Cicada Mania

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Cicada Song page

Tymbal of a M. septendecim. Muscles tug at it rapidly to create sound vibrations.
Tymbal of a Magicicada

How cicadas make their sound

Cicadas are best known for the songs the male cicadas sing. They sing using special organs called tymbals. Tymbals are membranes that vibrate very quickly when pulled by tiny muscles. This vibration creates the cicada's song.

Some species of cicadas lack tymbals, like cicadas belonging to the genus Platypedia. They use their wings to make crackling or popping noises known as crepitation.

Some species with tymbals make sounds in additional ways. 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. Some males of other species use a combination of tymbal song and wing flicks.

Some cicadas, like Australia's Green Grocer, possess raspe-like parts of their bodies which when stroked with part of a wing produces yet another type of cicada sound.

Each type of song has a different purpose:

  • Alarm/distress calls: "don't eat me! something is eating me!"
  • Pre-calls: warming up
  • Calls to attract mates and establish a territory
  • Courting calls: calls made once a mate is found.
  • Flick flicks: to respond to a courting call.
  • Choruses: when males synchronize their calls to establish chorusing centers and attract females.

Which cicada is loudest?

People want to know: which cicadas are the loudest?

The biggest problem with saying which cicada species is the loudest is people use a variety of criteria to judge their loudness. Since B. brevis is the current official record holder, we should use the distance, equipment, calibrations and weather conditions used for that measurement for all cicadas. One of the reasons why people want to know how loud cicadas can get is fear of hearing loss. Looking at the CDC website, a Magicicada chorus falls in the range of a noisy cafeteria — which doesn't appear to be harmful in the short term. A cicada applied directly to the ear (do not do that) gets in the range of a loud rock concert and ambulance siren, which will cause hearing damage. Again, do not put cicadas in or around your ears, and avoid seeing Metallica live in concert.

  • The loudest cicada in the world is supposed to be the Brevisana brevis, a cicada found in Africa. At a distance of 50cm (~20") B. brevis reaches 106.7 decibels. See the BBC article.
  • Australian species of cicadas, like the Double Drummer (Thopa saccata) are said to exceed 120 deafening decibels at close range.
  • According to the University of Florida Book of Insect Records, the Tibicen pronotalis [walkeri] is the loudest cicada in North America, and can achieve 108.9 decibels.
  • Personally, I've observed Magicicada cassini choruses achieve between 85 & 86 decibels (link to video), and M. cassini responding to fingersnaps (mimics female wing flicks) at as high as 116 db (link to video) 35s in). The 116db level was recorded with the insect standing on the microphone of my Extech 407730. Magicicada choruses have been documented to reach 100 dB.

Yes. Male cicadas use their opercula (flaps on their abdomen) to cover their tympana (the cicadas hearing organs) when they sing, so they don't damage their own hearing.

Cicada Song Samples

The cicada sounds on this page are of North American species. See the links at the end of the page for International species.

Magicicada species, which are the periodical cicadas currently emerging in the United States, are at the top of the list.


North American Species

Species & Song Type Listen Location & Source
M. cassini Court II & III Recorded in New York, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. cassini Distress Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. cassini Chorus Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. cassini Call Recorded in USA by Joe Green
M. cassini Chorus Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecim Distress Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecim Court II Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecim Call Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecim Court III Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecim Court I Recorded in New Jersey, Brood II by Cicada Mania
M. septendecula Call Recorded in USA by Joe Green
M. septendecula Call Recorded in USA by Joe Green
M. sp Chorus Recorded in New Jersey, Brood X by Cicada Mania
M. tredecassini Call Recorded in Illinois, Brood XXIII by Cicada Mania
M. tredecula Chorus Recorded in Ohio, Brood XXII by Cicada Mania
M. tredecula Call Recorded in Ohio, Brood XXII by Cicada Mania
M. tredecula Call Recorded in Ohio, Brood XXII by Cicada Mania
D. olympusa Starting Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
D. olympusa Chorus Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
D. olympusa Distress Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
D. viridifascia Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. hieroglyphica hieroglyphica Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. hieroglyphica hieroglyphica Pre Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. hieroglyphica hieroglyphica Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. resonans Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. resonans Distress Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
N. tibicen tibicen Call Recorded in New Jersey by Cicada Mania
T. resonans Call Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
T. resonans Distress Recorded in Florida by Joe Green
T. tibicen tibicen Call Recorded in New Jersey by Cicada Mania

Want more? Sound files appear on our individual species pages:

B. venosa
B. wheeleri
C. calliope calliope
C. calliope calliope
C. calliope floridensis
C. calliope floridensis
C. camerona
C. kansa
C. nigroalbata
C. texana
C. vagans
C. valvata
D. apache
D. arizona
D. aurantiaca
D. averyi
D. azteca
D. bequaerti
D. biconica
D. cinctifera cinctifera
D. delicata
D. eugraphica
D. knighti
D. marevagans
D. olympusa
D. semicincta
D. swalei swalei
D. texana
D. viridifascia
D. vitripennis
H. bifida
H. chiricahua
H. duryi
H. inaudita
H. longiperculus
H. simplex
H. texana
N. auletes
N. auriferus
N. canicularis
N. chisos
N. constricta
N. cultriformis
N. davisi davisi
N. davisi harnedi
N. dealbatus
N. dorsatus
N. figuratus
N. hieroglyphica hieroglyphica
N. hieroglyphica johannis
N. latifasciatus
N. linnei
N. lyricen lyricen
N. lyricen virescens
N. parallelus
N. pronotalis pronotalis
N. pronotalis walkeri
N. pruinosus pruinosus
N. resh
N. resonans
N. robinsonianus
N. similaris
N. superbus
N. tibicen australis
N. tibicen tibicen
N. tremulus
N. winnemannus
O. balli
O. bella
O. bella
O. canadensis
O. canadensis
O. fumipennis
O. gracilis gracilis
O. hesperia
O. rimosa rimosa
O. synodica synodica
O. terlingua
O. utahensis
O. vanduzeei
O. viridis
P. puella
P. putnami putnami
P. similis
Q. gigas
T. auletes
T. auriferus
T. bifidus
T. canicularis
T. chiricahua
T. cultriformis
T. davisi davisi
T. davisi harnedi
T. dealbatus
T. dorsatus
T. duryi
T. figuratus
T. inauditus
T. latifasciatus
T. linnei
T. longiperculus
T. lyricen lyricen
T. lyricen virescens
T. parallelus
T. pronotalis pronotalis
T. pronotalis walkeri
T. pruinosus pruinosus
T. resh
T. resonans
T. robinsonianus
T. similaris
T. simplex
T. superbus
T. texanus
T. tibicen australis
T. tibicen tibicen
T. tremulus
T. winnemannus

Websites that feature North American Cicada Calls


International Cicada Sounds