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These scary-looking insects love to sing

For kids: In the Midwest, this is supposed to be a big year for cicadas, or 17-year locusts as they're sometimes called.

You know it is summer when these insects begin to sing in loud, creaky tones. Only the males sing – and sometimes in deafening chorus.

They sing all summer long. It turns out that the guys aren't singing for the enjoyment of human listeners, though. They sing and wait for a signal, a flick or wing movement from the females.

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When a male sees a response to his song, he stops singing in the chorus. He moves closer to the female and sings just to her. She flicks her wings. Then the male sings his special courtship song.

Finding the "fan" who admired his song is an amazing feat for the male. Imagine a schoolyard before the morning bell. It is filled with kids doing all kinds of things. They shout, scream, run, throw balls, or play. And one kid sneezes. Can we tell who sneezed?

There are more of these insects than there are kids in school. There are tens of thousands more of them in an area the size of a football field! Yet these males insects can find the ones who admired their song.

Can you guess which insect we are talking about?

Solve the riddle to find out:

It comes thrice in Connecticut, but not once in New England.

It comes once in ice, but not in cone.

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It comes twice in copycat, but not in Xerox.

It comes thrice in aardvark, but not in mice.

It comes once in day, but not in night.

It comes once in art, but not in cut.

Answer: Cicada!

There are many species of cicada, but in North America they can generally be divided into those that appear every summer (annual), and those that emerge only once in 12 to 17 years. They're kind of scary-looking but are harmless.

In many areas, especially the midwestern part of the United States, this is supposed to be a big summer for cicadas. Watch out for them where you live!

Visit these websites to discover more information about cicadas:

• See if cicadas will be in your neighborhood: www.cicadamania.com/cicadas

• Types of cicadas: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/michigan_cicadas/Periodical/Index.html

• Cicada Hunt: http://saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt


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