17-year cicadas echo throughout Columbiana County

The 17-year cicadas hope that their song will attract the attention of able-bodied females to mate, but those with human ears, most are less than impressed.

Magicicadas have emerged again with the dreams of reproducing; however, some of that is dashed. The Massophora fungus can fill their abdomens and destroy their ability to reproduce, causing their entire abdomen to fall out. The cicadas actually spread the fungus throughout their local colony via mating in some kind of insect version of a venereal disease.

Although cicadas often land on you using a power tool or lawn mower, Shawn Rybaczenko, superintendent of Thompson Park, said even though they may be a bit annoying, workers haven’t changed any of the maintenance schedule to deal with it. “They really don’t bother us,” he explained even though animals enjoy eating them. “Last week, they were 10 times as noisy. We couldn’t even have a conversation. We usually sweep them off and keep moving.”

Cicadas get confused by the equipment sound and will land on the user. Many people elect to do mowing in the early morning or near dusk when the cicadas are less active.

Recently, East Liverpool Mayor Ryan Stovall posted a photo on social media that shows his cicada stowaway, while performing a marriage at Thompson Park. It is typical with cicadas to hang around objects, often landing (and dying) there, but usually they are not welcome and are shooed on their way, Rybaczenko said. However, many do find their way to Thompson to catch the insects as they apparently are great fishing bait.

But oh, the smell that one finds when walking through Thompson Park and glances near a tree, where one finds myriads of corpses positioned at the base of a tree, where they feed until death. “The smell is horrible,” he added.

Gene Kritsky, dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, recently addressed a crowd in Austintown regarding cicadas, which typically live around six weeks. Typically, they eat, mate and die. “It’s like a big cicada singles bar,” Kritsky said. “If they’re not successful in a few moments, they’ll fly to the next ‘bar’ and try again.”

Cicadas use slender, straw-like mouths to drink the tree fluids and the chirping sound they make are the males calling the females.

“That cicada sound: Only male cicadas make the sound they’re famous for. Males have organs on their abdomen called tymbals. Muscles pop the tymbals in and out, which creates the sound we hear,” Yitzi Weiner wrote on a site posted online. “Males make different calls for different reasons, and each species has a unique sound. Females can make sound too; they flick their wings to respond to males.”

Many arborists are concerned about the cicada insatiable appetite, which can often damage young trees. When one drives through Thompson Park, one notices red netting enveloping some of the young trees. Other suggested ways to protect the trees include hosing the trees off with water (cicadas hate water), placing insect barrier tape around the trunks or just picking them off. As Weiner explained, “Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots and trimming weak and damaged limbs.”

Adult cicada are sucking insects about 1 1/2 inches long, with black bodies, reddish-orange eyes and legs and clear wings with orange veins. Despite their nickname, they are not locusts. Periodic cicadas emerge in specific locations, or broods, across the country every 17 years in the northern part of their range and every 13 years in the southern part.

It is thought that cicadas know when to all emerge at once due to ground temperature.

“When the ground temperature at a depth of 8 inches (20 centimeters) reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the nymphs know it is time to come out, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some think that other factors, such as changes in tree’s root fluid, may also signal nymphs to emerge,” an article on livescience.com reads. “Once top side, the nymphs grow wings and appear white. As their exoskeleton hardens they become darker. The hardening can take four to six days, according to the University of Michigan. Once they are fully hardened, they are mature and ready to mate. The females lay around 20 eggs at a time in slits they cut in tree branches. The eggs hatch within six to 10 weeks.”

Usually by mid-July, their jobs done, they have all disappeared. “Their short adult lives have one purpose: reproduction,” explained one area resident.