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Cicadas coming to a town near you? There’s an app for that 
 
By Celeste Baumgartner
Ohio Correspondent

CINCINNATI, Ohio – Brood X, the largest periodical cicada brood, is coming soon to a neighborhood near many of us. And guess what? There’s an app for that. Mount St. Joseph University (MSJ) has developed Cicada Safari. You can download it for free and take part in helping scientists map when and where periodical cicadas emerge.
“Cicada Safari was developed … to help us map out the distribution of periodical cicada broods,” said Dr. Gene Kritsky, MSJ’s dean of behavioral and natural sciences, a professor in the Department of Biology, and a leading periodical cicada researcher. “It’s been used twice already, with brood VIII and IX. This year is potentially the Super Bowl; Brood X is the largest of all the 17-year cicada broods and it occurs over at least parts of 15 states.”
To join in the citizen-science fun, download the free app from the Apple app store or Google play, then go on a safari to find periodical cicadas, Kritsky said. Photograph and submit the photos or videos to Cicada Safari, and after the photos are verified, they will be posted to the live map. The website, cicadasafari.org, has activities for kids.
Kritsky encouraged farmers and their kids to download Cicada Safari. He was curious about remnants of tree lines along the edges of properties, are the cicadas still there?
“It would be great to know that,” he said. “If they hear a cicada they can take a 10-second video, submit the video and we can hear the calls and verify cicadas that way. When they see a cicada all they have to do is photograph it and submit it to us.”
Last year participants sent just under 8,000 photos and videos of Brood IX when it emerged. “We made a major discovery last year with the app,” Kritsky said. “Not only did Brood IX appear when it was supposed to but four other cicadas emerged off-cycle last year when they weren’t supposed to.”
Why is mapping cicada broods important? Because they may be in decline. Brood X was first reported in 1715, and because it emerges in many metropolitan areas, scientists have been studying them going back into the 1700s. In the 1890s there was already a concern that clear-cutting for agriculture and urban development was going to have an impact on periodical cicada numbers.
In 1919, a Brood X year, a headline in a nationwide USDA newsletter said the 17-year locust is going to be extinct in time, Kritsky said.
Brood XI was reported in 1699 and confirmed in 1716 and 1733. It went extinct in 1954, Kritsky said. Brood VII remains in only a couple of counties in upstate New York. Indiana has seen a decline in Brood X numbers as has northwestern Ohio.
“The periodical cicadas, when they do emerge, are quite beneficial to the ecosystem,” Kritsky said. “They are wonderfully adapted insects to the Eastern deciduous forests. When they emerge the holes they make in the ground provide natural aeration for the soil. When the adults come out and start flying they are a food source for all sorts of opportunistic predators.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has reported that in years when periodical cicadas emerged that male turkeys taken during hunting season had a larger body weight, he said.
“In 1869 in the newspaper called American Entomologists, an article titled ‘Out of evil cometh good,’ it was noted that in 1869 orchardists in Illinois and Missouri were reporting a bigger yield that year,” Kritsky said. “Part of the reason was in1868 there was a massive emergence of periodical cicadas. When the females lay their eggs on the new growth branches of grown trees, that’s like a natural pruning.”
The following year the flower-set and fruit-set were greater. One other cicada benefit Kritsky noted is that when the cicadas die, the bodies and carcasses collect at the base of trees. When they decay those nutrients go back in the soil under the trees where they laid their eggs and are available to sustain those trees on which the cicadas are feeding.
Also, one can always try cicadas for dinner. Kritsky has. It tasted like cold, canned asparagus, he said. 
“We’re living in a time of COVID,” Kritsky said. “We’re not sure when the pandemic is going to end. But there is comfort in knowing that cicadas are coming in May. That is one certainty in our life.”
For information visit cicadasafari.org or check out Kritsky’s recently published book, Periodical Cicadas, the Brood X Edition.

3/29/2021