Cicada Sounds Are Roaring in Riverwoods, Illinois


Almost seven minutes of pure cicada sound on June 8, 2007 in Riverwoods, Illinois [MAP/SAT]. A few of the cicadas can be seen on some of the close shots, otherwise enjoy the audio and the view of the thick tree canopy in Riverwoods, Illinois. Make sure you turn up your computer speakers loud because that’s the only way to understand the loudness of these cicadas.

You probably would find it hard to believe, but you can drive down Lake Cook Road at about 50 mph east of Milwaukee Avenue with your car windows closed and hear the busy roaring sound of 17-year Cicadas. When you hear it for yourself, you will believe that Cicadas are the loudest and most efficient sound-producing insects in the world. Only the males make the sound as a mating ritual to attract a female and many cicada species tend to gather when calling which increases the total volume of noise. Species have different mating songs to ensure they attract the appropriate mate.

Cicadae are unique in sound-producing insects in that they have a musical drum in their abdomen. The organs that produce sound are ‘tymbales’ ~ paired membranes that are ribbed and located at the abdominal base. Contracting the internal tymbal muscles yield a pulse of sound as the tymbals buckle inwards. As these muscles relax, the tymbals return to their original position. The interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound. The song intensity of the louder cicadas acts as an effective bird repellent. Males of many species tend to gather which net a greater sound intensity and engenders protection from avian predators.

In addition to the mating song, many species also have a distinct distress call, usually a somewhat broken and erratic sound emitted when an individual is seized. You will notice this sound if you find a cicada being chased by a bird.

A number of species also have a courtship song, which is often a quieter call and is produced after a female has been drawn by the calling song.

What do cicadas sound like? Up close the cicidas sound like the traditional summer ‘locust’ sound, but ‘locust’ is a misnomer (locust are actually grasshopper-type insects), because actually all of these types of insects that make these loud noises are cicadae — it’s just that some are out at different intervals in the summer.  The 17-year Cicada are out in huge numbers every 17 years. And they make a lot of noise! In the background — further from observation — they produce a sort of howling whistle sound.

Prolonged cicada noise at over 90 decibels is possible and could cause hearing damage. The prolonged activation of hair cells in the cochlea in the ear could be damaging. You can almost feel the noise in your ears after a long time if you are forced to listen to the cicada sound for a long time.

For comparision, here is the sound of a single cicada at the front door of LIFETIME FITNESS in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Sound of a single cicada in a tree in front of LIFETIME FITNESS in Schaumburg, Illinois [MAP/SAT]. There was not enough time to get an image of the cicada because LIFETIME FITNESS staff requested the camera be turned off on the LIFETIME FITNESS property. The location is a new construction (less than 17 years-old).  Older trees in a creekbed were undisturbed during construction at the back, northside of the property. Also, Busse Woods (Ned Brown Forest Preserve) is located about one mile east of the location. A small wooded area is also located, just south across Higgins Road (Route 72).

See also:
Chicago Tribune Cicada Central

You can report and analyze Cicada Sightings here …


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