Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and VPM radio producer Steve Clark visit Cicadamania.com to sample the calls of some Virginia cicadas. Many thanks to Dan Mozgai of Cicadamania and Dave Marshall at the University of Connecticut for permission to broadcast their recordings.
Steve Clark: I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. All this last week I've been working outside. I’ve been outside an awful lot because I kept hearing a really high-pitched sound that was continuous. I thought maybe it was some aberration with my tinnitus.
Art Evans: One of my go-to places for cicada calls, I think that's what you heard, is cicadamania.com. They have a whole series of calls of different cicadas. Let's see if this sounds like what you heard [cicada call is being played].
Clark: There it is.
Evans: Yeah, that's the dog-day cicada. That's in the genus Neotibicen. They're the ones that have green and black markings on them.
Clark: It doesn't go up and down like a regular cicada.
Evans: No, it just has sort of a slow build-up, and then it's a steady long grinding note.
Clark: Forever, forever.
Evans: Let me play for you some of the other calls of my favorite cicadas that I hear in our neighborhood. [cicada call is being played]
Clark: That's the one I normally hear, tibicen what?
Evans: That's Neotibicen pruinosis, and the nickname for this one is the scissor grinder. (laughing) And I think that's the perfect sound because you can imagine the blade of the scissors going over the, the grinding wheel. Let's see if you recognize this one. [cicada call is being played]
Clark: I, I hear it, and I recognize it, but don't know the name of it.
Evans: Yeah, well that is a Linnaeus cicada. It's another species of Neotibicen, and this is one of the first cicadas I hear in our neighborhood when it's just really stupid-hot [laughing], and they start coming out, and I hear them usually in the mornings. Well, let's play another one here. This one is really spectacular. [cicada call is being played]
Clark: Hmm, no I don't know this one.
Evans: Imagine hearing this just as it’s getting dark. [cicada call is being played]
Clark: Oh, there it goes, ah ha.
Clark: Is this a Neotibicen?
Evans: [cicada call is being played] No, it was recently moved into another genus, Megatibicen auletes. This is our dusk-singing cicada.
Clark: Our what?
Evans: Our dusk-singing cicada
Clark: They’re loud.
Evans: Yes, they are, and they are the largest cicada that we have in Virginia. You might find them dead or dying toward the end of the summer. And they are large, and they're often covered with a, what we call a waxy pruinosity. . .
Clark: Oh right.
Evans: . . . sort of a waxy powder, a bluish powder that helps prevent them from . . .
Clark: Right, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Evans: . . . drying out. Now here's another call I think you'll enjoy, but it's not something you would hear in the summertime. [cicada call is being played]
[cicada call is being played]
Evans: That sounds like an alien invasion. [laughing]
Clark: It does. That's a periodical.
Evans: That's the periodical cicada [cicada call is being played]. We have several species here. This is the 17-years cicada, Magicicada septendecim. Cicada calls are fun, and it's all about sex [laughing]. It's all about the males trying to attract the attention of females of their own species.
Clark: Dr. Art Evans is a research associate at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. You’ll find photos, audio, and links to the museum and Art’s Facebook page at vpm.org/bugs.
Dr. Arthur V. Evans teams up with VPM Radio producer Steve Clark for a weekly feature, “What’s Bugging You?,” which airs during NPR’s Morning Edition. The program takes its name from another of Evans’ books “What’s Bugging You – A Fond Look at the Animals We Love to Hate.”
Tune in each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. or at 5:44 p.m. on VPM News