It was July and the monsoon was very active, so I decided to travel in search of reptiles and amphibians. I visited the rainforests of Agumbe, famed for the world’s longest venomous snake: the King Cobra. It started to rain when we reached Agumbe, and we decided to take an evening walk into the jungles without wasting any time; we were hoping that the rains would bring out the amphibians and reptiles that we wanted to see. To make things better, we were accompanied by a friend who is very knowledgeable about these creatures.
On that evening walk, we couldn’t find much, but we did see bullfrogs, robberflies, forest lizards and coral fungi that were purple in colour. I have seen coral fungi at Bhadra, but brownish in colour. We were told that this purple colouration was rare.
After a brief rest, we went back for a night walk, and found many Malabar Gliding Frogs next to a small pond. We also saw the egg cases and froglets of these frogs. We moved on after a few quick pictures, hoping to see pit vipers and other things. When we walked a few metres from the pond, we saw a Malabar Pit Viper up on a tree branch, possibly looking for prey.
Now that the target species were seen, photographed, and ticked off our list, we were hoping to see something more exciting. Little did we know what we were about to stumble upon. What we saw took us by surprise – an adult cicada emerging from its nymphal stage. The colours were totally different from adult cicadas I had seen in the past!
Cicadas belong to the superfamily Cicadoidea, and are true bugs. They are abundantly found in warm regions of the globe. Adult cicadas are typically found on trees, feeding on tree sap. The males have tymbals on their abdomen, which play an important part in producing the loud sounds. Each species produces a species-specific sound that helps attract their mates. Cicada females are mute – they can’t produce any sound at all. However, during breeding time, they cut slits in the branches of trees and lay eggs. The nymphs drop to the ground upon hatching. They usually burrow into the ground and feed on roots. In some cicada species, the nymphs can have an extended nymphal stage lasting up to 17 years! Cicadas’ adult life-cycle lasts up to 3 years, with broods arising periodically.
Cicadas go through an incomplete metamorphosis: eggs, nymphs (young that looks like adults but lack wings), and adults. Whereas butterflies have a complete metamorphosis (egg, larvae, pupae, and adult). As if the earlier sights weren’t enough, we were treated to another cicada nearby which just emerged out of its nymphal skin. The colours on its wings were amazing! I had never seen cicada wings of this colouration. We took few photos of it and then called it a day.
The next day, we decided to walk in the vicinity of a small waterfall. We saw a few Green Vine Snakes. And we got lucky again – this time, a cicada had just started to emerge from the nymph! We couldn’t have asked for more – it was an unexpected treat.
We were indeed lucky to see the entire life-cycle of cicadas in just two days. We didn’t see the King Cobra during our stay at Agumbe, but we happily returned home after seeing the transformation of the cicada!