Cicada Secrets: What Makes Them Sing?

Cicadas are small, winged insects. They’re known for their loud, buzzing song. But what makes them sing? These mysterious creatures have interesting secrets behind their unique sounds.

Their specialized body parts and remarkable life cycle reveal a lot more than meets the eye.

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of cicadas and uncover the science behind their enchanting songs. Get ready to discover the hidden secrets of these musical insects!

Unlocking Cicada Mysteries: A Biological Overview


Taxonomy is used to classify and organize cicadas within the animal kingdom. It identifies and categorizes their specific characteristics, such as body shape, size, coloration, as well as their reproductive and feeding habits. These traits are important in differentiating between cicada species and understanding their diverse nature.

The study of taxonomy increases our understanding of cicada diversity and contributes to our knowledge of cicada evolution. By analyzing and categorizing different species, scientists can trace their evolutionary history and comprehend how these insects have adapted over time.

Through taxonomy, researchers unveil intricate details of cicada biology, behavior, and ecology, shedding light on their importance within the ecosystem.

Life Cycle

Cicadas have different stages in their life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid in tree branches and hatch after several weeks. The newborn nymphs drop to the ground to burrow and feed on tree roots until they become adults.

Their life cycle has a big impact on the ecosystem. Their feeding on tree roots promotes new growth and nutrient recycling. When they emerge as adults, they become a food source for predators.

Cicadas undergo adaptations to survive and thrive, like living underground for several years as nymphs. They also have the ability to synchronize their emergence as adults to overwhelm potential predators. These adaptations contribute to the overall success and impact of cicadas in their environment.


Cicadas come in many different types, found all over the world. Where they live, how they act, and what colors they are can vary greatly due to things like weather, location, and what they eat. This leads to a wide variety of cicadas, each one well-suited to its own environment.

Cicadas have different behaviors, like their mating calls and how they avoid predators. Their colors can be very different, helping them stay safe from other animals. This diversity is important because it helps keep the whole ecosystem healthy. Cicadas are a vital part of many animals’ diets, such as birds and other insects. They also affect the plants they feed on, which can impact the health and variety of the nearby plant life. So, cicadas’ diversity is not only interesting, but also really important for keeping their ecosystems balanced and working well.

Cicadas through the Ages


Palaeontology is important for understanding cicada evolution and history. By studying ancient fossils and preserved specimens, scientists have traced the cicadas’ evolutionary timeline and learned how they adapted over millions of years. This has shown us the ancient diversity of cicadas, revealing many extinct species and giving insight into past environmental conditions.

Palaeontology has also helped us grasp the cultural significance of cicadas in different societies. By examining cicada remains in archaeological sites and studying their representation in ancient art and literature, researchers have uncovered the cultural and symbolic importance of these insects throughout history.

For example, the ancient Greeks and Chinese viewed cicadas as powerful symbols of rebirth and immortality, showing a deep cultural connection illuminated by palaeontological research.


The word “cicada” comes from the Latin term “cicada,” which described the noisy insect. Later, it transitioned into Old French as “cigale” and eventually into English as “cicada.” This evolution shows the historical and cultural connections of the insect across civilizations.

The etymology of the word “cicada” has shaped its cultural significance and perception in human culture. In ancient Greece, cicadas were linked to immortality and resurrection in literature and art, leading to them being seen as symbols of transformation and change in various cultures.

The linguistic and historical connections related to the word “cicada” are evident in multiple cultures. For instance, in Japan, the word for cicada is “semi,” and it has been a significant part of Japanese folklore and poetry, reflecting its importance in Japanese culture. Similarly, in Chinese culture, the word for cicada is “蝉 (chán),” and it is often associated with rebirth and immortality in Chinese mythology.

Cicada in Human Culture

  • Cicadas have been represented in various cultures and traditions throughout history.
  • They often symbolize resurrection, immortality, and spiritual realization.
  • In ancient Chinese poetry, cicadas represent rebirth and longevity.
  • In Japanese folklore, they are associated with the summer season.
  • The loud sound of the cicada is a symbol of perseverance and resilience in many cultures.
  • Cicadas have been used as a design motif in fashion, particularly in jewelry and accessories, reflecting their significance as a symbol of transformation and self-discovery.
  • In some cultures, cicadas are consumed as a delicacy and used in traditional folk medicine for their supposed medicinal properties.
  • The widespread presence of cicadas in human culture underscores their enduring significance and impact across different societies and traditions throughout the world.

The Intricate Biology of Cicadas


Cicadas are large insects with broad wings, bulging eyes, and membranous bodies. They come in different colors, sizes, and wing patterns, and produce various sounds. These physical features help entomologists and insect enthusiasts identify and differentiate cicada species from each other and from similar insects like locusts or grasshoppers. Understanding these details is important for studying cicadas’ life cycle, behavior, distribution, and ecological significance.

This information helps researchers monitor and protect specific cicada populations and provides valuable insights for the scientific community.

Temperature Regulation

Cicadas control their body temperature in hot and cold weather.

In hot weather, they find shade and cooler spots to avoid getting too hot. When it’s cold, they sit in the sun or on surfaces like tree trunks to warm up.

Their activity and behavior change based on temperature. Warmer temperatures make them more active and ready to sing, mate, and find food.

Colder temperatures make them less active or even hibernate.

This shows how temperature affects cicadas’ behavior and life cycle.

Their ability to adapt to temperature changes is very important for their survival and reproduction.


Cicadas eat sap from trees and plants. They use their mouthparts to get sap from plant xylem, which gives them the nutrients they need as adults.

Their diet affects their life cycle and behavior. For instance, tree sap is their main energy source for male mating calls. Also, the nutrients from sap help with their health, flying, and reproduction.


Cicadas move and travel from place to place by using their six legs and two pairs of wings. They are capable of flying, hopping, and walking, allowing them to cover a wide range of distances in search of food, mates, and suitable places to lay eggs. Their method of locomotion is supported by their unique adaptations, such as well-developed flight muscles and strong hind legs for jumping.

Additionally, their exoskeleton provides protection and support for their body during movement. The locomotion of cicadas is vital to their survival and life cycle as it enables them to disperse and find food and mates. This is essential for the continuation of their species, as well as for their role in the ecosystem as pollinators and food sources for other animals. The ability to move efficiently and effectively ensures that cicadas can fulfill their biological functions and contribute to the balance of their natural habitats.

Cicada Predators, Parasites, and Pathogens

Cicadas have many predators like birds, spiders, and wasps. These predators target the young cicadas as they come out of the ground. This can really affect cicada numbers, especially during years when a lot of them emerge. Besides predators, cicadas also have to deal with parasites and diseases.

For example, Massospora cicadina is a fungus that infects cicadas and changes their behavior. It makes them do weird movements over and over. Another parasite, the cicada killer wasp, lays its eggs on or inside the cicadas, eventually killing them. To protect themselves, cicadas have developed different survival strategies. They come out of the ground at certain times, and there are so many of them that it overwhelms their predators. They have also evolved into different species to avoid specific parasites and diseases. These tactics help cicadas to keep going and do well, even with all the dangers they face.

The Cicada Song: An Acoustic Phenomenon

Cicadas make their unique “cicada song” by quickly vibrating their tymbals, drum-like organs on their abdomen. Males create this loud, buzzing sound to attract females for mating and communicate with other cicadas. Each species has its own song pattern. The song is crucial for cicadas’ mating and reproduction, ensuring the continuation of their species. Also, it impacts the ecosystem by influencing predator-prey interactions and biodiversity.

The rhythmic chorus of cicadas serves as a natural soundtrack and holds cultural significance for humans in many regions.

Cicadas and the Year 2024: An Upcoming Symphony

Cicadas are loud and buzzing insects. They are set to emerge in 2024 and create a natural symphony. These creatures have had a big impact on pop culture. They have also influenced fashion, food, and folk medicine. When they emerge in 2024, cicadas will inspire fashion trends and be used in different cuisines. They have also been used in folk medicine for their supposed healing properties. Some cultures use them in traditional remedies.

As 2024 approaches, cicadas will bring their signature symphony to the natural world. They will also continue to influence human life and culture.

Cicada Influence on Fashion, Food, and Folk Medicine

Cicadas have been a part of fashion trends for a long time, both in history and today. Some cultures find inspiration in their iridescent wings and detailed exoskeletons for making jewelry and accessories. They are also seen as a symbol of rebirth and transformation, which influences clothing designs and patterns.

Cicadas have also been used in traditional folk medicine and as food. In some cultures, they are believed to have medicinal properties and used as a natural remedy for different ailments. As for food, cicadas are eaten as a high-protein snack in some places and are included in traditional dishes to symbolize a connection to nature and the changing of seasons.

Wrapping up

Cicadas make their buzzing sound using a process called stridulation. Males flex their tymbals, which are drum-like organs on their abdomen, to create the noise. The buzzes help them attract females, establish territory, and scare away predators. The sound’s frequency and intensity can change depending on the species and environmental factors.


What is the scientific name for cicadas?

The scientific name for cicadas is Magicicada.

Why do cicadas sing?

Cicadas sing as a way for males to attract females for mating. The loud buzzing noise is produced by the male’s specialized organs called tymbals. The females respond to the song by flicking their wings to signal their interest.

How do cicadas produce their loud sounds?

Cicadas produce their loud sounds through vibrating membranes on their abdomens called tymbals. These muscles contract quickly, creating the cicada’s distinctive buzzing noise.

What is the purpose of the cicada’s song?

The purpose of the cicada’s song is to attract a mate and establish territory. The loud buzzing noise is produced by males to attract females for mating.

Do all cicadas sing?

No, not all cicadas sing. Only adult male cicadas produce the loud buzzing and clicking sounds to attract mates. Female cicadas are generally quieter and do not sing.