Prairie Noise

I just finished a great but very long day at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  We were collecting sweep net data and counting flowering plants to evaluate the impacts of various fire and grazing treatments.  There was a lot of action in the prairie – an up close encounter with a pronghorn mother and twins, coyotes calling to each other just over the hill, 5 species of prairie clover blooming, wasps and bees everywhere, and loads of robber flies and assassin bugs going after those wasps, bees, and other insects.

However, what was most noticeable in the prairie today was the sound of cicadas.  The really loud incessant sound of cicadas.  They were calling to each other from perches on grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs, and flushing in front of us all day as we moved through the grassland.  The cicadas were most abundant and noisy in the depressions between hills, where they were protected from the moderate breeze.  I snuck up on one to get some video of it and then realized that I hadn’t yet figured out how to use the video function on my new camera.  After that cicada flew away unphotographed, I figured out the video function and then stalked a few more cicadas until I found one that let me get close enough to get both photographs and videos of it.

Often incorrectly called “locusts”, cicadas are pretty common during the heat of the summer, and they come in a variety of species.  As with many other animals, the males make loud sounds to attract females.  When a bunch of them are calling simultaneously, the sound can be incredibly loud, especially for such small insects.  Here’s a quick video from today:

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Prairie Noise

  1. Paul Brewer says:

    Always good to see N. dorsatus, really a nice looking insect in my book.
    Sounds like a great day on the prairie! Thanks for sharing as always Chris!

  2. Joanne says:

    I don’t live in the ‘hills’ anymore so I can say “How sweet the sound! ” Great video too.

  3. Kim says:

    Here in Oklahoma I swear that when the cicadas (or summer bugs) are sounding off it automatically makes the temperature increase by at least 10 degrees. This is one of the few insects that really creep me out due to childhood memories of being chased by boys trying to put them in my hair. Silly me.

  4. Loved the video of the cicada!

  5. Leslie K says:

    Awesome Chris, thanks for the video clip1

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