Cicada expert says emergence of this year's cicadas likely linked to climate change

A Cicada In The Tri-State

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - "We've had reports from White Oak. We've had reports from Hamilton, Madeira, Indian Hill, Anderson, Mt. Washington, and Middletown," said Gene Kritsky, Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mt. St. Joseph University.

The bugs the Tri-State loves to hate are coming back to the Tri-State, and cicada expert Dr. Gene Kritsky says the emergence of cicadas are on an accelerated schedule.

Dr. Kritsky said, "In 1991, we found that cicadas were growing than expected, which meant they should come out in the year 2000. This is the year that the 17-year cicadas that came out early in the year 2000; this should be their year. It's quite probable that they will be joined by other Brood X cicadas - and those cicadas expected in 4 years - will come out simultaneously."

Cicadas know when to emerge because they can detect the fluid flow in trees. Dr. Kritsky know this from experimental evidence, but also from a January thaw 10 years ago.

"In January of 2007, we got so warm that some trees actually leafed out in January. In parts of Loveland, 17-year cicadas from Brood XIV that were expected in 2008, they emerged a year early," explained Dr. Kritsky.

Dr. Kritsky has found that cicadas emerge when the soil temperature gets to 65°, which is driven by the air temperature. He's seeing a connection between warmer starts to years and cicada emergences.

"If you look at the day of the first emergence of periodical cicadas before 1950, that was always around the 29th of May. Now they are coming out between the 15th and 18th of May," said Kritsky.

While Dr. Kritsky reminds us that these accelerations are likely connected to a changing climate, they don't indicate whether this change is human caused or cyclical. There is, however, increasing evidence that these accelerations aren't just a local trend or connected to certain trees.

"This is a continental phenomenon. Whatever is happening, whatever is triggering this is over the eastern half of the United States. That rules out local events. It also rules out things where people have suggested the dieoff of the ash tree because we've got cicadas that are emerging under trees that aren't ashes."

Dr. Kritsky also believes that this continental phenomenon is influencing the emergence of all cicada broods.

"Brood III emerged early, Brood V emerged early. We know that were are seeing an early emergence of Brood X. We know that Brood XIII emerged early, and we know that Brood XIV emerged early.

With the accelerations considered and the caveat that there is much to learn about this year's cicadas, Dr. Kritsky has a cicada outlook for the next several years.

"We'll see some cicadas this year, we're going to see a lot of cicadas in 2021, and then we'll see a significant number of cicadas - but not as much, particularly on the east side of town - in 2025."

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