During my time in Thailand, back in 2009, I recorded quite a number of cicada choruses on different occasions with many variations in pitch, timbre and rhythm. All of the recordings that I will present during this post were taken at the Khao Sok National Park, located in the Surat Thani province of Thailand over the space of a few days. Although the national park covers an area of 739 square kilometres, these were all recoded within an area of about 5 square kilometres.
The following recording was made during a trek through the dense jungle. As we were trekking with a group, I decided to stop and let the others go on ahead in order to record the soundscape. The feeling of being entirely surrounded by cicadas was quite impressive. At this location, the cicadas sounded exactly like those I had experienced in Japan back in 2001. It was the first time I had heard this type of cicada call since Japan.
A bit later on during the jungle trek, we passed through a very hot and humid area of jungle where the collective soundscape coming from the cicadas was much more intense. There must have been hundreds of cicadas in an area no bigger than a tennis court.
What was really interesting about the noise they were making here was the rhythmic pattern changes. The recording starts off as a continuous sound with little variation but towards the end of the recording (0.42 secs) all the cicadas synchronously change to a different modulating pattern. This only lasts for a few seconds before one of them leads the change back to a continuous non-rhythmic sound again. I find it fascinating to see how they naturally follow one another and in doing so, create a very intense collective sound.
Early one morning, we set off on a boat safari across the immense lake at the heart of the national park. We were essentially looking for wildlife such as gibbons, tapirs and hornbills but we were, of course, blessed with more cicada songs. The following recording was taken from the boat and the cicadas were quite a way off. As a result, my pre-amps were kind of pumping so there’s a bit of noise in the recording. But the cicadas were making a crazy sound. It wouldn’t sound out of place in a horror film!
The last Thai cicada recording I’ll present was also made at Khao Sok, this time back in the jungle. This was a bit more typical to the type of sounds we heard coming from the cicada. What really impresses me is the intensity when hundreds of cicadas sing together. It becomes very high-pitched and can become almost unbearable if you stay for too long.
Whilst I was looking on the Khao Sok National Park website, I stumbled across some interesting facts about cicadas.
– There are over 2500 species of Cicada in the world.
– Cicadas live in temperate to tropical climates.
– It is only the male of the species that sings, in an effort to attract a mate.
– The noise is created by ‘timbals’ which are membranes specifically there to make a clicking noise.
– The noise is not created in the same way as locusts or grasshoppers, which rub their legs against their bodies.
– At close range the volume of the cicada’s call can be up to 120dB, similar to the volume of a car horn, or an aircraft taking off.
– The cicada lives most of its life in the soil as a wingless insect.
– Some cicada species can live under the ground for 17 years.
– When it leaves the soil, it climbs into the trees and transforms into a bi-winged insect.
– It only lives for a few days/weeks (depending on the species) as an adult insect.
– The cicada dies shortly after mating.
– Females lay 400 to 600 eggs in as many as 40 to 50 different nests before they die.