Genus Thopha Amyot and Serville, 1843 (Drummers)

A genus of large cicadas, containing four known species that are characterised by all having wide bodies and very large, red to orange coloured timbal covers. Three species occur in Eastern Australia. The fourth species (pictured at the bottom) occurs in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Distribution of the genus Thopha

Index to Genus Thopha

Desert Double Drummer Orange Drummer Thopha emmotti
Double Drummer Northern Double Drummer Thopha saccata
Golden Drummer Thopha colorata Thopha sessiliba

Double Drummer Thopha saccata (Fabricius, 1803)



Size: Forewing length: 50-66mm.

Range and Season: Northern tropical Queensland from near Cooktown coastally south to near Ingham and inland to the Herbert River district; Central Queensland in the Sarina district; Also subtropical and temperate regions from about Kroombit Tops and inland to west of Millmerran, in Queensland, south to Moruya in New South Wales. It may be a common insect in bushland areas around Brisbane and Sydney. Adult specimens can be encountered from November through to about March.

Habits: Forms large local aggregations in tall open forests, dry sclerophyll forests, heathlands with emergent eucalypts and woodland. Different broods emerge in different patches of forest each year. The exact length of the life cycle (i.e. number of eyars) is unknown. Groups on tree trunks can be easily spooked and tend to evacuate the tree all at once; however, this species is not difficult to capture with a net when populations are high.

Song: A loud, piercing, electric whine, which fluctuates smoothly in pitch. Singing occurs throughout the day and also at dusk.

Oscillogram of calling song

Recording of calling song (Stanthorpe, Queensland)

Recording of calling song (Sydney, New South Wales)

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Northern Double Drummer Thopha sessiliba Distant, 1892

Male - Female

Size: Forewing length: 50-63mm.

Range and Season: From north-west Western Australia and the Northern Territory south to Alice Springs, into North Queensland, bordering on Mt. Isa and Iron Range in the east and south through the west to Boulia (A. Ewart) and coastally to about Rockhampton. It has been collected as far south as near Goondiwindi in Queensland and Narrabri in New South Wales. In the more northern areas adults are present from September until about April, but throughout most of its range, this is essentially a summer species.

Habits: Similar to T. saccata. This species also favours eucalypt forest and usually occurs on the dominant, often smooth-barked, eucalypt species throughout its range.

Song: Closely resembles that of T. saccata; however, there is a subtle difference in the structure and frequency components of the call.

Recording of calling song

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Desert Double Drummer Thopha emmotti Moulds, 2001

Male (dorsal)

Male (ventral)

Size: Forewing length: 47-64mm.

Range and Season: A summer species known only from a few localities from west of Blackall to Adavale, Stonehenge and a population near Boulia in south-western Queensland (A. Ewart).

Habits: Aggregates in a similar fashion to other members of the genus. Prefers eucalypts growing beside rivers or on relict plateaus in Mulga (Acacia aneura) dominated areas.

Song: A strong, usually broken whine, like the sound of an electronic machine.

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Species from elsewhere is Australia

Orange Drummer Thopha colorata Distant, 1907 - male

- From Carnarvon in Western Australia and also central Australia from the South Australian border through Alice Springs and north to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. Moulds (1990) refers to this species as the "Golden Drummer".

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