Cicadas Inspire Love, Frustration

May 30, 2011

 Residents around the Triangle have been serenaded by the drone of 13-year cicadas for several weeks now. Among some, the orange and black visitors have inspired awe and sometimes devotion. 

After living underground for 13 years, the insects have crawled into tree tops where cicada males are serenading females. Caroline Christopher lives out in the woods north of Chapel Hill

Caroline Christopher: "Well I tried recording them with my telephone... I found this one in the driveway and picked it up because it was making some noise I wanted to see where the noise comes from... wondering if it came from shaking its wings like crickets do. But I held it still and this is what he did... she plays cicada sound on her phone"

The noise comes from male cicadas flexing their abdominal muscles - showing off their six packs to the ladies, as it were. That bends their tough skin, creating a clacking sound.

Down in Bynum, Haw River riverkeeper Elaine Chiosso says that clacking has been really loud... especially on the old Bynum bridge. Walk out there and you're at eye level with the treetops, where male cicadas cover the branches.

Elaine Chioso: "I mean, it was kind of deafening and you couldn't really hear the sound of the river... it was that loud."

Reach out and shake a branch, and the males sing a little more.

Chiosso has decided to sing back. She's written a song about them...

Chioso singing: "That humming sound is in the air
It's really more than I can bear
These red eyed bugs are driving me insane
I feel like a cicada husk myself
They're driving me crazy."