordinarily diverse in Australia. The distributions of the majority of species in this subfamily are poorly known and under constant refinement.
Of the cicada species known from Victoria, most appear to have wider distributions through south-eastern Australia. Indeed, New South Wales and/or the Australian Capital Territory share 86% of Victoria’s cicada diversity and 37% extend further north into southern Queensland. Only 14% of the Victorian fauna is shared with Tasmania, while 55% is shared with South Australia, 8% reaches Western Australia and 6% extends to the southern half of the Northern Territory. Three species are currently considered to be endemic to Victoria: (1) Dark Smoky Buzzer, which is known only from the original specimen collected in Melbourne; (2) Sale Squeaker, which is known only from the original specimen collected in Sale; and (3) Grampians Firetail (pictured below), which has been found in the vicinity of Hall’s Gap.
You can listen to a comprehensive selection of calling songs from the cicadas of Victoria here.
The temperate climate of Victoria often results in rapidly changing weather conditions. As a result, cicada emergences are sporadic and the adults are often short-lived (typically one to three weeks at most). A few astute observers have reported their local observations on websites or blogs. Some excellent examples include the Morwell National Park Invertebrates website by Ken Harris and these blog posts by listeningearth, Geoff Park and bertbohosouth. Serendipitous observations are invaluable to improving our understanding of the geographical occurrence of these cicadas and their seasonality. Any photographs, recordings and/or specimen samples obtained from your local area or during travel will always be very welcome. Please listen out for the sounds of summer in Victoria this season and send in your records by leaving a comment on this post, via the contact form or via Twitter.