I love the sound of cicadas; for me it’s the sound of summer, of lazy hot days when lying in a hammock or by the pool is the only thing you want to do. It’s also a nostalgic sound conjuring up family holidays in Greece and Provence as a teenager and later my university years in Sydney. Now I’m lucky enough to live in “summer holiday land” the singing cicadas of summer is sound that heralds the hot weather, the end of term and the beginning of the long school holidays.
When I first moved to the south of France, in April 2007, I was surprised not to hear any of my favourite Provencal insects. I asked a local why there weren’t any and was told it was too early in the year; they started on the 24th of June. Deadpan, no hint of humour, the 24th it was! And I kid you not, I have heard the first one each year since on, or very close to, the 24th of June. Yesterday, when driving my son to his end of term music gala at 10.30 am we both shouted out “cigale” at the same time as we heard the familiar ssh ssh ssh ssh ssh. It was the 24th of June.
Cicadas come out when the ground temperature reaches 22°c and although we’ve been having heat in the 30s for a couple of weeks I guess it takes time for the ground to warm up. They live off the sap of certain trees including oaks and pines of which we have a plentiful supply in the garden at Lou Messugo so we always have a resident few during the summer months. They sing during the hottest times of the day, often accompanying siesta time and can reach up to 120 decibels.
This is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss and is approaching the pain threshold if close to the ear but luckily they live high in the trees and stay away from human heads. Just when you think enough’s enough and you can’t bear any more, they stop and the silence is deafening! It’s a male thing – it’s the guys that sing and they like to raise all their nearby mates to sing along together in unison. They get louder and louder, trying to out-do each other and then they stop, altogether, just like that.
Cicadas exist around the world – there are thousands of species – singing primarily in the countryside. However, in Australia, one of my “home” countries, they have uniquely adapted to live in big cities and Sydney buzzes to their sound. One of my favourite stories my Aussie mum tells of her childhood, is of catching cicadas and taking them to school in match boxes to bug the teacher (pun intended!)
Many cultures have myths about these noisy creatures often symbolising resurrection, rebirth and immortality, but closer to home they represent the folklore of Provence. Jean de la Fontaine wrote his first fable (based on one of Aesop’s) about a cicada and an ant “La Cigale et la Fourmi” (which incidentally was what my son sang about yesterday at his music gala, how pertinent!)
You’ll find souvenir shops from Nice to Nîmes via Montpellier and Marseille groaning with ceramic cicadas to hang on the wall, cicadas that sing, cicada table cloths, cicada this and cicada that. To some the song of the cicada is a deafening drone, to others it’s hypnotic, but to me it’s pure summer – simple as that!
Have you heard cicadas sing? Do you like the sound or hate it?
Photo credits: cicada skins Wikimedia Commons, cicada on tree Pixabay, Cigale et Fourmi Wikimedia Commons
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I love the Cicadas and excitedly listen out for them starting to ‘kss’ too – this summer at times they were deafening, but in some ways it is the most calming noise I know – similar to waves on a beach it just lulls me & the area seems so quiet when they stop. Look forward to hearing them again next year now #AllAboutFrance
They are definitely loud enough to interfere even with conversations! But I do love them, and after awhile they just blend into the background as pleasant white noise…
I’m not sure if I have heard cicadas in person but I know the sound from TV and film. I probably heard them in Africa but it’s kind of white noise. I love the souvenirs, they are really pretty. I would definitely buy one! Have a good August and I hope you get a break!
We have grown up with the sound of Cicadas every summer in the U.S., and were mildly surprised the first time we heard them abroad. It’s funny how you think of something as a local thing, until you travel somewhere and find the locals there also think of it as their own. We don’t seem to celebrate them as much, though, in Texas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ceramic Cicadas in our shops. We’ll have to look for them the next time we’re in France!
We love the “song” of the cicadas! For us, they are not only the sound of summer but the sound of the south (we don’t have any in Luxembourg), another marker on our journeys around Europe. We won’t hear any this year, but hope to get down to the noisy south next summer. #AllAboutFrance
You are so right! Cicadas are the sound of summer. I am not a fan although I do like when I first start hearing them because that means it is summertime and I love summer!
I love that the inside knowledge of the date, isn’t mother nature amazing? #AllAboutFrance
Made me smile that the French have a date for when you’ll first hear a cicada singing! I for one love the sound of cicadas, grasshoppers and the likes. Our field is alive with the sound of them all through the summer 🙂
Thanks for all that interesting and fascinating information. I’ll make sure I listen very carefully on the 24th June, next year!
I love the sound of cicadas! It says summer and holidays to me! But how strange that they always appear on the same day – and that they can reach 120 decibels – ear plugs needed! What an intriguing creature and how lovely that they sing. Thanks for hosting #All About France and sharing the stories of your beautiful home!
Lovely to revisit this post and thank you for adding it to the 100th #AnimalTales I am dreaming of holidays in hot places now!
Oh my goodness they are so loud outside my youngest son’s bedroom. We often see the empty dry shells clinging on the bark of the trees near his window. Thanks for all that info, I have learnt more about these noisy insects 🙂 I used to have, as a kid, those metal clicking insects but haven’t seen them around much now. Great post #AllAboutFrance
I love the sound of cicadas and it reminds me summer is here! I remember as a child being scared witless by them because our childhood house was surrounded by trees and we’d find these ghostly empty shells stuck to trees. Becks #AllAboutFrance
What a fine evocation of summer in Provence (and your photos, as always, are spectacular, too)!
The cicadas were such a fascination for us when we first visited Provence back in 2008 – thank you so much for bringing back such great memories Phoebe. #AllAboutFrance
I am not much for insects of any kind â€â€œ maybe butterflies and fuzzy bumblebees if they keep their distance. But the singing of cicadas is certainly a distinct sound of summer. I haven’t heard any in San Francisco! But then again, “summer” has an alternate meaning here (I wore a coat and scarf to work the other day!)
Lovely article about the cicadas. I don’t hear any in the city – they are replaced by the buzz of scooters… Or when I am in the Old Town and walk by a shop that has one of those motion-sensor ceramic ones. But I do like to get out into nature a bit and hear the real ones sometimes.
I remember hearing them for the first time while living in Arizona, they were SO loud. I’m not a fan of insects, so I was happy just to hear them from a distance, but not actually see them! #allaboutfrance
Well I never knew that about June 24, amazing. PS I quite fancy one of those ceramic cicadas #AllAboutFrance
“They live high in the trees…” Yes, our back deck in Sydney is at tree top level due to the slope of the land and when the cicadas sing we cannot sit outside or even have the back door open they are so loud. However, I did learn after our first year of living in Sydney that the cycle is a seven year one, so we have a couple more years of relative peace before the earmuffs must come out again.
Hi Phoebe the sound of the cicadas is “pure summer” to me. Love your photos #AllAboutFrance
What a lovely nostalgic post Phoebe! There aren’t many cicadas in the suburbs of Paris even if I live right beside a bunch of fields but I do remember spending a night in a tent back when I was a teenager and the noise they made was so loud and I was such a city girl that it kept me awake the whole night 😛
Just reading the name of your post gave me goosebumps. I think of cicadas screaming, not singing. Hate the things. One fell down from a tree into a friend’s hair as a kid and it was a nightmare. Let’s leave it at that. They give me the heeby jeebies. But I was happy to read your take on the insects. 😉 Thanks for hosting!
Well, I’m glad you reposted this one! I came in from work near midnight last night and was almost deafened by the noise of the cicadas. And how funny that it is the 24 June. How French! #AllAboutFrance
Likely I have heard cicadas singing before, Phoebe, but ~ born city gal that I am ~ did not recognize the sound. Could it be cicadas are the only insect I haven’t YET seen in New Mexico? Anyway, those ceramic cicadas are so attractive; wouldn’t mind seeing one of [i]those[/i] around our home!
I love the sound of cicadas. To me, nothing says ‘holidays’ more decisively! I never knew you could hear them in Australian cities. #AllAboutFrance
I’m so glad you posted this ‘old’ post. I love cicadas too, and had no idea they came out at exactly the same time each year. I wonder if things have changed since you posted this in 2012, what with the strange weather patterns of recent years? #AllAboutFrance
I too love the sound of cicadas and the merest hint of their call can whisk me off to hot holidays in Crete or Italy. I find them totally hypnotic.
Popping over horribly late to say thank you for linking up with #AnimalTales and apologies for the delay – blame a storm wiping out our Internet!
Luckily ours shut up at night! But even if they carried on I think I’d just sleep through it as it’s just the background noise to summer here.
Thankfully we don’t have them in Dubai but in South Africa they’d keep me awake at night, I’d try my best to to ignore them, but once I heard them I couldn’t switch off from the noise
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never heard of cicadas. But it must be a really cool sound.
Wow! That was a beautiful post,Phoebe! Who knew…
It’s amazing how fine tuned our ecology is, and I’m glad that there are places like where you are where you evidence this so beautifully! I love your Provencal stories…written in such an engaging manner, too!
It’s crazy isn’t it! I heard the first ones for this year today, the 23rd June – early!! ha ha 😮
How amazing to be able to pinpoint it to that an accurate date!
Such an interesting post, I learnt a lot
We called them “lokies” in Australia when I was a child and we took them into our classrooms. Not popular
Thanks Tamara! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Please come back again soon.
Thanks for your comment Delia. Yes the 2nd picture is a real cicada, the other two photos are ceramic souvenirs not wood. You can find them in all the souvenir shops around here.
I have the same feeling about cicadas. They totally conjure up memories of long summer holidays spent exploring in my Toronto suburb. Wonderful post!
Wonderful story Phoebe and I love the photos! The second one is a real cicadas, right? and the other ones are little souvenirs make of wood? They look really cute 🙂
I want a painted cicada, they look so preet and it would go with our cockroach bought in Bangladesh!
Thanks Drahcir. I’m not sure I’m good enough to publish but I do enjoy writing these little blogs.
Thanks for this de bruges, I agree Minuscule is brilliant. I thoroughly recommend it to you all!:)
Not to mention the very rare species here https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1387893132181
Thanks for the interesting article, Phoebe. Cicadas definitely evoke fond memories of summer holidays … lazy summer evenings, relaxed chatting with a bottle of wine. Lou Mesugo here we come!
I really like this one, Phoebe. When you’ve got enough of them you’ll be able to put them together as a lovely up-to-date book on living in Provence.