90 decibels…

…is how loud the 13-year cicadas were when I made a pilgrimage to Sweeten Cove to listen to them this afternoon. The CDC recommends that humans limit their exposure to any sound louder than 85 dB. I can see why — my ears were ringing after spending half an hour in the midst of a cluster of cicadas.

Thirteen-year cicadas pulse the loudness of their sounds every four or five seconds (top graph). Their hissing, buzzy sound is concentrated in the middle and high ranges (bottom graph; for comparison, humans talk below 1 kHz). I made these recordings standing under a hackberry tree that was swarming with cicadas, then used Raven to draw the graphs.

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