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The Kid Should See This

Why are cicadas so loud? Entomologist Dr. Samuel Ramsey explains

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Cicadas are famous for their super loud chirping. When the insects appear in the millions, their shrill, rhythmic buzzing seems to be even louder. How do they make these sounds and what are they communicating?

In this Wired video, entomologist Dr. Samuel Ramsey introduces cicada tymbals, musical instrument-like membranes below each side of the bug’s abdomen that can create sound through quick vibrations.

tymbal organ

And as they pull on the tymbal, it buckles these ribs on the sides of their body that makes this very resonant, loud sound. In addition to that, the back end of their body, like a lot of musical instruments, is hollow, such that it can amplify this noise. And then their wings allow them to direct it in different directions. So they are pretty much a musical instrument, all their own.

But why so loud? Ramsey explains that while female cicadas are making a directed clicking sound at males, the male cicadas are the loud ones. They are competing to attract the females “before something comes along and attempts to eat them.” Related: If there are any predators around, some of the noise might be cicada warning calls, too.

“…it’s remarkable, but cicadas continue to show that they have an all for one, one for all kind of dynamic going where they are intently trying to make sure that they can pass on their genes and that those around them can, as well.”

Dr. Sammy Ramsey
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Learn more about cicadas with Amazing Cicada Life Cycle, a clip from Life in the Undergrowth.

Bonus: Mongolian Throat Singing: Batzorig Vaanchig sings with his children.

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