Cicada sounds

Cicadas include the noisiest of insects. For a description of the sound-producing mechanism, see Borror, & al., 1989. An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 6th ed.

There are six known species of periodical cicadas (Genus Magicicada). Three have a 17-year life cycle, and three a 13-year life-cycle. The 1996 appearance in northern New Jersey involves two of the 17-year species. On the Florham-Madison Campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, we have had an abundant emergence of Magicicada septendecim. Its chorus is a low drone about 1.4 to 2 kHz, not unpleasant to the ear.

Southwest of Morristown, along the Interstate Highway 287, there have been mixed occurrences of M. septendecim with the slightly smaller M. cassini. In those localities, one can hear both species, but the smaller M. cassini is louder, and its pitch is higher, covering about 4 to 7 kHz. In dense concentrations, it can be almost ear-splitting. The latter species gradually predominates to the southwest, and is found by itself in some localities in Somerset County. It is less often seen, apparently because its nymphs climb higher before leaving their shells in the final molt. As a result, it is more difficult to obtain specimens.

Listen to (or download) a chorus of Magicicada cassini. (The low hum in the background is an airplane). Recorded 16 June 1996, Bedminster, Somerset County, NJ. Wave format. File size: 192 k. [DDD]

When handled or otherwise disturbed, the different species of Magicicada emit distinctive disturbance squawks. You may listen to (or download) the squawk of Magicicada septendecim in a wave file. File size: 64 k. [DDD]

Squawk of Magicicada cassini. Wave format. File size: 96 k. [DDD]


Cicada sounds from Borneo by Klaus Riede.

Cicada sounds from Slovenia.


Return to entomology page.