Wild Profile: Meet the dog-day cicada

Updated: July 29, 2019

By Julie C. Wagner/Shutterstock

Is it hot in here, or is it just the cicadas? Smokin’ summer temperatures make plenty of creatures sluggish, but the heat actually encourages the dog-day cicada to crank up its buzzy, 90-decibel love song. No wonder this insect is also called the heatbug.

Male cicadas have drum-like structures on their abdomens; they can flex and pop these “tymbals” in and out hundreds of times per second. The sound they produce is a little like the drone of a motorcycle or a buzz saw. And it’s loud. Because a cicada’s body is mostly hollow, the tune—a mating call to attract females—really resonates and carries.

Cicadas are the noisiest insects on earth. Happily, they’re able to turn off their own hearing ability by adjusting disk-shaped sound receptors at the base of their mid-sections. This way, they don’t accidentally make themselves go deaf when they sing. Are you listening, aging rock stars?

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