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April 18, 2017

When do cicadas sing?

Filed under: Behavior,Sounds — Dan @ 6:37 am

Most, if not all cicadas sing during the day, but what time of day they sing depends on the species and the weather. There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, and each has its own unique behavior.

Typically, cicadas do not sing at night, but there are exceptions. Most of the time when you hear an insect at night, it’s a cricket or katydid.

Most cicadas love the sun, so rain and cloudy skies will decrease the likelihood they will sing. Temperature also affects whether or not they will sing. If it is too cold, or too hot cicadas won’t sing. Tolerance for temperature depends on the species.

Cicadas, depending on the species, will sing depending on the number and proximity of other cicadas in their area. Periodical cicadas, when there are enough in a given area, will synchronize their songs forming a chorus (a group effort to attract females).

When they sing during the day, under perfect conditions, depends on the species. Each species has its favorite time to sing, for example, in North America:

  • Neotibicen tibicen, also known as Morning Cicadas, typically sing before noon.
  • Neotibicen latifasciatus, aka Coastal Scissor Grinder Cicada, seem to sing throughout the day, taking breaks during the most brutal sunlight and temperatures.
  • Megatibicen auletes, also know as the Northern Dusk-Singing Cicada, sings for about a half hour around sunset.
  • Periodical cicadas, like Magicicada septendecim, typically sing between 10am and 5pm.

Recapping, when cicadas sing depends on:

  1. The species
  2. The amount of light (sun or artificial)
  3. The amount of cicadas in a given area
  4. Rain, clouds, and other “bad weather”
  5. The temperature

Cicadas can be surprising “rule breakers” so don’t be surprised to hear them when least expected.

More examples and references to come…

6 Comments

  1. SJ says:

    I live in the Mediterranean and as of yet I have not heard a single cicada this summer. It’s the middle of June and I find it quite exraordinary that they have not made themselves known. Any ideas? Is this normal?

    1. Dan says:

      It seems odd. It depends on the location, temperature, and the species. Some species won’t emerge until later in summer.

      Checking the weather in Monaco, it looks like temps are still in the 60s and 70s which is a bit cool. Once temps are regularly in the 80s, the cicadas should be plentiful.

      1. I’ve lived in a suburb to Valencia in Spain for a month, and they’re buzzing outside my house every single day now! On top of that there are all the dogs barking, since people don’t seem to know that you should take them to a dog trainer, but that’s a different story.

  2. Dan says:

    What an ingenious way to catch them! I might have to try that!

  3. Chrissy McTolley says:

    I Was extremely disturbed to find the exoskeletons of these creepy creatures all over my back yard and trees shortly after I moved to Georgia. Thank you for shedding some light on these things. I feel a little bit better, I guess.

    1. Stephen Lo says:

      Noneed to worry about. They shed their shell to grow bigger and it takes a long time for them to become full size, 8 years for an insect. I love their sound as I heard their sound in the classroom I know that summer holiday is not far away. In my country school kids use a long pole and a chewed bubble gum to stick the insect (it does not move when it sings all day). Then use a sewing thread to keep it like a pet.

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