Cool weather may delay widespread cicada emergence


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A few cicadas have been spotted in central and southern Ohio the past few days, but we may have a little time before the large black and orange insects, with sparkling red eyes and clear wings, come out in full force.

An extended period of cool weather will likely delay the widespread emergence of billions of periodical cicadas until around or shortly after May 15. Cool, moist soil conditions will persist for at least another week, a reflection of a chilly northwesterly flow from Canada in the atmosphere.

The cicadas are predicted to come out of the ground once soil temperatures warm to around 64 degrees. David Shetlar, an Ohio State University entomologist, sampled soil temperatures in Prairie Oaks Metro Park Thursday, and confirmed that soil temperatures well below the ground (about 6 to 8 inches) were still in the 50s. At these levels, cicada nymphs (immature form) remain quiescent.

Brood X, last seen in 2004, are expected to put on a noisy display for about a month after appearing in wooded areas. The noise was quite audible during the Memorial Tournament that year around Muirfield Village in Dublin, the year Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour golf tournament.

The three-week cicada mating season will culminate with females laying eggs and then dying. The eggs will hatch in July, and the nymphs will depart tree branches and head underground for another 17 years.

Early emerging cicada from an underground tunnel at Highbanks Metro Park. (Chrissy Hoff)

In 2016, Brood V made a racket in late spring for several weeks in eastern Ohio. “We call it chorusing. It’s one of the strategies they have in order to discourage birds and other animals,” said Shetlar. The clatter can be annoying at best, particularly loud in areas with lots of trees.

“There are 12 existing 17-year broods (in northeastern North America) and three 13-year broods (mainly in the southern states). Ohio has five broods that can emerge in various locations of the state.”

Cicadas do not bite and are good for the soil by providing aeration, exiting small mounds built atop underground tunnels. Plants thrive when the insects decompose.

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