Peak cicada season: What you need to know about the myths, dangers and when they’ll be gone

Credit: Journal News

Cicadas in Butler County

Credit: Journal News

Experts predict cicadas will last a few more weeks, then die off

As periodical cicada season continues and the insects become louder, it can feel like they’re starting to take over.

But the insects are already nearing the end of their life cycle, said Gene Kritsky, dean of the School of Behavioral and Natural Science at Mount St. Joseph University.

The male cicadas will die first after they have mated. After the female cicadas lay their eggs, they will also die. They’ll be gone by July 1.

The peek of Brood X is upon the Miami Vally. A great place to check the show is at Woodland Cemetery near U.D. Jim Noelker/staff
The peek of Brood X is upon the Miami Vally. A great place to check the show is at Woodland Cemetery near U.D. Jim Noelker/staff

Periodical cicadas are harmless insects native to the United States. The periodical cicadas emerge every 13 to 17 years from the ground to mate, lay eggs and die.

Cicadas aren’t dangerous, but they can cause some problems. One driver in Cincinnati crashed her car into a pole on Monday after a cicada flew into the vehicle.

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AAA advised drivers who are in that situation to keep their attention on the road, travel with windows and sunroofs closed and wear a seatbelt.

“While cicadas are in general harmless, they can cause quite a bit of damage externally and internally to vehicles,” said Kara Hitchens, AAA spokesman. “Drivers are urged to take proactive steps to protect their vehicles while cicadas are in the area. Cicadas’ attraction to heat can lead to vehicle overheating and air flow issues, particularly if dozens swarm a vehicle.”

The peek of Brood X is upon the Miami Vally. A great place to check the show is at Woodland Cemetery near U.D. Jim Noelker/staff
The peek of Brood X is upon the Miami Vally. A great place to check the show is at Woodland Cemetery near U.D. Jim Noelker/staff

The agency also advised drivers to wash their cars frequently so dead cicadas do not harm the car, and to make sure the insects do not get into filters or the car grill.

Don Cipollini, a biology professor at Wright State University, said cicadas are notoriously clunky fliers that cannot go far. When a cicada flies into a car or into you, that isn’t an attack.

“They only fly usually little, short distances at a time,” Cipollini said. “Sometimes they find themselves in some awkward location and they fly off in a weird place.”

While cicadas are abundant in some parts of the Miami Valley, in others, there have been hardly any sightings at all. Experts said it’s not clear why the cicadas seem to prefer some parts of the region over others.

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Cicadas will emerge in places with long-established trees because the larvae use the tree’s roots for food, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be everywhere with old-growth forests. If an area was ever clear-cut, that would have killed the cicadas living underground.

Kritsky noted another brood of cicadas is also well-established in Warren and Greene counties, so it may be that residents in those counties will see periodical cicadas emerge another year.

Kettering, Oakwood, Yellow Springs and Woodland Cemetery are among some of the places to see cicadas.

If you’re smelling something rotten when cicadas are around, that’s not the insects themselves, who don’t have a smell. It’s the smell of decaying cicadas.

If you don’t like the smell, try spreading them over the grass as fertilizer, Cipollini suggested. Or mix them into a compost pile with grass clippings and leaf litter.

Soon, they’ll be gone.

“The first thing people will notice is that the singing will start to decline,” Cipollini said. “Suddenly it’ll be a warm, sunny afternoon and all of a sudden they’ll realize, hey, there’s very few cicadas singing today.”

An adult cicada is seen, in Washington, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours late Tuesday after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.The Washington, D.C. area is among the many parts of the country suffering under the swarm of Brood X, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
An adult cicada is seen, in Washington, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours late Tuesday after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.The Washington, D.C. area is among the many parts of the country suffering under the swarm of Brood X, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

Adult cicadas cover a plant, Monday, May 17, 2021, at Woodend Sanctuary and Mansion, in Chevy Chase, Md. Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours late Tuesday after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.The Washington, D.C. area is among the many parts of the country suffering under the swarm of Brood X, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Adult cicadas cover a plant, Monday, May 17, 2021, at Woodend Sanctuary and Mansion, in Chevy Chase, Md. Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours late Tuesday after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.The Washington, D.C. area is among the many parts of the country suffering under the swarm of Brood X, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

Credit: Carolyn Kaster

That’s the sign periodical cicadas are on the decline. The annual cicadas, which are far less numerous, will be back in August.

The periodical cicadas of Brood X will return in May 2038.

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.

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