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Does the Song of Dog-Day Cicadas Predict the First Frost?

Insect Folklore

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When you hear the first song of the dog-day cicadas, the first frost is just six weeks away.

When you hear the first song of the dog-day cicadas, the first frost is just six weeks away.

Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

According to folk legend, when you hear the first song of the dog-day cicadas, it means there's just six weeks until frost.

While this may not be a precise predictor, there is some merit to the claim. Dog-day cicadas, as their name implies, appear during the long, hot summer days of July and August.

Unlike their cousins, the periodical cicadas, dog-day cicadas have relatively short life cycles of just 2-5 years. Their emergence is staggered so that some individuals emerge each year; dog-day cicadas also go by the name annual cicadas for this reason.

On hot days late in the summer, you can hear the male dog-day cicadas calling for females from high in the trees. Their song, which is made by vibrating membranes on the abdomen, sounds more like a loud hum or whine than an actual song.

Count forward six weeks from the first time you hear this common summer sound, and you'll have a very rough estimate of when cool, fall weather will arrive.

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