You’ve probably heard the chirruping of cicadas before; maybe when you were out camping. They’re typically very loud and can damage your hearing. So, here’s a question:
Do cicadas get louder before a storm? Yes, they do sing louder before a storm. Cicadas are naturally very loud, producing calls of up to 120 decibels. Typically their calls are heard before the start of the monsoon rains, but it’s not a prediction of the weather; it’s actually just a reaction to the change in air temperature.
What are Cicadas?
Cicadas are a superfamily of insects called the Cicadoidea, and make up a part of the order of true bugs (Hemiptera). They are typically found in tropical and temperate climates, living in trees and feeding on tree sap.
As far as activity goes, most species are active during the day, with only a select few being nocturnal.
They tend to disappear completely for long periods of time – often up to 17 years. It should be noted that the duration for the disappearance will vary between different species.
The Cicada’s Song(s)
Cicadas start to sing when the temperature goes higher than 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celsius).
There are some 1300 species of cicadas in the world – of which 150 are found in my native South Africa. Each species has its own distinct set of songs for establishing territory and mating.
Now, only the males sing and some will go off and sing by themselves while others will sing with a group. Either way, these guys are loud; producing an audio pitch of 120 decibels. This is one of the loudest sounds produced by an insect species.
If you should find yourself in close proximity to the song, be careful not to get too close. The song is loud enough to damage your hearing.
On a related note, it was speculated that this loud song could, when in chorus with other cicadas, frighten off the predators that hunt via sound. This theory is refuted by observers, which makes sense; a loud song in chorus would be like ringing a dinner bell.
The song is made when the muscles surrounding the sound-producing organs are contracted; producing clicks which are merged into continuous notes. Cicadas are capable of adjusting the song by changing their positions relative to the surface on which they’re standing.
The Songs in Relation to the Weather
As far as predicting storms goes, the mating songs of cicadas are often heard before the start of the monsoon rains. This is deemed to be largely coincidental: a reaction to the change in temperature more than a weather prediction.
Ecological Value of Cicadas
The length of time that cicadas remain dormant is thought to be a way to outsmart predators that feed on them; their activity cycle is different to that of most of their predators.
Cicadas provide a major contribution to keeping the environment stable. They provide an energy source for birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects. As an added plus, cicadas act like parasites on trees; preventing their host trees from out competing other tree species. They also prune off the weaker branches of their host trees and provide natural fertilizer for the trees when they die.
Greg spent most of his childhood in camping grounds and on hiking trails. While he lives in suburbs nowadays, Greg was raised on a small farm with chickens. He’s a decent shot with a bow, and a knife enthusiast.