Saturday, August 12, 2006

sounds of summer

When I was a kid and living in Hermosa Beach, California, my family would make trips back to Oklahoma in the summer. The heat and humidity was oppressive and the air was cacophonous with the sound of cicadas. The locals called them locusts or jar flies. They were noisy to the point of annoyance. Now, after living in the state for 27 years, I look forward to hearing the cicadas each summer. If you've never hear the sound, the best way to describe it is a metallic whir. They start out at a low pitch and build up to a rapid frequency and loud volume. They've been known to reach 120 decibels. The trees are full of them. The noise serves two purposes. The loud noise repels birds and attracts females. So I guess human males aren't the only ones who attempt to woo females by being loud and obnoxious, although without as much success as the cicadas.
They have an interesting life cycle. They spend 6 to 17 years underground in their nymph stage and finally make their way to the surface where they shed their outer body as a complete shell and emerge as a completely different creature to spend a few weeks mating before they die.


In early summer you will find these carcasses on trees, fences, houses, actually, on all kinds of surfaces.

This is the form they take for the last few weeks of life. These are the noise makers.

2 comments:

Paul said...

One of my favorite sounds. I was walking in the park just last night listening and enjoying.

Sandie said...

What are those bugs Wally? THey make sounds? Like what?