Episode  LXV ( 65): The Aruban Cicada a.k.a. ‘Yé ye’ in Papiamento

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These days of warm daytime weather and mild nights, you may find yourself opening a window to enjoy some Aruban air. However accompanying the fresh air we could be hearing a sound whining -tune like those we used to hear of a SW radio. This can only mean the cicadas are singing. Now in case your patio lights are one, you may catch a ‘Yé ye’ who hits his head into the lamp, like trying to get outside mistaking the lightbulb for sun light.

Pic. 1 Cicada, our Yé ye in the garden

Cicadas are large, clear-winged insects with bulbous eyes, cicadas spend most of their lives as immatures, called nymphs, living in the soil and feeding on tree roots. The iconic brown husks of the cicada, which can be found on trees and structures, are left behind as the nymphs construct mud tubes to crawl out of the soil toward a high place to molt for the last time. The transition from soil dwelling nymphs to mature adults is synchronized based on the year and temperature of the soil, allowing for all of a brood to emerge together to breed and lay eggs.

You may hear them, find their cast skins on trees and walls, or even see them congregating. Cicadas do not bite and are largely harmless, even to cats and dogs. Their lifecycles are quite long, 13 to 17 years. Cicadas of all other species are not synchronized, so some adults mature each summer and emerge while the rest of the population continues to develop underground.

Cicada lore and mythology is rich and varied as there are c. 2700 species of cicada throughout the world, many of which are undescribed and remain a mystery to science. Cicada has been prized as a delicacy, like many other edible insects they are very nutritious. You will most likely find the soft cicadas in the morning hours. You can still eat them once they harden, but you should expect a little extra crunch. Cicadas are famed throughout the world for their song especially to many native cultures. Their song announces the time for personal change, renewal, rebirth and transformation. The eerie sound these beautiful insects make in Aruban mythology means the crying for rain.

Pic.2 A Cicada made out of a small garden shovel

The insects replete with symbolism: for the Ancient Greeks the cicada was the symbolism of resurrection and immortality and for the Romans their ecstatically song, was sacred to Apollo and related to the Dionysiac, Bacchae and maenads.

Pic. 3. More Cicada art

Females and males of some species flick their wings to produce a sound similar to the flick of a wall switch. Females use wing flicks to respond to male courting calls, in the case of Magicicada periodical cicadas. This type of sound is called a stridulation.


Would you like to get to know more regarding Aruba and its origins, its animals and culture, we highly recommend you to book your visit to our cultural encounter center which has been enchanting curious participants for decades. Mail us at etnianativa03@gmail.com for your participation.