How Cicadas Make That Sound

Our Texas insect expert answers common questions about bugs.

By Laura RiceJuly 4, 2019 1:25 pm,

Cicadas are as much a part of the Texas summer as 100-degree days and a cool swim in the lake.  Wizzie Brown, an insect specialist with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office has your primer on how they make the sounds they do.

On how cicadas make sounds:

The have strigulating organs… they’re similar to our ribs… the way they twist their body will actually make [them] rub against one another and it makes the strigulating sound. We also have cicadas that will flick their wings. And a lot of the females will flick their wings in response to the males making sound.

On the cicada sound that annoys some people:

When they’re calling to one another doing the mating process, the males will have sometimes the chorus, which is a lot of times what’s so annoying for us as humans, because we have all of them at one time..

What happens when females are attracted by the males:

Once the females get in closer, then the males start doing the strigulation, and they’ll do it in a softer way. And if the female likes the song, she’ll respond by flicking her wings.

Other ways cicadas communicate:

There are some species that will rub their wings. There are some species that will, instead of making sound with the air, they’ll actually strigulate on the surface – so on the gourd, on the tree, or whatever surface they’re sitting on.

On the difference between a cicada and a katydid:

A katydid is actually a different order of insect. They are going to be more closely related to grasshoppers. And they do make sounds. So things like crickets and katydids, they’ll make sounds usually by rubbing their wings together or rubbing legs together.