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July  31

What's the Buzz?

Sitting on our front porch, sipping our coffee, reading a Nick Hornby novel, and wondering what exactly that sound all around us really is. Pray tell us, gentle reader, what the insect is that makes such a racket on a summer morn, yet never shows its face. Name that buzz.
(For best sound, use headphones.)

July 31, 2005 in Buzz | Permalink


That's our lovely cicada friends. . .

Posted by: Alison Meyer | Jul 31, 2005 11:37:11 AM

Does anyone have Cicada-killer bees nesting in your yard? I witnessed one paralize and drag a cicada to its hole. Fascinating.
Yes, besides reading Barista, I keep myself very busy.

Posted by: grme | Jul 31, 2005 11:54:52 AM

It's really a wasp...here's a interesting article on them:

Posted by: MrZoobles | Jul 31, 2005 12:06:38 PM

I love cicadas!

The che che che sounds like a sprinkler- I can sit and listen to them for hours.

Cicadas during the day, and crickets at night are summertime music!

Posted by: Pam | Jul 31, 2005 2:40:37 PM

The Pulitzer opportunity for the Baristanet intern has passed; the new curb jutting into Claremont Avenue atop the mountain has been removed (after two tire strikes). I can now curb my enthusiasm for alerting the public to its dangers and focus on cicadas.

Periodical cicadas appear once every 17 years, but they have a relative that appears on a 13-year cycle. Annual cicadas make an appearance every year. Therefore every 221 years there is a real sonic boom. 2004 was a 17 year cycle. Also, they appear at different months in different parts of our communities, possibly due to earth temperature variations (purely speculation on my part) or being off schedule.

Posted by: Verve | Jul 31, 2005 3:23:32 PM

Verve- I waited for the 'sonic boom' last year, as it was the supposed 17 cicada event- but I recall it as a less than average year in terms of sound...
in fact this year seems much louder than last. Do you think they made a mistake and it's really this year?

Posted by: Pam | Jul 31, 2005 3:35:36 PM

> 2004 was a 17 year cycle.

Which insects were supposed to overrun us last year -- cicadas or locust? After all the preinvasion PR they received, they never made it this far north.

I love the cicada and cricket sounds, too. Hey, I just realized I haven't heard a bird friend that visited me the past two summers. Last year, for a week or two in July, when for some reason I was staying up very late each night, I was joined at 12:30 a.m. by a bird that sang literally for hours, seemingly without ever repeating itself. Some online acquaintances said this night visitor was a nightingale or, more likely, a mockingbird, which will repeat bits of other birds' songs.

Bird songs here.

Essay on the mockingbird here.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 31, 2005 4:30:13 PM

Whoops, Pam slipped in there while I was typing.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 31, 2005 4:32:52 PM

The link for the essay doesn't work. Here's the URL:


Posted by: Chris | Jul 31, 2005 4:39:59 PM

Chris, I find the mockingbirds kind of annoying. I think its the fact that they usually sing at night, when you are thinking the birds should be sleeping! But I guess if you are up in the wee hours, it's nice to have company.

I am a bit of a morning person, and hence enjoy the early songbirds.

Posted by: Pam | Jul 31, 2005 4:43:12 PM

I do understand the annoyance. I kept waiting to see when the bird would get around to something I recognized from earlier ... and I kept waiting ... and waiting ...

I can enjoy a morning bird, too. ;-)

Posted by: Chris | Jul 31, 2005 6:23:54 PM

I was sorry that I missed the 17-year cicadas as well. I heard that they made it up as far as parts of central NJ but since we had a cooler than usual spring, they never made it up this far.

Apparently, there are different types of cicadasas someone has told me.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 31, 2005 6:26:03 PM

Chris, thanks for posting the birdcall site...cool.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Jul 31, 2005 6:28:32 PM

Since we're getting all natural here, don't forget the frogs and toads sounds at the NJDEP website : http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/fieldguide_herps.htm#frogs-toads

Posted by: Nancy | Jul 31, 2005 7:12:25 PM

We moved to Montclair last July, after experiencing the 17-yr cicada in the DC area. Ye-ow! They were deafening, and they were everywhere. I thought them rather disgusting at first -- they climb out of the ground, shed their skin, and lie about, sticky and milky, until the sun dries them off. After a few weeks, we all got used to them.

By the way, the neighborhood dogs found the cicadas to be a real taste sensation. That was all well and good, until we all discovered that a cicada-laden diet gives dogs the runs. After that, every dog on the street was kept in the house (or very closely monitored when out walking)!

As I recall, people who tried the cicadas said that they tasted like canned asparagus. Some of the middle schoolers became so fond of them that school administrators had to ban the critters from the buildings, to avoid the gross-out/cicada consumption contests that became common.

Posted by: Marie | Jul 31, 2005 9:50:41 PM

Oh ick... I don't like them enough to EAT them for crying out loud!

Posted by: Pam | Jul 31, 2005 9:54:05 PM

bzzzzzzz that explains a lot about the politicians in DC...i wonder how many of them eat cicada? i do enjoy a good buzz myself.

i enjoy those mockingbirds too..."if this mockingbird don't sing.."
(daddy will buy Paris more bling bling)

Posted by: Gentlewoman from Verona | Aug 1, 2005 6:55:53 AM

I thought the 17 year cycle occurred about 9 years ago? I remember going to a yard sale in Montclair and thinking that a car alarm was going off only to find out it was the cicadas.
When I was a kid I was fasinated by the "shells" they left behind. My kids think its gross.

Posted by: caris | Aug 1, 2005 7:13:28 AM

I don't know about in NJ, but I know that the DC 17-year cycle definitely hit last year (2004). I remember all too vividly their last appearance, when I was in college there in 1987. For a few weeks they were absolutely everywhere; I remember the janitor in the Bethesda office building where I had a summer job sweeping them into giant crunchy mounds to the sides of the entryway. Ugh!

Posted by: Writerchick | Aug 1, 2005 8:27:58 AM

I remember the true cicada "boom" in Montclair somewhere around 1979 - I had to walk to school and around town with an umbrella because they were falling out of the trees like raindrops. And the sound was deafening. No one wanted to go outside. Be glad they didn't show up full force!

Posted by: Starina | Aug 1, 2005 9:50:20 AM

If summer heat has a sound, it's that cicada clarion call. It's winter cousin is radiator hiss.

Posted by: Shabe | Aug 1, 2005 9:55:32 AM

These bugs are even noisier than leaf blowers. Perhaps they should be banned.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 1, 2005 10:43:52 AM

Or use leaf blowers that make cicada sounds.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 1, 2005 12:41:15 PM

Are there cicadas that sound like leaf blowers?

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 1, 2005 1:32:15 PM

We can genetically engineer them to.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 1, 2005 5:23:44 PM

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