During the hot part of the day we hear Robinson’s cicada (Neotibicen robinsonianus). They are plodding and rhythmic: creeeeeak, creeeeeak, creeeeeak, creeeeeak.
And from afternoon to twilight the scissor-grinder cicada (Neotibicen pruinosus) takes over. It supposedly sounds like someone sharpening a pair of scissors on a grindstone, with hyper-rhythmic pulses that build in intensity. Their calls have also been compared to a circular saw cutting though a two by four: zeeeer, zeeeer, zeeeeeer.
The last two local annual cicadas species: Lyric (Neotibicen lyricen) and Linne’s (Neotibicen linnei) are very high-pitched. They sound similar to Swamp Cicadas but their buzzes are at 7 kHz, a range that many people cannot hear or barely hear.
Did someone say “katy-did-it”?
Scissor-grinder cicadas buzz until darkness falls when they are replaced by the nighttime orthopterans that are in the same order as grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. Like the others in that insect group, katydids (Pterophylla camellifolia) have long legs in the rear that enable them to jump quickly. They are camouflaged to look like green leaves and spend their entire lives in the canopy, rarely being seen on the ground unless they fall.
Their common name comes from the sound they seem to make in the dark: katy-did-it, katy-did-it, katy-did-it!
Being able to identify these various insect courtship sounds make the Dog Days of summer a little cooler. And you can impress your friends sitting on the back deck or whiling away a few days in the woods.
Stephen Lyn Bales is a natural historian, the author of three UT Press books: Natural Histories, Ephemeral by Nature, Ghost Birds. He’s also a monthly speaker (via Zoom) for the UT Arboretum Society. He can be reached via email to “stephenlynbales” at gmail.com