Genus Cicadetta Amyot, 1847 group VII (Small Ambertails and Tickers)

These are tiny cicadas with well-developed wings and six apical cells in the hindwings. The black and yellow-orange appearance is characteristic; otherwise they appear superficially similar to members of the genus Crotopsalta. They all produce high frequency, lilting songs. The group comprises two described species that are widespread along river systems in eastern Australia. A third little known species, yet to be described, is included here for convenience.

Distribution of the genus Cicadetta group VII

Index to Genus Cicadetta group VII

Cicadetta incipiens Neon Ambertail Pygmy Yellowtail
Cicadetta multifascia Pale Brigalow Ticker Tiny Ambertail
Cicadetta murrayensis    

Neon Ambertail Cicadetta multifascia (Walker, 1850)



Size: Forewing length: 13-14mm.

Range and Season: Known from Chinchilla, Warwick and around Greater Brisbane in Queensland, near Sydney in New South Wales and from Adelaide in South Australia. Specimens have been collected from September to December.

Habits: This is one of the more ephemeral species in Australia. Adults are known to emerge immediately after rain, increase to high levels of abundance and disappear within a week. Hence the cicada is rarely encountered. However during times of emergence this species often becomes conspicuous in rural areas. Large numbers have been reported to fly in to artificial lights. In its natural habitat it prefers low shrubs and grass growing in poor soils close to watercourses.

Song: High-pitched and soft, sounding something like: "zi-zeee-zi-zeee-zizi-zeee-zi-zeee" etc. There is also a more syncopated ticking and buzzing song "t-t-t-t-t-t-t-zeee-t-t-t-t-t-zeee".

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song (Fassifern Valley, Queensland)

Thanks to Tony Ewart for supplying this recording

Recording of calling song (Lockyer Valley, Queensland)

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Tiny Ambertail Cicadetta incipiens (Walker, 1850)


Alternate name: Pygmy Yellowtail (referred to as C. murrayensis in Moulds, 1990)

Size: Forewing length: 13-14mm.

Range and Season: Found along the rivers of the Murray-Darling system from Chinchilla to Adelaide and along the rivers of the western drainage system in south-west Queensland. There is also a population known from Townsville in northern Queensland. Populations also occur on the Brisbane and Mary River systems in south-east Queensland. It can be encountered from September to February.

Habits: This is another ephemeral species that emerges in response to rainfall, however it is more regularly encountered than C. multifascia.  Adults occur in grass and small shrubs growing beside rivers. They can fly quite strongly, but are not particularly wary.

Song: Short, high frequency, buzzing phrases, repeated monotonously during bright sunshine. The specific status of C. multifascia and C. incipiens requires investigation, as the songs are closely similar.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song

Thanks to A. Ewart for providing this recording

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Pale Brigalow Ticker Cicadetta sp. nov.


Size: Forewing length: ~13mm.

Appearance: The generic placement of this species is not clear. It has many features in common with Crotopsalta, but possesses more rounded forewings and only five apical cells in the hindwings (Crotopsalta spp. have six).

Range and Season: Known from near Theodore in inland Queensland. Specimens have been collected during December.

Habits: Prefers to sit on the outer branches of Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla). Adults are mobile but not particularly wary. Adult abundance may vary from year to year and emergence may be regulated by rain.

Song: Rapid musical ticking emitted at a high frequency.

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