A superfluidity of cicadas

If you read my title carefully you probably thought I had made a mistake but no, it was deliberate – an attempt to capture this effect:

Cicada rain
Cicadas, some of them highlighted with boxes, showering the ground beneath their tree

I mentioned recently that our cicada season has started. We don’t have very many in our own garden but I visited a neglected garden on Hervey’s Range yesterday and was surprised to find the ground beneath one particular tree looked as wet as though a sprinkler had been on (and I knew it hadn’t). Looking up, I saw and felt a steady shower misting down from above, and spotted the cicadas responsible. Here’s a closer view:

Cicadas clustered on a branch
Cicadas clustered on a branch

There were hundreds, if not thousands, on this one tree (hardly any on nearby trees of different species), all sucking the sap for its nutrition and excreting the watery waste. If this goes on too long, the tree may not survive.

A ‘collective noun’ is the name for a group of animals – a ‘flock’ of sheep, etc. It seems that there isn’t one for cicadas, and I doubt that ‘superfluidity’ will catch on. We need one which highlights the most obvious characteristic of a big group, and that is surely the noise. I thought of a ‘clamour’ but that is already taken, by rooks. Other people (I looked on the net) have suggested a ‘chirrup’ or a ‘twitter’ but those are far too weak, too genteel, so I will propose a ‘scream’ or a ‘shrill’ of cicadas. This lot earned both of them, as well as a ‘superfluity’ and ‘fluidity’.

5 thoughts on “A superfluidity of cicadas”

    1. Thanks, Clare. I like the alliteration and that it emphasises the loudness but it doesn’t convey the high-pitched screaming … we might have to keep looking ;-)
      More seriously, have you got cicadas now? I haven’t seen any here yet and don’t expect many for another month.

  1. I was musing about the collective noun for cicadas today (an article in the Sydney Morning herald about cicadas got me thinking).

    A friend from Twitter suggested a “racket” of cicadas.

    I liked that.

    Mike

  2. Hi Malcolm, I’ve just stumbled on your blog while looking for a collective noun for cicadas. It seems none has been decided on. My suggestion would be a deafening of cicadas.

    I live in the Townsville region so your page is a real find.

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