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Cicada invasion ending but eggs will hatch soon

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 3:38 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The adult cicadas are dying off, but soon the eggs will begin to hatch, and the tiny babies will go back into the ground for 17 years.

“We are in the death throes of the adults right now,” explains Dr. Gene Kritsky. “The cicadas are dying in big numbers. I think I was looking around the woods here today I could probably find half a dozen adults.”

Brood X began to emerge around the middle of May, and the adults should be almost completely gone by the end of this month.

Even though the cooler and wetter weather delayed or slowed some of the insects from coming out of the ground, and there was that strange fungus on some of the male cicadas, everything else was as predicted.

“This has been a textbook periodical cicada year, and there’s something comforting about that,” Kritsky adds. “We don’t know when the pandemic’s gonna end. When will we be back to normal, but the cicadas did what we thought they would do? Science got this one right.”

While the adults are dying, the next generation of cicadas is about to be born.

“What we need to watch out for next is flagging, and that’s the evidence of the female egg-laying and what you’re going to see is the ends of tree branches turning brown,” Kritsky says. “In some cases, they will break and sort of dangle, that’s why we call it flagging.”

Those eggs will hatch in mid to late July, but they will be so tiny - 3mm - that it will look like dust falling.

Those babies will scurry into the ground fast because ants, spiders, and beetles will feed off them.

Once they burrow under the tree, they will feed off of the tree root (about 8-12″ down) until 2038 when they are ready to emerge.

If you did not see a lot of cicadas with this emergence, another bug, the emerald ash borer, could be to blame.

“Other areas did report fewer, and that’s not surprising,” Kritsky explains. “We’ve lost a lot of ash trees, and if that ash tree died several years ago, all of the cicadas feeding on that tree would die with it.”

You can also blame deforestation, tree removal or replacement, and new construction.

Kritsky says the app he developed with Mount St. Joseph University, Cicada Safari, went worldwide during the emergence and received more than half a million photos and almost 200,000 downloads.

The app performed so well that it opened the door for grants and future app development for Mount St. Joseph University.

“In 2004 [the last Brood X emergence], we didn’t have the iPhone yet,” Kritsky says. “We couldn’t even envision it yet. And so, it changed how we do citizen science with cicadas in particular.”

Brood X will not be back until 2038, but you only have to wait four years for Brood XIV.

“I’ve had people e-mailing me saying, ‘we didn’t get any at all,’ well, just you wait,” Kritsky explains. “They’ll be here in 2025.”

If you cannot wait that long, you can travel to Illinois in 2024. Brood XIII and Brood XIX will both emerge that year.

That is a once in 221-year event.

If you had netting on your young trees to protect them from the cicadas, you can remove that now.

As always, you can follow along with the latest cicada emergence using the Cicada Safari App.

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