Not many cicadas expected here this spring

(Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Experts are predicting a minimal presence of cicadas in the tri-county area this spring.

After completing a 17-year lifecycle underground, adult periodical cicadas emerge in large numbers to mate for a short period of time.

“They are only around for a month,” said Cecile Stelter, a district forester with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Cicadas are grouped into broods based on geographical location and, according to Dr. Drew Bell, an entomologist from Franklin, brood five is due in 2016 following its 17-year life cycle.

It was last out in 1999, Bell said.

However, Bell said the emergence might not be noticed locally because the brood only covers northeastern Ohio, western Maryland, southwest Pennsylvania, northwestern Virginia and West Virginia.

“I’m not sure how much of that will bleed over,” Bell said. “But that possibility still exists. In reality, cicadas come out every year, it’s just not all of them.”

Cicadas are known for being large and unattractive insects.

Adult periodical cicadas, which can be up to 2 inches long, are black with reddish eyes and orange wing veins.

Cicadas are also identifiable by their unique, high volume chirp.

“They are among some of the loudest insects in the world,” Bell said. “With the combination of the large size, intimidating appearance and the extremely loud sound, people can become very frightened of them.”

Despite some people’s fears, cicadas are not really threats to humans, Bell said, but they can be considered a minor agricultural pest.

Most damage done by periodical cicadas result from the slitting of twigs when laying their eggs on trees. Leaves on the twig will often times turn brown or break, resulting in flagging, which generally has little effect on the tree.

However, such damage can lead to secondary infections.

Stelter said the slight damage to trees is not as significant as one might think because it does not happen to the same tree over and over again.

“It will affect that year’s growth, but it’s not a permanent damage situation,” Stelter said. “It’s a cycle.”

The trigger for the emergence of cicadas is temperature.

“The broods always emerge in the spring and they typically do it when the temperature of the soil is 64 degrees,” Stelter said.

Stelter said it is difficult to pinpoint when this year’s brood will emerge, but she guessed it could be later this month or into June.

Occasional cold temperatures in the morning have not allowed the soil temperature to reach the threshold and therefore, the cicadas have remained underground.

Once warm weather becomes consistent, that trend will change, Stelter said.