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July 17, 2014

A Week of Mapping the Mysterious Ohio Kentucky Brood

Update: After emailing with Dave Marshall and John Cooley today (July, 17th), I learned that the ‘decim cicadas in this brood are Magicicada tredecim (not neotredecim), based on their lower-pitched sound and very-orange abdomens! This means that this brood is not related to Brood XIV or X at all, that these cicadas are truly 13-year cicadas, they might be related to Brood XXII and perhaps were once part of the same larger brood thousands of years ago.

Read on:

Back in 2013 Roy Troutman and his wife Michelle visited me in New Jersey to experience the Brood II cicada emergence. At that time, Roy extended an invitation to visit Ohio in 2014 to experience & map a mysterious brood that emerges every thirteen years near his family campsite. A year later, I took him up on his offer.

Magicicada tredecim Ohio 2014 caught by Roy Troutman
A very orange M. tredecim found by Roy in Ohio.

On June 1st I made the long drive from the Jersey Shore to south-west Ohio. The trip went smoothly, thanks to a well maintained car, a flash drive filled with 37 Gig of music, Red Bull, Monster Energy Drinks, some M&M candies and a tank and a half of gas. Sunday night I met Roy at his family home. After a quick dinner, we immediately went looking for cicadas in Point Pleasant, Ohio. Most of the cicadas had emerged from the ground a week or two ago, but we were able to find a few newly emerged specimens:

The following morning we visited the Crooked Run-Robert J. Paul Memorial Sanctuary in Chilo, Ohio, which is primarily a hardwood forrest along the Ohio River. The nature sanctuary was loaded with Magicicada tredecassini, healthy pockets of M. tredecula and a few M. tredecim. The cicadas were chorusing, feisty and already ovipositing (laying eggs).

So, why spend a week researching cicadas? Why ride in a car for dozens of hours tracking the locations of cicadas? Well, this mysterious Ohio & Kentucky brood is unique, and this would be the first time it was thoroughly mapped.

Why is this Ohio Kentucky brood unique?

  1. These cicadas have a 13-year life cycle. No other brood of periodical cicadas in Ohio has a 13-year life cycle. Note that two 13-year broods (XIX & XXIII) exist in Kentucky, but they are geographically isolated from the OH/KY brood.
  2. The OH/KY brood is also geographically isolated from Brood XXII, a brood of 13-year cicadas that emerged in Louisiana and Mississippi this year (2014). The OH/KY brood might be grouped with Brood XXII just by virtue of the fact that they emerge in the same cycle of years, but the two broods seem to be too far apart, geographically and probably genetically, to be related.
  3. They occupy a relatively small area of south-western Ohio, and north-central Kentucky.
  4. They are in relatively the same area as two 17-year broods, Brood XIV and Brood X. Brood XIV more so than Brood X.

The mystery is: why does this small, isolated brood of 13-year cicadas exist?

Roy Troutman and John Cooley have collected specimens, and the insects genetics will be studied to try to find an answer. Along with the results of genetic testing, the results of mapping will be considered, along with the past work of researchers like Lloyd and White, and local legend Gene Kritsky.

Mapping cicadas:

Mapping cicadas requires that you drive hundreds to thousands of miles, listening for cicadas, and recording the species and location. The hard parts are 1) picking out the individual species (particularly hearing individual deculas in the midst of loud chorus of cassini), and 2) driving slow enough to hear the individual species, without enraging local drivers. Discerning the songs of individual species is easy enough when you’re moving slowly or standing still, but at 55mph, you can hear the roar of a cassini chorus, but a more subtle ‘decim chorus, set deeper in the woods, will go unheard.

Thanks to John Cooley’s Map O Matic — a combination of a tiny laptop, Ubuntu Linux, a numeric keypad, a GPS puck, and some clever programming — marking the locations of Magicicada species is now a simple task. Drive around, and when you hear a heavy ‘decim chorus, you hit the 9 key, and the location is recorded. Hear a ‘cassini individual; hit a 4, and the location is recorded. Genius. I suppose the next best thing would be an app version.

cicada track o matic
The Cicada Map O Matic

Each day Roy planned the route and we started mapping. Roy driving; me pressing buttons. We traveled highways, and single-laned roads; through heavily populated suburbia with convenience stores selling Pork cracklings and fireworks, as well as, farm and forrest roads. Straight and fast. Winding and bumpy. Each day was amazing road trip for the sake of cicada research.

Mapping can be frustrating. Time limitations are frustrating. The cicadas only sing for a few weeks, so there is only so much time to hear and map them.

Google Maps, often used to visualize cicada mapping data, is frustrating as well. Google maps omits unincorporated towns and villages from their maps. Want to find Utopia, Ohio on Google Maps? According to Google Maps, it doesn’t exist.

Also, if you use an old map, beware; a road that existed 10 years ago, might now be a rocky field. One time we headed down a dusty road that looked like it connected to a major county road. Instead, Roy ended up breaking some part of his car on some bowling ball sized rocks, which I had to get out and move so we could backtrack to civilization. One positive: while rolling boulders, I heard an individual Magicicada tredecim, which are rare in this brood. Hit the 7 on the cicada Map O Matic.

The data from all this cicada mapping will be used by cicada researchers like Gene Kritsky and John Cooley to decode the mystery of this brood. If you’re curious, you can see the map here, or take a look at this short video, which crudely demonstrates the geographic proximity of Brood XIV, the OH/KY Brood and Brood X:

My trip to Ohio and Kentucky, was fantastic. I got to spend dozens of hours helping to map an important brood, hang out with a good friend, and even meet cicada research legend Gene Kritsky for breakfast. For a cicada fanatic, it doesn’t get much better.

M tredecassini Kentucky 2014
A Magicicada tredecassini found in Kincaid Park, Kentucky.

I had such a good time, I headed home via Kentucky (which is not the way to go, if you’re going back to New Jersey). I stopped by Kincaid Park so I could hear all three species in one location. I even drove down the shoe road, and visited the Jim Beam distillery (which has little to do with cicadas, but why not).

After spending a week mapping cicadas, my respect for cicada researchers like Gene, John, Roy, Chris Simon, David Marshall and Jin Yoshimura has grown measurably. Mapping is not easy. It takes concentration, patience, a lot of expensive gasoline, and energy drinks. It’s worth it though. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again next year as well.

June 5, 2014

13-Year Cicadas to Emerge in Ohio & Kentucky in 2014

Magicicadas with a 13-Year life-cycle are emerging in Ohio & Kentucky, along the Ohio river, in 2014. This particular group of periodical cicadas last emerged in 2001 and 1988.

July 17th: I got confirmation from Dave Marshall and John Cooley that the ‘decim in the brood are Magicicada tredecim!

June 5th: Roy Troutman and I completed 3 days of cicada mapping in Ohio and Kentucky. This map includes our findings, Gene Kritsky’s findings and sightings submitted to Gene from local residents.

If you see or hear a cicada in the area, here’s what to do:


If you see these cicadas in Ohio or Kentucky, don’t forget to send your Geo-Tagged cellphone photos to Gene Kritsky and map your sighting on Magicicada.org.

June 4th: Audio of a Magicicada tredecula call from the Ohio/Kentucky brood.

June 3rd: I spent the last last two days looking for cicadas in Ohio and Kentucky with Roy Troutman. Mostly ‘cassini, some ‘decula, and a very small amount of ‘decims. We found ‘cassini chorusing in Mason, KY, in the west, and so far as south as Neurls Run, KY. JoAnn White & Monte Lloyd’s paper 17-Year cicadas emerging after 18 years: A new brood?1 mentioned emergences in the Mason location, going back to 1975 (three 13 year generations ago).

Mason

May 31th: Cicadas are reported to be “loud and plentiful” in the Germantown KY area, as well as, Harrison county KY.

May 30th: Roy Troutman confirmed that ‘decula, ‘cassini and ‘decim type Magicicada have emerged in Ohio.

2014 Ohio M tredecassini adult on leaf by Roy Troutman

May 23th: Gene Kritsky wrote to let us know that “the emergence is now in full swing” in Ohio and Kentucky. Roy also shared a photo of an adult 13 year cicada.

May 15th: Roy Troutman sent us a set of photos from Crooked Run Nature Preserve in Chilo, Ohio.

13 Year Nymph by Roy Troutman taken in Chilo Ohio in 2014 on tree

May 14th: Roy Troutman has reported that the emergence began last night in Chilo, OH according to a Clermont County Parks director. Cool weather this week (in the thirties!) will likely prevent more cicadas from emerging until next week (highs in 80s).

April 30th: Scientists ask for public’s help verifying cicadas hidden brood. Note: if you send your photos in to Dr. Kritsky, make sure Geo-Tag (Android) or Camera Location Services (iPhone) is turned on.

April 28th: Roy Troutman discovered cicada turrets, confirming the 2014 emergence of these cicadas.

More:

I know what you’re thinking: are these cicadas part of Brood XXII? Time and research will tell. Brood XXII emerges in Louisiana and Mississippi, which are geographically isolated from Ohio & Kentucky, so the two groups of cicadas are likely to be genetically distinct (belonging to different mitochondrial haplotype groups at least). That said, Brood II, which emerges mostly along the east coast of the U.S., also emerges in Oklahoma, which is geographically isolated from the rest of that brood. So, the Ohio/Kentucky cicadas could logically be part of brood XXII.

Back in 2001 Roy Troutman, Les Daniels and Gene Kritsky reported this group of cicadas to Cicada Mania. Les reported both cassini and decim.

My guess is these cicadas are somehow descended from Brood X or Brood XIV 17-year cicadas, and that if they are 13-year cicadas.

I wrote Roy for a list of towns where these cicadas emerged in 2001, and he said:

Chilo, OH
Cold Springs, KY
Higginsport, OH
Neville, OH
New Richmond, OH
Point Pleasant, OH
Ripley, OH
Utopia, OH
Woodland Mound Park, Cinncinati, OH


View OH/KY 13 Year Brood in a larger map

Check out the paper 1 White, J., and M. Lloyd. 1979. 17-Year cicadas emerging after 18 years: A new brood? Evolution 33:1193-1199. It was the first to document this odd brood of cicadas, although it did not mention the 13 year periodicity.

May 22, 2013

Finneytown Ohio 17 year Cicada Acceleration

Filed under: Brood VI,Gene Kritsky,Roy Troutman — by @ 11:10 pm

Roy Troutman, Gene Kritsky and his wife Jess witnessed a Magicicada emergence in Finneytown Ohio tonight. It is believed that this could be an acceleration of a new Brood VI, or an eight year acceleration of Brood X.

From Roy:

We had an unexpected emergence in parts of the Cincinnati area last night & I got some pics with my new Canon t4i. Gene [Kritsky] & his wife Jess came out to witness it as well. I would say hundreds emerged in a very small suburb of Cincinnati called Finneytown. This could be 4 year acceleration of the new brood VI that Gene has been talking about verifying in 2017 or 8 year acceleration of Brood X.

Photos of these cicadas by Roy.

2013 Finneytown Cicada

April 14, 2013

How you can help with temperature related periodical cicada research

Gene Kritsky is one of the leading periodical cicada researchers. He’s asked that we help with his research regarding temperature and cicada emergence. He needs to know the date that cicadas first emerge, and then the date when they appear in large numbers in a given locality. To contact Gene with your findings, email him at cdarwin@aol.com.

Here are the details:

I wanted to alert you to a paper that I published with Roy after Brood XIV. I had placed sensors at cicada depths in Roy’s backyard, and also hung others in the area trees. We recorded the temperatures at 10 minute intervals at all the locations. I was trying to find a weather model to predict soil temperatures without using probes. This would be cheaper for people wanting to monitor an impending emergence. This research is based on what potato farmers do to track the growth of their crop.

We found that the average of the running three day and two day mean temperatures was a good predictor of soil temps.

The formula along with the extended forecast can be used to forecast soil temperatures. Once we get the 64ยบ F soil temps and a nice rain we got emergences. I am hoping to test this model again this year, which in part is why I emailing you. What I need to know is the date that cicadas first emerge, and then the date when they appear in large numbers in a given locality. I will then use weather data to check the soil model. Can you ask readers to send me that info? Many thanks.

You can find more details on the model at:

http://inside.msj.edu/academics/faculty/kritskg/cicada/Site/Estimating_soil_temperature.html

An easier way of getting to the details is to go to www.msj.edu/cicada and click on estimating soil temperatures. That site will also link them to John’s mapping page, activities for kids, etc.

Thank you for your help.

Gene Kritsky

More info about Gene Kritsky:

October 26, 2011

Cicadas serenaded the dinosaurs

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,Gene Kritsky — by @ 10:15 am

Apparently cicadas serenaded the dinosaurs! Entomologist and Mount St. Joseph professor Gene Kritsky shared the news today that cicadas lived as long as 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

A quote from a press release:

New research has documented that cicadas, those noisy insects that sing during the dog days of summer, have been screaming since the time of the dinosaurs.

A fossil of the oldest definitive cicada to be discovered was described by George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D., professor of zoology at Oregon State University and Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., professor of biology, at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. The cicada, measuring 1.26 mm in length, was named Burmacicada protera.

Read the full Press Release on the MSJ website.

Here is a photo of the ancient Burmacicada protera cicada nymph trapped in amber. Photo credit: George Poinar, Jr., Ph.D.

Burmacicada protera. Copyright of George Poinar, Jr.

It looks a lot like a modern-day first-instar cicada nymph.

Update: Here’s a video news story about Gene’s fossil find.

I need a step-up my fossil collecting hobby. It looks like there’s some places in New Jersey to find fossils. Maybe I’ll find a cicada.

May 26, 2010

Brood III cicadas are emerging too!

Filed under: Brood III,Gene Kritsky,Magicicada — by @ 9:28 pm

Gene Kritsky wrote us to let us know that Brood III periodical cicadas are emerging in Iowa and Missouri.

Dan,

I wanted to let you know that I have received emails with reports of
emerging periodical cicadas in Iowa and northern Missouri in Brood III
territory. These cicadas would be emerging four years early similar to
the early emergences observed in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2009.

Cheers,
Gene

It’s been an interesting year so far, with Brood III stragglers emerging 4 years early, Brood XIV emerging 2 years late, and Brood XIX emerging 1 year early.

Check our Brood Chart to see where the next batch of periodical cicadas might emerge.

Check Magicicada.org for maps.

June 10, 2008

New Brood XIV Photos from Roy

Filed under: Brood XIV,Gene Kritsky,Roy Troutman — by @ 7:58 pm

An adult Magicicada:

Magicicada

A Magicicada suffering from the massospora cicadina fungus:

Magicicada with Fungus

The fungus is spread during mating.

Another shot of the adult Magicicada:

Magicicada

A Magicicada suffering from the massospora cicadina fungus:

Magicicada with Fungus

Gene Kritsky collecting a temperature probe for his cicada temperature study from Roy’s backyard:

Gene Kritsky

June 4, 2008

BBC Filming in Mariemont

Filed under: Brood XIV,Gene Kritsky,Roy Troutman — by @ 9:56 am

I’m catching up on the photos Roy Troutman has sent me.

Here’s photos from a BBC photoshoot in Mariemont Ohio, taken on May 24th. The photos feature cicada expert Gene Kritsky.

BBC Filming in Mariemont

BBC Filming in Mariemont

BBC Filming in Mariemont

BBC Filming in Mariemont

April 12, 2008

2008 Cicada Temperature Study

Roy Troutman sent me these photos of temperature loggers that allow cicada experts, like Gene Kritsky, to measure the ground soil temperature, and improve their formulas for predicting Magicicada emergences.

We [Gene Kristsky and Roy Troutman] buried 3 temperature probes & tied one on a tree branch for air readings. The temperature loggers will take a very accurate reading every 10 minutes & after the emergence has started in full swing Gene will dig them up & hook them to a usb cable & download all the data to his laptop for study. He [Gene] is trying to determine the exact temperature that they will emerge so he can fine tune his formula for calculating emergence times.

Last year Gene’s emergence formula calculator (try it!) did a good job of predicting the Brood XIII emergence, and the 2008 temperature study should only improve it.

You might be able to participate in the 2008 cicada temperature study. If you’re interested, contact Gene Kritsky.

Temperature Logger

Temperature Logger

December 5, 2006

An Interview with Gene Kritsky

Filed under: Books,Gene Kritsky,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 4:26 am

Gene Kritsky is one of the foremost and most accessible
cicada researchers in North America. His excellent book In Ohio’s Backyard–Periodical Cicadas is a Cicada Mania favorite. Gene’s new book Periodical Cicadas: the Plague and the Puzzle is due out any day now. You should also visit Gene’s fantastic Cicada Watch 2004 web site — it’s one of the best. Gene was kind enough to answer some of our questions — we hope you enjoy them:

Periodical Cicadas: the Plague and the Puzzle

Cicada Mania: There are a mind-boggling variety of insects in the world — why did you
choose to focus your studies on cicadas?

Gene Kritsky: I am a student of history. I was first introduced to periodical cicadas by Frank N. Young at Indiana University. I immediately felt that there must be a wealth of information about periodical cicadas that had been overlook through the years. It was mining that information, coupled with studying their biology that started it all for me.

CM: You have a new book titled Periodical Cicadas: the Plague and the Puzzle "emerging" in books stores soon. How does it differ from your
previous cicada book In Ohio’s Backyard–Periodical Cicadas?

GK: The Plague and the Puzzle has a greater focus on history. It includes a long lost manuscript written in 1716, the first stand-alone published work on periodical cicadas, a terminology timeline, and a review of what has happened in the past 104 years including, including new findings from my lab. In Ohio’s Backyard is a field guide for people wanting to experience the periodical cicadas. It contains activities for teachers and parents to help kids to better appreciate these insects.

CM: What makes Magicicada Brood X different from other emergences?

GK: Brood X is the largest of the 17-year broods. It has a long history going back to 1715. For me personally, I first studied Brood X in 1987 when it emerged in Cincinnati. It gave me the opportunity to set up some experiments that will finally come to completion. It is, therefore, like an old friend coming back to visit.

CM: Will all three 17-year Magicicada species (septendecim, cassini, &
septendecula) emerge this year?

GK: Yes, we are expecting all three species this year.

CM: Have you ever observed animosity between cicadas of different species?

What cicada qualities make a male Magicicada more likely to find a mate?
Does the guy with the loudest call, have the best change of passing on his
genes?

GK: I have not noticed animosity between the species, but have seen males of the same species compete for females by overlapping their calls. But we must be careful not to give the periodical cicadas human emotions. I think they are simply responding to a genetic cue, and doing what they do best. That being singing, matings, laying eggs, and dying.

CM: Do you think the mayor of Cincinnati should consider replacing the Flying
Pig monuments (http://www.mpna.com/fpqrp/pighist.html) with Cicada
monuments?

GK: It is interesting that we have the same mayor this year as we did in 1987. This time, however, the city is getting into the emergence with a greater sense of fun. We are going to have a CD of cicada songs, cicada free zones, cicada parties, cicada exhibits, t-shirts, jewelry, etc.

CM: Cincinnati is known for its chili restaurants. Know any good cicada
chili recipes?

GK: I have not had them in chili, but they should be a nice addition. I personally like them battered and fried with a nice hot mustard sauce.

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