We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Cicadas Can Get as Loud as a Motorcycle, so Here's How to Handle the Noise

How loud will the cicada emergence get? Learn why the cicadas will be so loud this year and ways to deal with sound sensitivities during this time.

By Elizabeth Gamillo
May 13, 2024 6:00 PM
Cicadas
(Credit: Mary Terriberry/Shutterstock)

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

The cicadas emerging this year have waited 17 years to resurface. Their buzzing sounds are part of their life cycle and it's going to get pretty loud. The insects will chorus and buzz as they mate and communicate, reaching up to 106 decibels, or nearly the sound of a motorcycle.

The year’s double brood is a once-in-a-lifetime event because two broods of cicadas do not usually emerge at the same time. But those sensitive to sound might find the continuous buzzing uncomfortable or overwhelming. Or for those who have a fear of insects, also called entomophobia, some might find seeing the flying hordes of cicadas unsettling.

Why Cicadas Are so Noisy

(Credit: Jamie Noguchi/Shutterstock)

Periodical cicadas might seem like they are louder than annual dog-day cicadas because more of them will come from the ground at the same time. Their buzzing sounds could sound continuous because cicadas contract their tymbal or their sound-producing organ about 120 to 480 times a second. Cicadas are also equipped with air sacs that amplify their high-pitched songs.

These insects will mate and chorus for at least six weeks before the 17-year cycle starts again. Cicadas won’t stick around forever and the next time we can witness them will be almost two decades from now. But don't worry, they don't bite, sting, or transmit disease.

Dealing with Sensory Sensitivities

(Credit: Hakase_420/Shutterstock)

For children who might experience fear towards cicadas or have autism spectrum disorder and sensory sensitivities, the Cincinnati Center for Autism in 2021, suggested using social narratives to explain the event to them.

In social narratives, the event is framed positively, and any fears of cicadas are put at ease with an explanation as to what they are and why they are emerging. This may also increase curiosity about the natural phenomena in kids and eliminate any fears.

Another way to avoid the noise is to limit time outdoors. Children with sensory issues can play indoors while sounds are at their peak, and then play outdoors when the chorusing is quieter.

If the cicada’s continuous chorusing is too overwhelming, you can opt for wearing earplugs when going outside, as well as indoors. Wearing headphones or noise-canceling headphones and listening to soothing music may reduce the loud buzzing.


Article Sources

Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review them for accuracy and trustworthiness. Review the sources used below for this article:


Elizabeth Gamillo is a staff writer for Discover and Astronomy. She has written for Science magazine as their 2018 AAAS Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Intern and was a daily contributor for Smithsonian. She is a graduate student in MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.