By February in Australia, the peak of the cicada season has passed, but
it is still summer and the cicadas still tend to hang on, particularly in coastal and tropical areas. One of those cicadas is
Yellowbelly, which is the cicada of the month for February. Yellowbelly may be one of the smaller species
in the genus Psaltoda, but it
produces quite a loud and conspicuous calling song for its size. The call of an individual male sounds very
much like a small power generator, with a definitive purring quality. Males may call continuously or in short
bursts, with a characteristic ‘sigh’ at the end of each burst. When in large numbers, the call becomes a blur
of noise, loud enough for people to take notice at times.
[A male Yellowbelly cicada, calling on a tree trunk]
Each year, the first adult Yellowbelly cicadas typically appear in late October. They can be present in big numbers anytime between late November and late February. Numbers usually drop dramatically during March with occasional survivors extending through to April. The species is found from north Queensland south along the coast and ranges to the south coast of New South Wales. They can be found in association with eucalypts in open forest, in heathland and shrubland. Populations generally require in-tact areas of bushland to persist, but they can also occur in adjacent parkland and sometimes in gardens. It is a prominent species in parts of Greater Brisbane and Greater Sydney, particularly in areas with soils derived from sandstone and granite.
[A female Yellowbelly cicada, showing its golden underside (hence the name)]
Like almost all larger cicadas, Yellowbelly adults tend to occur in localised aggregations in bushland areas. Like other species in the genus Psaltoda, calling males flex their abdomen freely to alter the tone and pitch of their song. The abdomen also expands quite noticeably during song production. The species has been called ‘Yellowbelly’ due to the rich, honey-like coloration of the underside. It can be distinguished from other similar species in the genus by the colour of the postclypeus (‘nose’) being predominantly black, in combination with clear wings.