(Bugs) On The Banks of the Sacramento
September 14, 2010 9:37 AM   Subscribe

What's that bug? In mid- through late-August I heard a bug I hadn't heard before here in Sacramento, CA down by the river. Starting about sundown and going for several hours, insects in sections of tree canopy overhead would let out a single, high-pitched "zhick!"

There were an awful lot of these guys, whatever they were, and collectively they made quite a racket. I noticed them in a section of bike trail a bit off the river poper, maybe few hundred yards and heard them again in a neighborhood somewhat further. We have crickets here, but they'd start off later and end earlier than our mystery insect and their call repeats. The sound wasn't all that different than high-pitched tree frogs, but with a far more metalic edge. Its possible I'd either been ignoring them before or after or were missing their magic window, but I don't seem to have heard them since.
posted by Ogre Lawless to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm betting cicadas since you said "metallic edge." They are loud, ugly bugs.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:10 AM on September 14, 2010

My guess would be Cicada. They are interesting in that their songs vary by regional species. So even if you are familiar with your local variety you might be caught off guard when hearing new types. These are the same insects whose exoskeletons you'll find on papery-barked trees.
posted by Gainesvillain at 10:15 AM on September 14, 2010

Sounds like cicadas to me.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 10:15 AM on September 14, 2010

Cicada, cicada, cicada. Just as an FYI: they are dumber than rocks, fly poorly, and appear to have no sense of self-preservation. The crunch they make is dreadful. Watch where you walk, and be prepared with a tennis racket if they get in your house.
posted by SMPA at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

yup, that's cicada season and the cicada noise. Just a few weeks ago, one of them flew into my face, and hooked its barbed legs into my eyelid to steady itself. I love those guys.
posted by reverend cuttle at 11:35 AM on September 14, 2010

I've always thought of the sound cicadas make as the sound of heat, if that makes any sense. Probably because of the season in which they show up. Pretty much their only redeeming quality is that when they shed their outer layer they leave a completely intact shell.
posted by dead cousin ted at 1:02 PM on September 14, 2010

I'd say cicadas too. I used to live in Davis, and your description of the sound they make resonates in my ears. Very annoying creatures.
posted by Everydayville at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm, suppose it could be cicadas, but I always thought of them as more of a persistent burring sound than individual chirps...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:34 PM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: Well, another trip down there this evening and they are still kicking. There's definately more cicada-y sounding (reeeeeeeeeeeeee) bugs down there (likely including cicadas and something that chik-chiks which may also be a cicada). An interesting data point: these guys seemed strongly attracted to oaks and a couple of other kinds of trees. I'd hoped I'd found a match with the "oak bush cricket", but apparently their call is nearly inaudible and they're located primarily in the northeast.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:58 PM on September 14, 2010

Did you ever figure out what bug this was?

And did you check out this site?
posted by elsietheeel at 9:34 PM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: Back again this year -- seems a bit later than last. Heard them again in the company of someone who purported that they were June bugs (we get the ten-stripe variety) but the interwebs suggest they don't make any sound other than a raspy hiss.

At this point I'm thinking its probably a katydid. Sounds kind of like this though maybe a bit higher pitched. I'll have to listen for their alternating call...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2011

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