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A Brood X cicada molts in Washington, DC. | Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

How to summon a cicada.

Over the next several weeks, billions of cicadas will continue rising up from the ground across the eastern United States. As they do, they’ll sprout wings, make a ton of noise, mate, and die within a few weeks. If you live in an area where the Brood X cicadas are expected, you will not mistake their arrival. In addition to littering the ground with exoskeletons, in their frenzied quest for mates, cicadas make a ton of noise.

The females make a clicking noise with a flip of their wings. The males find these clicks to be very sexy. They will immediately divert their attention if they hear a female click nearby. (Most of the cicada noises that you’ll hear come from the males. They make a buzzing noise reminiscent of a lawnmower.)

It turns out humans can summon — and dare I say, seduce — a male cicada by imitating the female cicada clicks. Why might you want to do this? I don’t know! Perhaps it could be helpful in collecting cicadas for a meal. Up to you!

Esteemed nature documentarian and activist Sir David Attenborough demonstrates how to summon one. “I can imitate the female’s wing flip with a snap of my fingers,” Attenborough says in his unmistakably husky voice in this clip from a 2005 BBC program below.

By snapping his fingers, Attenborough draws the cicada toward him, closer and closer. And then the cicada jumps toward Attenborough, to continue the courtship in a more intimate matter.

“The noise is awful,” Attenborough says as the cicada hums sweet nothings into his ear.

Further reading: Brood X and Sir David Attenborough

  • Where billions of cicadas will emerge this spring (and over the next decade), in one map
  • Brood X will leave a mark on forests and birds that will last for years
  • A 2019 interview with Attenborough on the Netflix documentary Our Planet he narrated

Author: Brian Resnick

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