The emergence of the Brood X cicada after 17 years of dormancy has brought with it a host of questions. Should your dog be snacking on the crunchy insect? (No.) Should humans? (Sure, if you don’t have a shellfish allergy.) Should you call the police when you hear them screaming about sex? You can, but don’t expect them to do much about it.
Law enforcement officials in Union County, Georgia, have been so besieged by calls and complaints about the noisy cicada that they’ve felt compelled to admonish the public about contacting them about it.
In a May 22 Facebook post, the Union County Fire/Rescue and EMA wrote:
“Union County E911 is receiving multiple 911 calls for alarms’ in the neighborhood. More than likely these ‘alarms’ are not alarms at all but a bug, Brood X. This brood of cicadas emerges every 17 years and is endemic in most of the eastern United States. They also have a range of different sounds they can produce, making them some of the loudest of all insects. It is often difficult to pinpoint where the sound is coming from and can sound like a vehicle or home alarm system…So, if you think you hear an alarm ensure that it is an alarm and determine the location before contacting authorities.”
How can a bug be mistaken for a car alarm? Cicadas are tiny noise machines, producing sounds of up to 100 decibels when groups of males form an insect choir. The cacophony is intended to attract females, which is why cicadas have risen from the ground in the first place.
Males make noise by contracting the muscles around organs called tymbals on either side of their abdomen. The resulting air compression (no, it’s not a fart) makes a clicking noise. Get enough cicadas together and if you stand close enough, you risk hearing damage.
Female cicadas, however, can hear this siren call for love up to one mile away. That’s presuming they don’t get male suitors confused for power tools, which actually does happen. Either way, cicadas will be ignoring any noise ordinances until their job is done.
[h/t The AV Club]