In some years, between October and December, the temperate grasslands spring to life with the sound of Smoky Buzzer cicadas. These are small insects, just over 15 mm long, black above, with a pale straw colour on the underside of the abdomen and with conspicuously smoky fore wings. Populations occur in local aggregations in both native and mixed native/ exotic open grasslands. This species currently known from around Warwick in Queensland, the New England and Southern Tablelands regions of New South Wales, the Canberra area in the Australian Capital Territory, the Craigieburn Grasslands north of Melbourne in Victoria and also historically from around Adelaide in South Australia.
A closely similar species, Lesser Smoky Buzzer, occurs in drier grassland habitats in the Central West, Southern Tablelands, South-West Slopes and Riverina districts of New South Wales, the north-western third of Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. It sometimes occurs together with Smoky Buzzer in New South Wales, where the two species can be very hard to differentiate due to their near identical appearance. However, they do differ markedly in the structure of their calling songs. Smoky Buzzer makes a low metallic growl that modulates into a modest roar in each phrase, whilst Lesser Smoky Buzzer makes an alien, metallic, wavering buzz in each phrase.
For further information on these species, and to listen to their calling songs, see the Smoky Buzzer and Lesser Smoky Buzzer pages on the Cicadas of Australia website.
The distributions of Smoky Buzzer and Lesser Smoky Buzzer have been pieced together based on a scattering of records that been obtained so far. If you encounter either of these species or any other interesting cicadas in your area or on your travels, please send in your record by leaving a comment on this post, via the contact form or via Twitter. Remember to take a note of the song, or a recording is even better. Photographs and/or specimen samples will also be very welcome. All observation records are invaluable to improving our understanding of the geographical occurrence of these species and their seasonality. Please keep your eyes and especially your ears open!