INDIANA — In just a few weeks billions of cicadas will emerge from underground with heavy concentrations throughout Indiana. When looking at a Cicada Brood Map, while most of Indiana is yellow for being known to be inhabited by Brood X, also known as the “great eastern brood”, Newton and Jasper counties are in gray.
While the two counties are not included in the Brood X map, that doesn’t mean they won’t be here, according to Cliff Sadof, an entomology professor at Purdue University.
“The huge factor for Brood X is the number of trees in an area,” Sadof stated. “The maps are fairly accurate, but I still expect there to be some dense areas of cicadas in Newton and Jasper counties. It won’t be to the same extent as central and southern Indiana, but you should still hear them.”
Sadof also added that the areas where cicadas are most likely to be found in Newton and Jasper counties are along the Kankakee River and at the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area.
“If there was a substantial number of trees in an area in Newton and Jasper counties 17 years ago, the chances of cicadas emerging are higher,” Sadof added.
Starting in late April or early May, the Brood X cicadas will emerge, after 17 years underground. This group of cicadas is among the geographically largest of all 17-year periodical cicadas, as they will bubble up out of the ground, by as much as 2 million per acre in a dozen states from New York west to Illinois and south into northern Georgia, including hot spots in Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
The cicadas will emerge from the ground when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees.
“When the irises start to bloom is a pretty good marker of when the cicadas will start emerging,” said Sadof. “After spending their first 17 years of life feeding underground they will come up eat and mate. It will be a big party for them for about a month to six weeks.”
The vast number of cicadas that emerge at once is part of its survival strategy as it gives them the best chance of successfully finding a mate and producing young before they are eaten by predators or expire naturally.
Male cicadas will emerge first, followed by females a few days later. Once they leave the ground, the cicadas will shed their shells and develop wings, allowing them to fly around and locate fresh hardwood trees and shrubs. There, they will mate and lay eggs at the end of branches. Newly hatched cicadas will then chew through the branch tips, causing them to fall off, carrying the young insects back down to the soil where they will spend the next 17 years. Brood X will next emerge in 2038.
While the vast number of cicadas coming is alarming, do not fear the big black and orange insects, they are not a threat to you or your pets’ health, according to experts.
“They don’t have toxins or stingers and can’t even bite, Sadof said. “They really can’t do anything but buzz a little bit and try to fly away. But they’re not even good flyers. Mature trees will survive the damage quite well so there is no reason to spray them. Newly planted trees (3-5 years) may suffer more damage so we recommend netting those trees with a fine mesh for the time the cicadas are out.”
Sadof did add that orchards and fruit trees can suffer major damage and there are certain insecticides people can use for that.
“That would be the only cause to spray for cicadas,” said Sadof.
One area to be on the lookout for are the large Cicada Killer Wasps who will be out in abundance following a 17-year cicada brood emergence.
These wasps can grow up to two inches long. They typically emerge in summer, beginning around late June or early July.
“The Cicada Killer Wasps are large with shiny wings and are black with a yellow stripe,” added Sadof. “Don’t confuse them with the ‘Murder Hornets’ they are still on the West Coast.”
Researchers are asking for the public’s help in tracking this 17-year emergence of the Cicada Brood X. Free apps like Cicada Safari allow users to upload pictures of cicadas in their neighborhood, creating a mapping project that can help biologists pinpoint where the insects are – and where they’re likely to emerge when the party kicks off again in 2038.
Purdue has several programs scheduled to help inform and track this year’s emergence. A cicada-themed BioBlitz will take place from May 1st-9th. A BioBlitz is a program with the aim of collecting records of as many organisms as possible in a short period of time. Usually, these take place over a day or weekend in a specific place.
“Since we can’t get people together in a specific location, we thought we’d organize people to do a BioBlitz in their favorite spot with cicadas anywhere in Indiana, photograph as many plants or animals as they can find, and add them to our Cicada Fest Project,” stated Elizabeth Barnes, Ph.D, Exotic Forest Pest Educator at Purdue. “This will contribute to larger biodiversity data and help us better track where 17-year cicadas can be found in Indiana.”