Listen Closely and You Might Just Hear the Sweet Sound of Cicadas

Author: Jay Adams | 06/08/20

As a transplanted New Englander used to listening to a variety of insect songs, I was initially disappointed to discover that Whidbey Island was essentially insect-song free. No singing grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, katydids, or cicadas, or so it seemed. But as time has gone by, I learned that there are exceptions to the no insect-song rule.

Cicada image

A Say’s Cicada. Photo by Songs of Insects.

On two or three occasions I have heard what I believe were single Spring Field Crickets chirping in large grassy fields. In addition, from time to time I’ve heard crepitating locusts (“flying grasshoppers”) at Ala Spit on North Whidbey and in the Pacific Dogwood parking lot at the Land Trust’s Trillium Community Forest. And now I know that Striped Ground Crickets, singing like violinists playing bowed single-note  songs — zit, zit, zit — regularly perform in late summer along the grassy edges of the path leading to the west dike at Deer Lagoon.

But best of all, I now know I can expect to hear two species of cicada adding their “voices” to the playlist in early summer. The more widespread species is Say’s Cicada (Okanagana Rimosa). I have heard them in coniferous woods in several locations in Central Whidbey. The other I believe is Mountain Cicada (Okanagana Bella Bella). Identification is tricky as multiple cicadas in the Ocanagana genus sing identical songs, but I think Mountain Cicada is the one. Oddly enough, I have only heard this cicada in one location — the Land Trust’s Admiralty Inlet Preserve.

Say’s Cicada makes a steady, high-pitched buzz. The Mountain Cicada by comparison makes, as I hear it, a slightly lower-pitched, pulsating buzz.

Take a listen to the Say’s Cicada and the Mountain Cicada. Perhaps you’ll hear either one or both when you out and around Whidbey or Camano islands.

Now, where are the Sword-bearing Coneheads?

  • Jay Adams is a board member with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

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