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Watch Sir David Attenborough seduce a cicada with the snap of his fingers

How to summon a cicada.

A Brood X cicada molts in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

Over the next several weeks, billions of cicadas will continue rising up from the ground across the eastern United States. As they do, they’ll sprout wings, make a ton of noise, mate, and die within a few weeks. If you live in an area where the Brood X cicadas are expected, you will not mistake their arrival. In addition to littering the ground with exoskeletons, in their frenzied quest for mates, cicadas make a ton of noise.

The females make a clicking noise with a flip of their wings. The males find these clicks to be very sexy. They will immediately divert their attention if they hear a female click nearby. (Most of the cicada noises that you’ll hear come from the males. They make a buzzing noise reminiscent of a lawnmower.)

It turns out humans can summon — and dare I say, seduce — a male cicada by imitating the female cicada clicks. Why might you want to do this? I don’t know! Perhaps it could be helpful in collecting cicadas for a meal. Up to you!

Esteemed nature documentarian and activist Sir David Attenborough demonstrates how to summon one. “I can imitate the female’s wing flip with a snap of my fingers,” Attenborough says in his unmistakably husky voice in this clip from a 2005 BBC program below.

By snapping his fingers, Attenborough draws the cicada toward him, closer and closer. And then the cicada jumps toward Attenborough, to continue the courtship in a more intimate matter.

“The noise is awful,” Attenborough says as the cicada hums sweet nothings into his ear.

Further reading: Brood X and Sir David Attenborough

  • Where billions of cicadas will emerge this spring (and over the next decade), in one map
  • Brood X will leave a mark on forests and birds that will last for years
  • A 2019 interview with Attenborough on the Netflix documentary Our Planet he narrated

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