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Why Are Cicadas Louder In The Heat?

When cicadas emerge, they provide us with a symphony of their somewhat deafening chorus. These small, winged insects have a remarkable ability to produce ear-piercing sounds that seem to get louder when temperatures rise. So, the question is, why are cicadas louder in the heat?

In this article, we will take a look at the intriguing world of cicadas, explore why they make this sound, and learn more about how various environmental factors can affect how loud these bugs are.

Why Are Cicadas Louder In The Heat?

Cicadas are ancient insects that belong to the order Hemiptera and the superfamily Cicadoidea. They are divided into two main groups: annual cicadas and periodical cicadas.

Both types of cicadas are known for their distinctive calls, often produced by males as a means of attracting females for mating.

The male cicada possesses specialized sound-producing structures called tymbals, which are located on either side of the abdomen. When these tymbals are rapidly vibrated, they create the signature buzzing or clicking sound that cicadas are known for.

How Does Temperature Play A Role?

Cicada on leaf
Cicada on leaf | image by Denise Mattox via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Temperature plays a crucial role in the lives of cicadas. These insects are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature.

As the temperature rises, the metabolism of cicadas becomes more active. This increase in metabolic activity triggers a chain reaction of physiological changes that ultimately leads to louder calls.

How Does The Cicadas’ Metabolism Affect Its Sound Production?

Cicadas are ectotherms, which means their body temperature depends on the temperature of their surroundings. When the environment heats up, cicadas become more active. Their metabolism speeds up, which, in turn, affects their sound production capabilities.

The tymbals, responsible for producing sound, are composed of a flexible ribbed membrane. As the cicada’s metabolism accelerates with higher temperatures, it provides the necessary energy for the rapid contraction and relaxation of the tymbal muscles. This heightened muscle activity results in more forceful and frequent vibrations of the tymbals, leading to louder sounds.

Does Temperature Impact The Frequency?

Temperature not only influences the loudness of cicada calls but also affects the frequency or pitch of the sounds produced. Studies have shown that as the temperature increases, the frequency of the cicada’s call also tends to rise.

This shift in frequency can be attributed to the temperature-dependent properties of the tymbal’s structure and the elasticity of the surrounding tissues.

The combination of higher metabolism and altered structural properties leads to an intricate interplay between temperature and the acoustic properties of the sound produced.

Why Do Cicadas Make Such Loud Noises?

The primary reason for the male cicada’s incessant calls is to attract females for mating. Female cicadas select mates based on the quality and intensity of their calls. Louder calls are often perceived as a sign of vitality and strength, indicating a suitable mate.

Consequently, male cicadas utilize the heat-induced increase in their call volume to maximize their chances of attracting a mate in the competitive environment of their breeding season.

Climate Will Also Cause Change In Cicada Behavior

Mating cicadas
Mating cicadas | image by Renee Grayson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Climate change can potentially impact cicada populations and their acoustic behaviors. Warmer temperatures due to climate change may lead to alterations in the timing of cicada emergence and mating seasons.

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If the temperature rises too early in the year, it could affect the synchronization of cicada life cycles, disrupting their natural chorus.

Additionally, changes in temperature patterns could influence the overall acoustic landscape, potentially affecting cicada communication and mating success.

How To Cope With The Noise

While there isn’t much you can do to physically stop cicadas from signing their song, there are ways to cope with the noise when it gets to be a bit much. 

1. Embrace The Noise

Cicada on hand
Cicada on hand | image by F Delventhal via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

One way to cope with cicada noise is to change your perspective. Instead of viewing their sounds as a nuisance, try to embrace them as part of the natural world. Cicada choruses are often a sign of summer, which can be seen as a beautiful and unique aspect of the season. By changing your perception, you may find the noise less bothersome and even appreciate it as part of the summer soundtrack.

2. Use White Noise or Music

If you find cicada noise distracting or overwhelming, consider using white noise or soothing music to mask the sound. White noise machines, smartphone apps, or even a simple fan can create a consistent background noise that makes the cicadas less noticeable.

Additionally, playing your favorite music or calming tunes can help distract your mind from the cicada chorus, creating a more pleasant auditory experience.

3. Close Windows and Doors

When cicadas are at their peak activity, closing your windows and doors can be an effective way to reduce the noise indoors. Make sure your home is well-sealed to minimize the intrusion of sound.

If you need to cool down, consider using air conditioning or fans instead of relying on open windows, especially during the hottest parts of the day when cicadas tend to be most active.

4. When It Comes To Spending Time Outdoors, Be Choosy

If you enjoy spending time outdoors during the summer, plan your activities around the cicada’s daily routine. Cicadas are most active during the hottest parts of the day, so consider scheduling outdoor activities in the morning or evening when their noise is less intense. This way, you can still enjoy the great outdoors without the constant soundtrack.

5. Wear Noise-Canceling Headphones

For those who work or study from home or simply want to enjoy some peace and quiet, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a lifesaver.

These headphones use advanced technology to actively reduce or eliminate background noise, allowing you to focus on your tasks or relax without disturbance from cicada noise.

Sources:

  • “Want to impress your friends? Here’s 5 facts about cicadas to share at your next tailgate or barbeque”. Keith Sharon, The Tennessean, May 10, 2021, tennessean.com
  • “Meet the world’s noisiest insect.”, Jackie Davis, The Weather Net, Aug 25, 2019, theweathernetwork.com
  • “The Hotter It Gets, The Louder They Get,” GWCC_Feed, AlabamaWx Weather Blog, July 16, 2018, alabamawx.com
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