Car alarm or cicada? NC residents mistake cicadas for sirens, call the police

Cicadas can sound a lot like sirens or car alarms, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office is reminding citizens.

A Facebook post read, “Do you hear that humming that sounds like alarms going off in the distance? Don’t worry, it’s just our friends the cicadas.”

The sheriff’s office and other local law enforcement have responded to multiple calls in May about “alarms” that are just singing cicadas. WRAL News has also received several emails from surprised or concerned viewers who hear the noise in their neighborhoods.

The noise is extra loud this year because a record number of cicadas are emerging from underground. Two different broods will surface simultaneously this spring — one that appears every 13 years, and another every 17 years, according to CNN, which reports such a “cicada-geddon” won’t happen again until 2245.

Once the cicadas emerge, they shed their hard outer skeletons, spread their wings and congregate in trees, where male cicadas “sing” and buzz to attract mates.

The cicadas are expected to spend four to six weeks in a noisy chorus of eating, mating and egg laying, which means we could hear their sound into June.

“It’s going to be defeaning for about a month,” said North Carolina State University entomologist Clyde Sorensen.

Experts say, this year, there could be 1 million cicadas per acre in parts of the Triangle.

“Just swept hundreds of cicadas-dead and alive-off the back steps/patios,” one WRAL viewer from Henderson wrote. “I’m sure they will be back, but couldn’t look at them any more! They are loud out there today!”

Another viewer estimated she had “thousands” of cicadas in her yard, and WRAL News obtained video of chirping cicadas in a Wake County neighborhood.

If you think you hear sirens, it’s still okay to call for help, the sheriff’s office advises.

“We don’t mind responding to your concerns,” the Durham County Sheriff’s Office wrote. “It’s just awkward for the cicadas when we have to question them … if you see (or hear) something suspicious, don’t hesitate to call us. The cicadas don’t seem to be offended.”

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