Happy New Year, Eco Wrappers!
Hasn’t it been a beautiful summer in Australia, so far? It’s been a little while since you heard from us but we have been enjoying all the perks an Aussie Summer has to offer; the amazing wildlife and bush landscape, the refreshing waterways and beaches and of course: the glorious, sun-drenched days and balmy nights.
Living in Australia, there’s also another way to tell that summer is truly set in- and you don’t need to go outside to know these little guys are around…simply open up your ears for the sound of cicada chirps each day. This symphony is essentially the sound of summer!
A healthy reading from this year's emerging bunch! (Credit: Eco Food Wrap)
Like most people, I had found myself quietly annoyed by the relentless, overpowering cry of this summertime visitor- I even decided to get my decibel meter out to see just how loud these critters can get - and as you’ll see in the video above, they crack the 80 decibel barrier - As loud as traffic and truck noises and louder than levels which can cause hearing damage over prolonged exposure (such as having your headphone music too high or speaking an entire conversation in shouted tones). It’s only the males that sing and they do so for one reason - to get a mate.
One breed - the Golden Emperor even sticks a quick yodel into the middle of his pulsing song in order to attract an ideal mate. It’s his way of setting himself apart from the other thousands of competitors vying for a mate. Another breed - the Double Drummer - performs around 220 pulses every second- with each pulse actually containing 2 separate pulses pushed together. The noise is intense and can reach levels of up to 120 decibels (which is as loud as a chainsaw or passing motorcycle, and just below the threshold of noise that causes humans physical pain).
Ever blasted a hair dryer and tried to hear over it? That’s about what you experience in a bush setting surrounded by a minimal number of Cicadas, but as I recorded the above video I started thinking about their role in our ecosystem and my attitude towards them has changed completely!
There are between 700 and 1000 species of these creatures in Australia, although less than 300 species have been officially named as of 2017. We know that our cicadas live a predominant part of their lifecycle underground, building a vast network of tunnels to tree roots so they can live off of tree sap (or xylem) from the roots and grow bigger as they nourish both themselves and the roots they feed from. Each year, a new group of adults ready to (literally) burst out of their shell emerges and after the shedding process, go on to create the symphony we find so familiar (it attracts the females, so that more cicadas can breed and live and continue the cycle).
Scientists are still baffled as to the actual cycle of these creatures, as different groups will emerge at different points, and there seems to be no set pattern to the emergence. It seems they simply appear when they’re ready to continue the cycle!
What really changed my mind about them, though, is the fact that they are one of the only creatures that are ‘sustainable’ throughout their lifecycle. Not only do they help the trees whose roots they feed from by replenishing and renewing its root systems, but their tunnel network works to till and turn the soil and bush floor, meaning there is greater chance for growth of different species of plants- not just the trees they feed on! They also provide a feed for other insects, reptiles and mammals in the bush and when they do emerge from the ground they begin a shedding process, leaving behind their nymph-stage exoskeleton perched to a tree (or backyard fence). This nutrient rich shell breaks down, forming part of the rich earth that then fertilises other fauna and aids in the continuing cycles of their natural habitat.
A time-lapse of a Cicada emerging from its shell (credit: SeeingOz; Youtube)
If you ask me, that is a truly sustainable creature, that gives almost as much as it takes by the way of continuing our natural cycles (and it’s own). This creature -though small, noisy and sometimes irritating - is actually setting a fine example that we humans could take on board. Give back what you take and then some, ensuring the future survival and success of your own family, and by extension, species! When you look at the effort we as humans are putting into adopting a lifestyle that better compliments our natural ecosystems, you start to really admire the way even the smallest insect can teach you new things about your own patterns and habits.
In the face of that idea, how can their mating song really bother you? After all, they’re truly helping our world continue, and that’s what we’re all about here at Eco Food Wrap! So take a few notes from the humble (yet noisy) cicada. Look at what you take from nature and be conscious of ways you can put it back or renew the environment, ensuring it continues to thrive for future generations.
And we won’t hold it against you if you take another note from their instruction manual and choose to celebrate your new sustainable life with a song, either ;)
Want to make your new years resolution about living more sustainably and having less impact on our world?
2018 is a perfect time to adopt new habits and reducing your single-use plastic is a great first step to a low-impacting lifestyle that helps the future of our world.
Visit out online store to stock up on a few 3- or 4-packs for the New Year and make it a Sustainable 2018