Cicada brood set to emerge

Published 12:04 am Sunday, May 1, 2016

They’re coming.

After developing underground for the past 17 years, a brood of cicadas is set to emerge throughout eastern Ohio.

The periodic insects were last seen in the Tri-State in 1999, when the last brood laid their eggs. Those newly-hatched nymphs then spent the bulk of their lives under the soil, growing to adulthood.

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Brad Bergefurd, an agriculture and natural resources educator for Ohio University Southern’s extension office in Scioto County, said Lawrence and Scioto counties are on the western edge of the region to be affected.

“We’ll probably see that emergence on the eastern side of Scioto and Lawrence counties,” he said. “Though they can fly around.”

Bergefurd said the insects are expected to emerge between May and July.

Once the nymphs reach the surface, they will molt and leave behind a shell. The abandoned exoskeletons can usually be found on trees, plants and buildings.

The adults live about 2-4 weeks, as they lay another batch of eggs, Bergefurd said.

“Then they’re done,” he said. “The eggs take about 6-10 weeks to hatch.”

He said the adult insects can injure plants like perennials, shrubs and fruit trees.

“The adult female will make a series of slits, and lay eggs into those slits,” he said. “Young apple trees, peach trees, blueberries, rasberries, grapes are more prone to damage.”

Bergefurd said the damage can take the form of terminal leaf cluster dying and leaves wilting and flagging.

“They will not outright kill trees,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen that happen.”

He said the insects are more of a “nuisance pest” to humans.

“Because they’re so big and the males make that loud mating call,” he said, referring to the distinctive clicking sound made by a noisemaker called a tymbal that the insects have.

To braver folks, cicadas can be considered good eating. The insects are high in protein, with health benefits similar to shellfish. While mostly consumed in China, there are restaurants and chefs in the U.S. who specialize in dishes made from them. However, those with an allergic reaction to shrimp and shellfish should avoid them.

Cicadas go through 13- or 17-year life cycles, depending on the species and their geographic location.

This particular batch, known as Brood V, will emerge in western Maryland, eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania, northwestern Virginia and the majority of West Virginia. The newly hatched nymphs left behind will then go underground, and won’t emerge again until 2033.