Every summer you will hear them, a high pitched Harley Davidson like sound will rise and fall in the distance. This is the song of the cicada. It is loud and many people feel that it is annoying. And yet this creature continues to do its thing regardless. So how do cicadas make this noise? Cicadas use a corrugated section of exoskeleton called tymbals. Using strong muscles to deform their tymbals, the males can make this larger than life sound.
The male cicada uses this sound as a mating call. Naval researchers describe the process as if you had strong muscles that could pull your ribs until they collapsed. This produces a huge sound. The loudest cicada is in Africa and can produce 106.7 decibels at 50 centimeters. There is a breed in Australia that are said to reach almost 120 decibels at close range. That’s enough to damage your hearing!
CAN YOU STOP THE CICADA FROM SINGING?
The short answer to this question is no. But there are things that do stop them from singing. First of all, predators will shut a cicada up very quickly. These large insects make a tasty meal for a bird or, if they can catch them, a rodent. The adult cicada has no defense against these, other than trying to fly away. And the loud singing can help a predator hone in to the location of their next dinner.
Temperature can effect them. They only sing when the temperature is above 72 degrees Fahrenheit. So on cooler evenings, they will stop their song. This also helps to protect them from nocturnal predators. If you can catch the cicada, you can make him sing by lightly squeezing him. But if you squeeze too hard, he will definitely stop permanently.
THE LIFECYCLE OF A CICADA
Cicadas spend most of their life underground. The female will split a branch or twig on a tree and lay her eggs there. She will lay between eight and twelve eggs depending upon her specific species. In ten to twelve weeks, the eggs will hatch and feed upon the juices in the tree branch. Then, they will fall out of the branch and burrow into the ground. Here they will spend the next 1 to 22 years burrowing into the roots and feeding off of the tree.
As they reach maturity, they will use their front legs to burrow a tube above ground. These tubes are known as cicada huts. Once it’s warm enough, they will exit here, climb the tree and molt. Leaving their old skin behind, they will emerge as the adult reproductives that we hear screaming across the summer months. The singers are males looking for a female. The females will rub their wings together in response, and the males will move closer and sing softer. Once they meet, they will mate, and the process starts again. Your Oklahoma pest control company can help.
Cicada species are grouped into three groups. Cicadas that nymph underground for only one year are known as annuals. Most of the cicadas in Oklahoma are annuals. The second group of cicadas are known as periodicals. These cicadas will stay underground anywhere from 13 years to 17. Some have even beed found to stay underground for 22 years. The last group are the proto-periodicals. These species emerge every year, but some years they emerge in much larger numbers than others.
DO THEY HURT THE TREES?
When a cicada lays her eggs into a tree branch, she damages the branch. The nymphs born from these rice size eggs will also feed upon this branch. In most cases, the branch dies. This is known as flagging. A few branches dying is of no consequence to most trees. But cicada females often target branches about the diameter of a pencil. This means that older trees are safe, but younger trees are not. Too many flags, and the tree can die.
The damage caused by root feeding has not been found to have any lasting effect on tree populations. This, of course, is dependent upon cicada populations and brood size. If you’d like to protect your small trees from cicadas, it is best to cover them during the summer with a net with no more than a quarter inch holes in it. This keeps egg laying females away from them.
WHEN’S THE NEXT BROOD?
Scientists monitor cicada broods. Because some cicadas only emerge every 13 to 17 years, there are some years with lots of cicadas, and some with only a few. Broods are numbered with roman numerals and monitored. This makes it possible to protect susceptible trees from excessive cicada damage.
In 2020, at the writing of this article, there is suppose to be a large brood in the eastern United States. Brood IX should emerge this year in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. This brood is a 17 year brood and is unique, because scientists are unable to travel due to the pandemic. They have asked local residents to gather information about the brood for them. Call your Oklahoma exterminator for more information.
Broods stay underground for a very long time. Scientists think that this is for a number of reasons. This gives them the ability to time their emergence with one another so that many of them emerge at once. Larger numbers give them the ability to overwhelm their predators. This also gives them the ability to time their emergence with the best weather and temperature conditions.
ARE THERE ANY CONTROL MEASURES?
Scientists actively monitor brood behavior. Tree nets and pesticides can be applied to your young trees to protect them as well. But in the end, these insects don’t bite, they don’t sting and they don’t dive bomb us. They are simply trying to mate and reproduce. Because of this, they are not really pests, so there are few household measures to stop them from singing. A Tulsa exterminator can help.
If you have questions, contact your Tulsa pest control company. Here at TermMax Pest Control, we are here to help! Contact us today!