Singing Insects of Summer

There is a chorus of insect noise out there lately.  The annual cicadas buzzing through the heat of the day are joined at night by the katydids and crickets.  Insects make sound for the same reason we do; in order to communicate.  Most insect species have just a few short weeks in the summer to find a mate and successfully pass on their genes.  Things are fairly simple in the insect world, so a fairly straightforward repetitive song that says ‘I am here, I am your species, reproduce with me’ is all they need.  Because it is important to recognize one’s own species each insect species has a very distinctive song. 

One of my very favorite websites (and books) is the Songs of Insects.  It has pictures, range maps and sound recordings of hundreds of insects.  I prefer to search through the different songs by insect group.

Let’s start with the cicadas.  Listen to the scissor-grinder cicada, Linne’s cicada and Walkers cicada as these three species are in much of Iowa.  It is amazing how similar all three cicadas appear and yet how unique each one sounds.  Of course next June we should be lucky enough to be listening to the 17-year periodical cicada in central to southeastern Iowa.  I think their call is sort of haunting.  I can’t wait!

Next let’s listen to the tree crickets.  The snowy tree cricket is one of my favorites and one that I hear pretty regularly.  I like the tree crickets because we hear them and yet rarely get to see them. 

Last but not least are the true katydids. Right now the common true katydids calls are very noticeable in the trees right after dark.  As the season winds to an end and evening temperatures get colder you will be able to hear how much slower the poor make sings.  I am less fond of the conehead katydids.  I find the Robust coneheads call rather headache inducing.  

It's not common to find the katydid out of the tree, but it does happen!Common true katydid.  It's unusual to find the katydid out of the tree, but it does happen!

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