Police Asking SC Residents to Stop Calling 911 Over Mysterious ‘Loud Noises’

News & Politics

“Cicadageddon,” “Cicadsamania, “Cicadadoomsday.” No matter what you call it, it’s here.

“We have had several calls about a noise in the air that sounds like a siren, or a whine, or a roar. The sound is cicadas. Cicadas are a super family of insects that appear each spring. The nymphs have lived underground for 13-17 years and now this time they are hatching. Although to some, the noise is annoying, they pose no danger to humans or pets. Unfortunately, it is the sounds of nature,” a notice on the Newberry Country South Carolina Sheriff’s Office Facebook page said.


“Literally in somebody’s yard there’s thousands and thousands of them all singing to attract a mate at the same time,” said University of North Georgia biology professor Evan Lampert. The professor notes that “the noise they generate can reach 107 decibels. That’s about the same intensity as a lawn mower.”

“It’s deafening. Whether you’re in the yard, on the deck — upper or lower — you just have to scream above them,” Georgia resident Robin Howells told Channel 2 local news.

OK, so we get it. It’s gonna be loud. But why are people calling 911?

“It’s very possible for somebody to mistake it for a fire alarm or a house alarm going off,” Jammie Murphy with the UGA Extension Service said.

For comparison purposes, here’s what 110 decibels (dB) sounds like.

  • Steel mill, auto horn at 1 meter (110 dB)
  • Turbo-fan aircraft at takeoff power at 200 ft (118 dB)
  • Riveting machine (110 dB)
  • Live rock music (108 – 114 dB)        
  • Average human pain threshold is 110 dB


When small holes that can resemble tiny chimneys appear in the ground near tree roots, it’s a signal periodical cicadas will soon emerge from their underground lair.

Once the soil hits the right temperature, around 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 degrees Celsius), cicada babies, called nymphs, begin to burst forth.

As soon as they’re above ground, the bugs make a beeline for a vertical surface — typically a tree trunk, but it could be a fence. There they shed their hard outer skeletons and spread their wings for the first time before spending four to six weeks in a noisy frenzy of eating, mating and egg laying.

The most obvious sign of their arrival is the distinctive sound they make — a droning buzz. The bugs congregate in trees, and the male cicadas form a cacophonous chorus of thousands to attract mates.


Be prepared. And you might want to get a new pair of earplugs.

“When they say it’s as loud as a lawn mower, it is as loud as a lawn mower,” said Paula Shrewsbury, a professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland.

“We live near an airport, and when the planes are flying over…cicadas crank up their sound level, it’s like they’re competing with the airplanes for sound,” Shrewsbury added.

Just for the record, cicadas are reportedly very tasty. Dogs love them, and you can bet those global elites who want us to eat bugs are paying very close attention.

Cicadas provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for many animals, including pets. Lill said he once had to take his dog to the vet after it gorged itself on cicadas, but the bugs — which are said to have a sweet, nutlike flavor— are not innately harmful when eaten by pets or humans.

(Some advice for the gastronomically adventurous from the US Food and Drug Administration: Humans with seafood allergies should avoid eating cicadas, which are distantly related to shrimp and lobsters.)

I’ll wait until my freeze-dried mac and cheese runs out before I dig into cicada pie.

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