That Wonderful Time of the Year (for Cicada Citizen Science)

For the last few weeks, I’ve been eagerly scanning my Twitter feed for updates about the emergence of this year’s broods of periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.), those charismatic red-eyed, orange-winged beauties that emerge triumphantly in late spring after 13 or 17 long years spent underground.

Nearly every year, there’s a different population of periodical cicadas (known as broods) emerging in a different part of the eastern US. In 2013, we witnessed Brood II, a population of 17-year cicadas emerging in a long band from Georgia north to Connecticut. Cicadamania swept the East Coast last summer, and even inspired us to launch Urban Buzz, a new citizen science project documenting the effects of urbanization on cicada populations.

The broods emerging in 2014 are smaller and more geographically isolated than Brood II. Brood XXII, the Baton Rouge Brood of 13-year cicadas, has started to emerge in the lower Mississippi Valley, between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi. The 17-year cicadas belonging to Brood III, known as the Iowan Brood, will soon emerge throughout large portions of Iowa and northwestern Illinois.

Last year, I was lucky to live within short driving distance of Brood II in North Carolina. I took several “cicada safaris,” dragging my husband and lab mates to wander the neighborhoods and parks of Greensboro, reveling in the cicada choruses…. and collecting data for a couple citizen science projects (more on those below!)

Alas, Iowa and Louisiana seem a little too far to drive solely for a cicada citizen science safari so I resigned myself to experiencing the emergence of Broods III and XXII vicariously via my Twitter feed and the reports filed on Magicicada.org and the Cicada Mania blog.

Thus, you can imagine my surprise (and DELIGHT!) when I saw this local newspaper headline while visiting my family in Cincinnati mid-May:

New cicada brood coming soon, scientists say

BINGO!

Turns out two cicada researchers, Gene Kritsky and Roy Trautman, discovered a new brood of 13-year cicadas living in southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky, just east of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. This special population of periodical cicadas, the only 13-year brood found in Ohio, had previously gone unrecognized over the last hundred years since their emergence overlapped with larger, better-known broods of 17-year cicadas.

I couldn’t be SO CLOSE and NOT go on a cicada safari so I headed out to the Crooked Run Nature Preserve in Clermont County (armed with helpful directions from Dr. Kritsky). Here’s a short video of my adventures:

As I walked the trails of this floodplain forest, I saw lots of evidence that the full-on emergence was coming soon; in several places, the forest floor was dotted with nickel-sized holes, many surrounded by little mud chimneys (see header photo above). Several weeks prior to my visit, the cicada nymphs (the juvenile stage) excavated tunnels to the ground surface, making their first contact with life aboveground in 13 years. The nymphs sit and wait in those exit tunnels until the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately, Cincinnati had a cold snap while I was in town. This meant that evening temperatures dipped into the 30s and were too chilly for the cicadas to crawl out of their holes and up onto nearby trees to shed their exoskeletons. I saw no evidence of any adults or their emergence.

SO close! I left Crooked Run a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to revel in a chorus of adult periodical cicadas, yet at the same time pleasantly satisfied with the knowledge that they would be emerging soon… and that I’d have the opportunity to tell you about it.

2014 BroodsIf you live near Brood III, XXII or the new 13-year brood in eastern Cincinnati, please consider participating in some cicada citizen science:

And of course, since I’ll be living vicariously through all of you living in cicada emergence zones this summer, do share some pictures (or video!) via Facebook or Twitter (@YourWild_Life)!

 

By |2016-11-22T13:47:05-05:00May 26th, 2014|

About the Author:

Holly Menninger
As Director of Public Science, Holly coordinates our empire of citizen science projects and manages the online science communication here at Your Wild Life. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice.

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