photo of Magicicada septendecim © Lang Elliott Periodical cicada chorus, featuring the low drone of Magicicada septendecim and the high-pitched buzz of Magicicada cassini. The soft and very high-pitched clicks of a Magicicada septendecula can also be heard at times. 2:30pm, 31 May 2016. Hocking Hills State Park in southeastern Ohio. © Lang Elliott.

Periodical Cicada Brood V range mapDuring my recording expedition, I made a quick swing through eastern Ohio to experience the 17-year Periodical Cicada emergence … that of Brood V, which ranges over the eastern half of Ohio, the western edge of Pennsylvania, and throughout most of West Virginia (see map).

There are three species involved, though most of the chorusing is dominated by two species: Magicicada septendecim and Magiciada cassini. The featured recording includes both these species … septendecim producing a low-pitched drone and cassini a much higher buzz or trill that is often pulsating. For those with excellent high frequency hearing, listen also for faint high-pitched clicking, tst-tst-tst-tst-tst-tst, given occasionally by the third species, Magicicada septendecula.

The constant drone of M. septendecim can get on one’s nerves after awhile. It is persistent, beginning in early morning and lasting until dusk. The warmer the weather, the louder the calls. What is interesting about septendecim’s drone is that it is comprised of countless males making distinctive individual calls. Here is a closeup of a single male calling, with the droning chorus heard in the background:

Magicicada septendecim sonogram showing calls of individual maleCloseup calls of an individual male Magicicada sependecim. 2pm, 25 May 2012, near Lexington, Kentucky. © Lang Elliott.

Here is a video showing several different septendecim males calling:

The slow pulsing of cassini choruses really stands out. Individuals within a chorus often synchronize their calling to produce an effect that sounds to me like the slow-paced “breathing” of a cicada super-organism:

sonogram showing Magicicada cassini pulsationsA chorus of Magicicada cassini demonstrating clear pulsations of loudness with a periodicity of around 5-6 seconds. Recorded 3:30pm, 31 May 2016 in Hocking Hills State Park, southeastern Ohio. The constant, low-pitched drone of Magicicada septendecim is also present. © Lang Elliott,

Incidently, individual M. cassini give a series of clicks before they buzz, but the clicks are masked in large “breathing” choruses and are often difficult to hear. Here is a single male calling:

sonogram showing calls of individual male Magicicada cassiniCloseup calls of an individual male Magicicada cassini. 3pm, 25 May 2012, near Lexington, Kentucky. © Lang Elliott.

I will end with a recording of cicadas mixed with bird sounds (most notably Tufted Titmouse and Yellow-billed Cuckoo). Listen for all three species of cicada … the low drone of Magicicada septendecim, the high-pitched buzzes of Magicicada cassini, and the very high clicking calls of Magiciada septendecula:

cicadas and birds sonogramFeaturing the calls of all three species of Brood V Periodical Cicadas, along with Tufted Titmouse and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 4:30pm, 31 May 2016, Hocking Hills State Park in southeast Ohio. © Lang Elliott.

A friend has informed me that the cicadas are still going strong in Ohio, but their calling will no doubt taper off quickly over the next few weeks. By early to mid July, the forest soundscape will be entirely free of their loud drones and buzzes, sounds which will not be heard for another seventeen years (note, however, that several other periodical cicada “broods” will emerge before then and will overlap small portions of Brood V’s range; see readings below for brood range maps).

For more information about Periodical Cicadas, check out the following websites:

Magicicada Website
Songs of Insects Website
Cicada Mania Website

As always, I invite your comments!

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