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The Cicadas Are Coming! (Early)

Entomologists are expecting a small emergence of cicadas in the Cincinnati area this year. Most of the insects from Brood X, the Great Eastern Brood, aren't due until 2021, but Gene Kritsky says climate change has accelerated the life cycle.

Kritsky is dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount Saint Joseph University. He says the Great Eastern Brood last appeared in 2004. But four years before that, there was another early emergence from the brood. Those cicadas, he says, came out in such numbers they overwhelmed the predators, laid, and hatched eggs. Now, scientists are watching to see if those cicadas emerge this year.

Periodical cicadas spend much of their lives underground, emerging every 17 years to mate and produce the next generation. They are grouped into broods based on the calendar year in which they first appeared.

Brood VI is expected this year, and naturally occurs in western North Carolina and northeastern Georgia, Kritsky says, but there was a significant population in 2000 in southwest Ohio and in parts of eight other states. Those cicadas are expected to reappear this year.

"We've never been able to witness a shift in a brood like this, and if this occurs this will be an example of evolution happening right in our own backyards, right here in Cincinnati," Kritsky says.

Kritsky says periodical cicada schedules for all the major broods are accelerating across the eastern United States. "The only phenomena that's occurring that could cause this kind of a shift is increasing temperatures. This is how the cicadas, in part, are responding to the milder winters and the increasing temperatures especially that occur their first four years of life."

Mount St. Joe has a website devoted to cicada information, including where the largest outbreaks are expected.

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