The blaring buzz of loud insects is a common summer soundtrack in Central Texas. Cicadas are responsible for this familiar noise as males court potential mates. Though benign, the deafening drone of cicadas in Austin trees can become a major nuisance. Here’s a guide to identifying these loud bugs and managing them around homes.
- Cicadas are a family of large, winged insects that emerge en masse at intervals of 5, 13 or 17 years across Central Texas.
- Nearly deafening male chorus calls can exceed 100 decibels. The noise carries for hundreds of yards.
- Adults do not bite, sting or transmit disease. They cause no harm to humans.
- Cicadas cannot chew or bite. They subsist only on tree fluids.
- Life cycles are tied to tree roots. Nymphs emerge when soil temps reach 64°F.
- Hollowed out exoskeletons left on trees are a sign of mature cicadas that have emerged.
While not directly harmful, the ceaseless noise and sheer numbers emerging can make cicadas a challenging seasonal pest for homeowners.
Types of Cicadas in Austin
Common species behind the summer buzzing include:
- Dog Day Cicadas – Appear annually in late July/August. Make a sharp “pharaoh” call.
- Annual Cicadas – Appear every year from late May through August. Make a continuous whine or buzz.
- Periodical Cicadas – Massive broods emerge every 13 or 17 years in May/June. Extremely loud.
- Dwarf Cicadas – Appear annually but only 1-1.5 inches long. High-pitched call.
Dog Day, Annual, and Periodical cicadas are most responsible for the deafening choruses heard every summer. Homeowners must tolerate them for a few weeks until breeding ends.
Why Are Cicadas So Loud?
Male cicadas produce their blaring buzz and drone using special anatomical adaptations:
- Tymbals – Ribbed membranes on their abdomen vibrate rapidly to amplify sound.
- Hollow abdomens – Act like a drum or microphone to boost resonating notes.
- Sheer numbers – Thousands calling together creates a cacophonous chorus.
- Intentional volume – Loud calls are meant to attract female cicadas from afar.
The collective result is an overpowering din reaching noise levels over 100 decibels. Unfortunately, cicada calls cannot be contained or controlled. Their biology is optimized for extreme volume.
When Are Cicadas Most Active?
Cicada activity and noise peaks at specific times:
- Afternoon hours – Most active from late morning through late afternoon. Less noisy overnight.
- Sunny days – Warm, sunny weather prompts more vigorous calling. Overcast days suppress singing.
- Early summer – Annual cicadas first appear in May/June. The din grows and sustains through July.
- July-August – Dog day cicadas emerge in the hottest summer period, peaking late July into August. The most intense chorus.
To minimize impact, plan outdoor activities in the cooler morning hours before cicadas commence full chorus mode after 11am. Noise is difficult to escape on hot summer afternoons.
Cicada Prevention Tips
While little can be done to control wide-ranging cicada populations, you can modify your property to reduce impacts:
- Remove trees and shrubs where cicadas congregate closest to bedrooms or outdoor living areas.
- Position window air conditioner units to help mask noise. Close windows and doors.
- Install double-paned windows to dampen insect chatter if very bothersome.
- Turn on fans, music, TVs or white noise machines to help cover the racket during peak calling times.
- Avoid highly scheduling activities during July-August if annual cicada buzzing may interfere.
- Wear earplugs when noise is most bothersome if spending time outdoors.
The chorusing diminishes as mating ends and cicadas start to die off. Be patient – the peak din lasts just 4-6 weeks.
Do Cicadas Bite or Sting?
Cicadas cause no harm to people, animals or homes. They do not bite, sting or transmit diseases. A few facts:
- Mouthparts – Cicadas have sucking mouthparts designed only for feeding on plant fluids, not biting or piercing.
- No nests – Cicadas do not build nests or collect honey, only live to mate and lay eggs.
- No interest in humans – Cicadas focus only on breeding and egg laying in trees. They ignore humans.
- Brief lifespan – Adults live just 2-6 weeks. Their sole mission is reproducing before dying.
- Sheer numbers – Billions emerge together, but no swarms or aggressive behavior toward people occurs.
Simply put, cicadas are harmless. Their only impact is irritating noise. Remain patient, and populations naturally crash as die-off begins in late summer.
Can Cicadas Damage Trees or Plants?
Cicadas do not chew or consume foliage, only sip plant fluids. However, some minor damage may still occur:
- Egg laying – Female cicadas damage small branches when making slits to deposit eggs. This can cause small twigs to brown and die.
- Sap feeding – Large infestations may stress smaller trees by depleting sap as cicadas feed. Big mature trees are rarely harmed.
- Flagging injury – Topmost small branches may wilt and die back due to egg laying damage. Gives treetops a ragged, “flagged” look temporarily.
- Scarring – Scars are left behind on small branches and twigs after eggs hatch and nymphs drop to the soil. Mostly cosmetic impact.
Healthy trees generally tolerate cicada activity well. Small, weak or potted trees may benefit from protective netting if nymph densities are very high.
FAQs About Noisy Cicadas
Here are some commonly asked questions:
How long do cicadas live?
Cicada lifespans are short. Adults live just 2 to 6 weeks once they complete nymph stages and emerge. Their sole purpose is breeding.
How often do cicadas emerge?
Some emerge annually while periodical cicadas remain underground up to 17 years before mass emergence. Various species appear each summer.
Do cicadas predict the weather?
No evidence suggests cicada behavior predicts upcoming weather. Their cycles are fixed internally. However, imminent rainfall may sometimes suppress chorus activity briefly.
What eats cicadas?
Many predators like birds, squirrels, dogs, spiders, snakes, etc feed on emerged adult cicadas, especially once populations peak.
Should I rake up cicada shells?
No need. The empty exoskeletons left on trees after molting get recycled naturally and provide a nutrient boost. They can simply be left to decompose.
When do cicadas stop making noise?
The loud chorusing wanes and eventually ceases completely by September as mating ends and adults begin to die off en masse.
Tolerate Loud Cicadas Patiently
Homeowners must simply tolerate the intrusive noise from amorous male cicadas each summer. Take comfort that cicada cycles are normal and populations naturally crash within weeks. Until then,Indoor retreats, ear protection, and running background noise helps preserve your sanity. The buzzing will give way to blissful quiet again before you know it.