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Learn About the Sound of the Cicada

1024px-Tibicen_linneiThe cicada makes a distinctive sound that is instantly recognizable. In fact, cicadas are the world's loudest insects.

If you have ever wondered why cicadas make the sound they do, and why that sound is so loud, there are many anatomical reasons for the piercing sound of this common insect. Read on to learn about the sound of the cicada.

Cicada Types

There are many different types of cicada, and different types create different song volumes. Several types of cicada live in North America, and have a sound of over 100 decibels.

One common American type, Tibicen pronotalis [walkeri], can sing with a 108-decibel song.

But the loudest of all cicadas, the Double Drummer (Thopa saccata) of Australia, has been recorded at 120 decibels. This is as loud as an alarm clock and is loud enough to cause hearing damage in humans who listen to it at close range.

Where Does the Sound Come From?

Unlike many insects that generate their primary sounds from leg scratching or by clicking with their mouths, the cicada has a separate organ that generates its signature sound. Male and female cicadas have organs called the tymbals. The males are the only ones who use it make their sound, however. These membranes are ribbed and perfect for creating sound from friction.

The tymbal membranes of the male are contracted over and over again as the tymbal muscle contracts and pulls the tymbal membrane inward to create a clicking sound. The two tymbals click in an alternate pattern to create a continuous pattern of sound.

The abdominal cavity also contains air sacs that serve to amplify the sound to create the excessive noise that cicadas are known for. The sound isn't just loud enough to be damaging to humans- male cicadas actually use abdominal flaps called opercula to cover their hearing organs so that their loud song doesn't damage their own hearing.

Why Cicadas Make Their Sound

Like many insects, their most noticeable behavior is related to mating. The distinctive call they are best known for is a mating call most of the time, but it is also made during other times. The cicada will also make its clicking song when it is startled. Or it may make the sound when a predator gets too close or when it is picked up by a human.

Professional Assistance

To learn more about the cicadas or for pest control services, contact Clegg’s online or on the phone at 888-672-5344 for a complete evaluation of your potential pest infestation.


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