The Song of the Cicada Is the Quintessential Sound of Summer in Wimberley

If ever a single sound characterized summertime in this area, it would be the song of the cicada. Cicadas are the loudest and most efficient sound-producing insects in the world.

The sounds we hear are those from males, produced as a mating ritual to attract a female. Many cicada species may gather when calling, sometimes increasing the volume of noise to a level that may challenge even the most dedicated camper or fresh-air enthusiast.

Cicadas have musical drum-like organs, tymbales, that make it possible to create their unique sound. These paired membranes are ribbed and located at the abdominal base and the interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound. The perfect instrument!

The sound intensity of the song of louder cicadas apparently is annoying to birds, another useful attribute of the song, since it acts as an effective bird repellent. The effect is increased as the male cicadas gather, creating a kind of safety in numbers.

The life cycle of the cicada is also unique. After mating, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig and deposits her eggs there, repeating the task until she has laid several hundred eggs. After hatching, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow, some as deep as 81/2 feet. The nymphs feed on root juice and have strong front legs for digging.

When the time is right, the nymphs construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge as adults, moulting (shedding their skins), on a nearby plant for the last time. The abandoned skins remain, still clinging to the bark of trees.

But once mating occurs, life doesn't last long for these critters. Male cicadas die soon after mating. Females may lay 400 to 600 eggs in as many as 40 to 50 different nests before they die.

If you find the cicada's song annoying, here's a happy thought that might make it more pleasant...male cicadas are kept in a little cage in homes in China so that their songs may be enjoyed inside.