Amphipsalta zelandica

The chorus cicada, Amphipsalta zelandica, is the most common species of cicada in New Zealand, where it is endemic and found in most areas. They typically live in forests and areas with open bush, where their left-over nymph skins can be seen on tree trunks and branches during the summer months. The males produce their cicada sound in unison, which can reach deafening proportions at the height of their population around February. Groups of cicada can suddenly transition from the typical cicada sound to synchronised clicks, using their wings to clap against the surface they are sitting on.

Chorus cicada
Large cicada 01
A chorus cicada, Amphipsalta zelandica
Song of the chorus cicada
Scientific classification
A. zelandica
Binomial name
Amphipsalta zelandica
(Boisduval, 1835)
  • Cicada zelandica Boisduval, 1835
  • Cicada zealandica Walker, 1850
  • Cicada zeylandica Walker, 1858
  • Cicadetta zealandica Kirkaldy, 1909
  • Melampsalta zelandica
  • Amphipsalta zealandica


Chorus cicada have a nymph stage before their last molt and become an adult. During this nymph stage they are a soft and creamy white,[1] and very similar looking to the adult form (but without wings). The lengths of the adults are usually larger than 2 cm in length [2] while the largest species are up to 4 cm; this includes the wings.[3] Chorus cicadas’ wings only appear after molting to become adults, they are membranous with veins and they filter out ultraviolet light and the wing span is about 6 cm.

The colour of the chorus cicada can be black/green/brown and many have stripes along their body. The antenna of the chorus cicada has seven segments with the seventh being constricted medially [4] which means the last segment is tightened towards the middle. The adult male cicadas differ to the females by the presence of a clasper sheath, and females don't have finger like extensions that the males have.

The song made by cicadas is the loudest noise made by an insect. The male chorus cicada produces a communication song that is specific to their species, and so species can be identified by their song. A pulse group of their song is made up of five clicks where the central click (third click) is stronger than the two on either side of it. The central click can become two clicks if the cicada is tired and has no energy.[5] These clicks are made by the cicada hitting its wings against the surface it's sitting on. These pulse groups can be produced quickly and continuously in a prolonged note during chorus sing. It is New Zealand's biggest cicada, their size is averaging around 40 mm.[6]

Diet and foraging

The adults and immatures of the chorus cicada both feed on xylem sap made from plants, this sap is low in nutrients and doesn't contain all the necessary amino acids, so to make up for this the insects rely on an endosymbiotic bacteria to provide the lacking nutrients from the sap.[7] This type of food makes the chorus cicada a generalist feeder as it has a range of host plants that it feeds on. An orchard root system provides a good food source for the nymphs which live in the soil.

Adult chorus cicada (Amphisalta zealandica)
Adult chorus cicada.


Natural global range

Chorus cicadas are endemic insects to New Zealand. The most closely related species are found in Australia, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island. However, some studies about the New Zealand fauna show that the fauna of New Zealand was from several invasions across the Tasman Sea from Australia or New Caledonia.[8]

New Zealand range

Chorus cicadas are often found in towns and cities. They are distributed throughout the whole country,[9] common in the North Island, some coastal areas of the South Island, central Otago and parts of Canterbury.

Habitat preferences

Chorus cicadas are commonly found in open forests and woodlands but also sometimes found on buildings, fences or lamp posts. Cicadas prefer sub-tropical, sub-humid and temperate environments.[10]

Cultural uses

The Māori name for cicadas is kihikihi wawa, or matua kihikihi or ngengeti.[11] The meaning of wawa is ‘to roar like the sound of heavy rain’. One Māori haka and folk song, Te Tarakihi (the cicada) is based on the shrill summer-singing of the cicada.[12]

Life cycle/phenology

Chorus cicada eggs
Chorus cicada eggs laid in a kiwifruit cane

Mating is triggered by the song of the males which facilitates the gathering of many males and females. Males compete with each other to produce the loudest and best musical sound, and sing louder when the weather is warmer. Sometimes two cicadas will fight each other. Chorus cicadas usually mate on a tree trunk silently. Adult cicada have a short life span of only two to three weeks, because after mating the adult cicada die off.[7] Female chorus cicadas lay their eggs into thin branches of a wide range of plants.[13] Females lay from 5 to 700 eggs, each about the size of a grain of rice. They lay eggs in a herring-bone pattern in the thin tree branches.[10]

The eggs take 3 to 10 months to develop and hatch. Hatching occurs from May to mid-December.[14] After hatching the larvae burrow into the ground where they grow and develop their organs and increase in size. This process and the transformation into nymphs occurs during the springs and winter months. During this period the nymphs feed on the juices of roots and other underground organisms. The nymph stage of the cicada can last from 25 to 44 months.

Once the nymphs have grown to their maximum size they emerge from the ground and climb up tree trunks to molt. This is the transformation that turns the nymphs to adult cicada. This occurs on summer nights during the period of mid-December to late February. Once out of their last nymph skin their wings expand and they wait for them to harden before they can fly off.

Predators, parasites, and diseases

Final instar Chorus cicada nymphs 5th instar Amphisalta zealandica nymphs
Final instar chorus cicada nymphs in soil

The Chorus cicada has a number of predators but few known parasites. In the adult stage, cicada are killed by birds, wasps (such as the Vespula vulgaris), spiders and fungal diseases. In the nymph stage, beetles and fungal diseases can kill cicada. Parasitic wasps lay eggs into the cicada's eggs [15]

Sound made when handled


  1. ^ Department of Conservation. (n.d.). Tiritiri Matangi: An education resource for schools: Part four: insects and freshwater fish. Retrieved from: [1]
  2. ^ EOL: Encyclopedia of Life. (n.d.). Amphipsalta zelandica: Chorus cicada. Retrieved from:
  3. ^ Landcare Research, (n.d.). Chorus Cicada. Retrieved from: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-04-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Logan, D.; Conolloy, P. (2005). "Cicadas from kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand and identification of their final instar exuviae (Cicadidae: Homoptera)". New Zealand Entomologist. 28 (1): 37–48. doi:10.1080/00779962.2005.9722684.
  5. ^ Fleming, C. A. (1975). "Acoustic behaviour as a generic character in New Zealand cicadas (Hemiptera: Homoptera)". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 5 (1): 47–64. doi:10.1080/03036758.1975.10419379.
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ a b Logan, D. P.; Rowe, C. A.; Maher, B. J. (2014). "Life history of chorus cicada, an endemic pest of kiwifruit (Cicadidae: Homoptera)". New Zealand Entomologist. 37 (2): 96–106. doi:10.1080/00779962.2014.897302.
  8. ^ Arensburger, Peter; Buckley, Thomas R.; Simon, Chris; Moulds, Max; Holsinger, Kent E. (2004). "Biogeography and phylogeny of the New Zealand cicada genera (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA data: Biogeography and phylogeny of cicada genera". Journal of Biogeography. 31 (4): 557–569. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.2003.01012.x.
  9. ^ Dawson, J. & Lucas, R. (2000). Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House New Zealand.
  10. ^ a b DoC. (n. d.). Tiritiri Matangi: An education resource for schools. Retrieved from
  11. ^ Landcare Research. (n.d.). Chorus cicada. Retrieved from -spiders/Pare/Pare-arthropods/chorus-cicada
  12. ^ Archer, John. "Te Tarakihi". New Zealand Folk Song. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Chorus cicada". Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  14. ^ Hudson, G. (1951). Fragments of New Zealand entomology : a popular account of all the New Zealand cicadas : the natural history of the New Zealand glow-worm : a second supplement to The butterflies and moths of New Zealand, and notes on many other native insects. Wellington, New Zealand: Ferguson & Osborn printers.
  15. ^ Thomas, B. (1987). "Some observations on predation and scavenging by the introduced wasps Vespula germanica and V. vulgaris" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-22. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Amphipsalta, commonly known as clapping cicadas, is a genus of cicada in the family Cicadidae. This genus is endemic to New Zealand.


Also see Cicada,a book written by Shaun Tan

The cicadas ( or ) are a superfamily, the Cicadoidea, of insects in the order Hemiptera (true bugs). They are in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, along with smaller jumping bugs such as leafhoppers and froghoppers. The superfamily is divided into two families, Tettigarctidae, with two species in Australia, and Cicadidae, with more than 3,000 species described from around the world; many species remain undescribed.

Cicadas have prominent eyes set wide apart, short antennae, and membranous front wings. They have an exceptionally loud song, produced in most species by the rapid buckling and unbuckling of drumlike tymbals. The earliest known fossil Cicadomorpha appeared in the Upper Permian period; extant species occur all around the world in temperate to tropical climates. They typically live in trees, feeding on watery sap from xylem tissue and laying their eggs in a slit in the bark. Most cicadas are cryptic. The vast majority of species are active during the day as adults, with some calling at dawn or dusk and only a rare few species are known to be nocturnal. The periodic cicadas spend most of their lives as underground nymphs, emerging only after 13 or 17 years, which may reduce losses by starving their predators and eventually emerging in huge numbers that overwhelm and satiate any remaining predators. The annual cicadas are species that emerge every year. Though these cicada have lifecycles that can vary from one to nine or more years as underground larvae, their emergence above ground as adults is not synchronized, so some appear every year.Cicadas have been featured in literature since the time of Homer's Iliad, and as motifs in art from the Chinese Shang dynasty. They have also been used in myths and folklore to represent carefree living and immortality. Cicadas are eaten in various countries, including China, where the nymphs are served deep-fried in Shandong cuisine.They are also edible raw(fully grown) observing hungry people and according to them,they taste like fruit juice.

List of cicadas of New Zealand

Cicadas of New Zealand consist of Cicadidae recorded from the islands of New Zealand. The morphological taxonomy of cicadas present in New Zealand is regarded as being in its infancy. As a result, this list is likely to be subject to change.


The tymbal (or timbal) is the corrugated exoskeletal structure used to produce sounds in insects. In male cicadas, the tymbals are membranes in the abdomen, responsible for the characteristic sound produced by the insect. In tiger moths, the tymbals are modified regions of the thorax, and produce high-frequency clicks. In lesser wax moths the left and right tymbals emit high frequency pulses that are used as mating calls.The paired tymbals of a cicada are located on the sides of the abdominal base. The "singing" of a cicada is not stridulation as in many other familiar sound-producing insects like crickets (where one structure is rubbed against another): the tymbals are regions of the exoskeleton that are modified to form a complex membrane with thin, membranous portions and thickened "ribs". These membranes vibrate rapidly, and enlarged chambers derived from the tracheae make the cicada's body serve as a resonance chamber, greatly amplifying the sound. Some cicadas produce sounds louder than 106 dB (SPL), among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. They modulate their noise by positioning their abdomens toward or away from the substrate.

The tymbals of a tiger moth are specialized regions on the metathoracic episterna, normally corrugated such that sound is produced when the entire tymbal surface is buckled by muscular contraction and then released, producing a series of extremely rapid "clicks" as the corrugations flex back into place. These sounds are only occasionally audible to humans, and are used in both acoustic aposematism (the moths are advertising to bats that they are toxic), and as mating signals. A recent study demonstrates that these sounds are used by some moths to "jam" the sonar of moth-eating bats.


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