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Swamp Cicada

Without doubt, one of the most conspicuous sounds of summer is the annual cicadas. At last weekend's workshop, we were fortunate enough to happen across one of those ear drum hammering buzzers at ground level.

Swamp Cicada, Tibicen tibicen (formerly chloromera). These are big bugs, daunting in appearance, and I'm sure they have elicited their share of screams and flailing hands when they've landed on people. But they don't normally operate at our level - I felt indeed fortunate to spot this one at knee level where images and video could be made. Usually they're high in the trees and well out of range.

Annual cicadas are Hemipterans, or true bugs. They exist in a larval state for most of their life cycle, and the nymphs reside underground where they tap into tree roots and extract fluid. The adults emerge in mid-summer, and their incredibly loud pulsating buzzes become a staple audio feature of the dog days.

There are ten species of annual cicadas in Ohio, and all can more or less be readily distinguished by the sounds that they make. Cicadas don't use a file and scraper system to make their songs, as do the Orthopterans (katydids, crickets and the like). Instead, they have a specialized organ known as a tymbal, and the insect uses powerful muscles to rapidly contract and release the tymbal, creating a "song" that can allegedly hit 120 decibels in some species!

The annual cicadas are not to be confused with the 17-year periodic cicadas that emerge in mass and cause such a ruckus.

This Swamp Cicada was good enough to "sing" right under my nose, and I took the opportunity to make this short video. I'm sure you'll recognize the sound!


go native said…
Love the video, makes me feel right at home!
Patty M. said…
Thanks! If you're ever inclined to write about tomato hornworms, I'd appreciate it. I picked a fat, juicy from our tomato plant last evening, in spite of its strongly clinging to the plant.
OpposableChums said…
Is it just me? I get no audio with the video.
Jim McCormac said…
Glad you like the video! Hey Jason! Try turning your volume on :-) Just kidding - not sure what is going on but I suspect the problem is in your set. I get the volume loud and clear and it sounds as if everyone else is, too.

I'll probably get around to hornworms someday, Patty! Did you eat it? They're really rather tasty :-)

Wil said…
Very cool video. You are one lucky dog. I have been trying in vain to get video of an cicada species singing. Very cool indeed.
Patty M. said…
Hornworms tasty? Well, I do like tomatoes, if they taste like tomatoes - HA!
Jim McCormac said…
Ah, Wil, with your gear you would have had an AMAZING vid! Actually encountered a mating pair of Swamp Cicadas while out bird atlasing this morning; got an amazing series of photos and was able to witness their behavior when the male approaches for the encounter...

Anonymous said…
Great clip Jim. The sound came through fine. Found your post after identifying the critter my 6 year old grandson picked up in the backyard and asked: "what's this?" -- Ed Andros, Peninsula, OH

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