Cicadas Aren’t Just Noisy – They Also Pee In Jet Streams Like Elephants

Cicadas: Not Just Loud, They Also Propel Urine Like Elephants

Cicada season is just around the corner. If you’re planning to spend time outdoors, you might want to bring along a raincoat. But it’s not the April showers you need to worry about. Instead, you could find yourself in the path of cicada pee. This peculiar behavior has led scientists to challenge long-held beliefs about insect urination.

The way cicadas pee has puzzled researchers for quite some time. It’s not only a strange spectacle but it also contradicts common theories about insect urination. A team from Georgia Tech embarked on a journey to uncover the truth.

Traditionally, it’s believed that cicadas, which feed on plant sap, should urinate in droplets to conserve energy. However, for cicadas, this method would actually be less efficient. Given their size and the amount they eat, cicadas need to urinate frequently. Managing countless droplets would require too much effort. They need all their energy to produce their famously loud noises.

We’re sharing a video of a cicada peeing because now that we’ve seen it, you should too.

Another assumption is that smaller animals urinate in droplets due to their tiny orifices, which makes ejecting a stream of pee energetically unfavorable. “It was previously believed that for a small animal to expel jets of fluid, it would be energetically demanding because of surface tension and viscous forces,” said Elio Challita, a researcher involved in the study.

However, cicadas, being relatively large insects, find it easier to pee in streams. “A larger animal can utilize gravity and inertia to urinate,” Challita noted.

Cicadas might be the smallest creatures known to urinate this way. The researchers think this discovery could inspire the design of miniature robots and small nozzles.

“This research reveals that even the methods organisms use to eliminate waste can offer fresh perspectives on fluid dynamics. These insights could lead to innovations in soft robotics and techniques for managing fluids at small scales across various manufacturing processes,” commented Miriam Ashley-Ross, a program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation, which funded the study.

Who would have thought that insect pee could teach us so much?

The findings of this study are detailed in the journal PNAS.