WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – The return of billions of red-eyed, winged insects to much of the midwest and eastern U.S. this spring is generating plenty of buzz. The Brood X cicadas’ re-emergence after 17 years has been slightly delayed by unseasonably cool temperatures.
“We need a few more stretches of warmer days for the soil to warm up, but they should start to come out soon,” explained Jill Snyder, the assistant manager of education and interpretation at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.
Snyder said the soil needs to be a consistent 64 degrees fahrenheit before the insects will emerge from small holes at the base of older trees. When they do, you’ll hear them.
“I remember running around with my friends here in Westerville and there were areas where you could barely have a conversation,” recalled Ryan McCullen, who was a high school student when Brood X last made an appearance in Central Ohio.
Snyder said, “When you came to a park like Sharon Woods, where we have an old, established forest, then the cicadas were everywhere. I thought it was fascinating.”
The insects made a notable appearance at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in 2004. At their peak, the swarms of mating cicadas can be as loud as a passing motorcycle, but they’re harmless.
“These guys don’t have any stingers, they don’t have mouth parts that bite. There’s nothing to really worry about, other than they’re a little strange to see flying around,” Snyder explained.
She added the cicadas can actually provide several benefits for the local flora and fauna.
“They’re great for a food source for wildlife, but they also help out. They manage to aerate the soil, those little tunnels will help,” she said. “The insects are good for going out and fishing. So even if you don’t use the cicadas themselves, you can use flies that look like them and the fish will certainly be biting this spring.”
Snyder estimates the cicadas will emerge before Memorial Day. They’ll dig their way out of the ground, feed on tree roots, mate and lay eggs on the branches of the nearby trees. The insects will likely be around for 3 weeks before the brood dies off. The larvae will fall off the trees, burrow into the soil and start the 17-year process back over.
“They sit under the ground for 17 years and they want to make sure everything is just right before they come out of the ground,” Snyder said.
A few outliers are already experimenting with emerging from their holes. A handful have already been spotted at Highbanks Metro Park. The cicadas make trial runs up and down their tunnels before appearing in numbers when the ground warms up.