By Patrick Troyer

Education specialist

Paulding SWCD

Have you been sitting outdoors recently and heard a droning buzzing sound coming from the trees? What is making that sound? Is it the power lines buzzing and making that sound? Why is it making that sound? Does it mean anything?

The sound that you are hearing is the cicada, a small insect with a small and stout body. The cicada is an interesting insect and one that is always able to be heard in the late summer months with the sign that summer is getting close to its end.

Follow along with this article as we learn about the cicada and the unique characteristics that come along with it.

According to National Geographic, cicadas are recognized by their firm bodies, wide head, translucent wings with visible membranes and rather large eyes.

Did you know that there are over 3,000 different species of cicadas that are found throughout the world?

The cicada is an interesting species of insects that have a wide variety of different life cycles that have a lot of variance especially when it comes to the length of time it takes to complete.

National Geographic writes that cicadas typically follow an annual life cycle because there are at least some adults which come back every year. This cicada is known as the annual cicada.

The cicada starts out as an egg which develops into a nymph that enjoys the liquids of plant roots to obtain their nutrition.

At this stage, they will spend their time under the ground surface which can last most of their young life before they come above surface upon reaching the adult stage.

Some cicadas follow the periodical cycle which they will reappear and disappear in a given amount of time.

A cicada that follows this life cycle is the 17-year cicada.

There are many similarities that exist between the periodical and annual cicada life cycle with a few exceptions.

The nymphs will live under the ground for a period of 17 years and consume sap from trees.

Once they reach 17 years, the nymphs will tunnel their way to the surface using their front legs which will create a small mound of mud on the ground surface.

Has there been a large sighting of cicadas in Ohio recently? Ohio Country Journal published an article back in May of this year where a large swarm or “brood” of 17-year cicadas were sighted throughout northeast Ohio.

Many residents were not too thrilled about the presence of the cicadas, but Eric Barrett of Ohio State Extension reminds us that they do not bite, harm trees or cause any other kind of significant damage to be a problem.

When does northwest Ohio see the 17-year cicada next? According to David Shetlar, Professor Emeritus with OSU, the western counties of Ohio will see a brood of cicadas in 2021 with those in southern Ohio seeing a brood of cicadas in 2025. Stay tuned.

According to Colorado State University Extension, the male cicada is well-known for the song they use to attract their mates.

The sound is quite loud, whiney and has a buzzing tone. More than likely, you do not just hear one cicada but multiple cicadas that are all “singing” together throughout the trees.

Your first question at this point is how exactly they make this sound. Male cicadas make the droning sound by vibrating their membranes on their abdomens using a structure called a tymbal, according to Colorado State Extension.

As a response to this sound, the female cicada will flick her wings as a signal to the male.

It is important to point out that there are different sounds the cicada will make for mating and if they are in distress, although they both sound the same to us as humans making it difficult to tell the two apart.

Colorado State Extension notes that those who do not sing their droning song will make a ticking noise.

Next time you are taking a walk through the woods or enjoying a leisurely afternoon in your backyard take a moment to enjoy the sights and sounds that are all around you. Now you know one of those sounds in the late summer is likely the cicada.