Late Summer’s Chorus
You hear them everywhere: driving in your car with the top down, sitting outside on a warm, summer evening and falling asleep to their songs with your windows open. Who are they? Cicadas, crickets and katydids — the trio you hear separately or together at all hours — starting in spring and belting out a peak performance this time of year.
Cicadas entice my cats with their buzz when their bodies spasm around on the ground.
Crickets’ chirping brings back memories of my childhood where I spent summers outside from dawn to dusk.
Katydids get their name from how their song sounds, Katy did, Katy didn’t.
Put all three insects together at the same time, and you can get quite a racket.
Cicadas come in many species. Several are periodical cicadas, emerging every 13 or 17 years, like the broods that hatched this spring.
Annual cicadas of many species emerge every year during summer’s dog days, hence the name Dog Day Cicadas. All have different calls. Some call in the morning, others at mid-day and still others, at dusk or in the evening.
Cicadas are among the loudest insects; a swarm can produce sounds up to 120 decibels. At about 115 decibels, that’s louder than a rock concert and comparable to the noise from a chainsaw. Humans start to experience pain from sound at the 110 to 120 decibel level.
Cicadas gravitate to other noisy objects, like lawnmowers, because female cicadas mistake them for singing males, and male cicadas will follow in order to continue wooing the females.
Hear and see cicadas at www.cicadamania.com.
Crickets chirp. Male crickets, that is. Females don’t bother.
Males make two romantic songs, a louder calling song when trying to attract females and repel males; and a courting song when the female is nearby and the romance has begun.
Besides romantic chirps, males chirp at competitors and danger.
Males generate the chirp sound by raising their left forewing and rubbing it against the upper edge of the right forewing.
Temperature affects the speed of chirps. The higher the temperature, the more chirps a minute a cricket generates. You can predict the temperature by counting the number of chirps and using the following equation: The number of chirps in 15 seconds plus 37 equals the temperature in Fahrenheit.
At 52 degrees, crickets chirp about 60 times a minute.
The insects we hear at night are mostly katydids.
Katydids rub their wings together to produce their song that is part of their courtship. Their ears’ tympana — or hearing organs — are in their front legs.
Males are crooners, as they sing their way into the hearts of females by rubbing their forewings together to create a distinctive melody. They do this by raking a file, a modified vein with teeth located on their left forewing, over their right forewing.
Females do the same, responding with their call, which sounds almost like a chorus of whisperers, with a sshhh sound, but at a higher volume.
Katydids predict the weather. They begin singing about three months before the first hard frost. After it hits, they become silent.
“All three should be singing for a good month or more,” says Andy Brown, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp senior naturalist.
“The cicadas will finish before the crickets and katydids, who will be heard all the way up to the first freeze.”
Hear and see crickets and katydids at: https://soundcloud.com/cricketcrawl2013 and www.discoverlife.org/cricket/DC/.