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Posted on Mon. Jul. 21, 2014 - 12:30 am EDT

Broods of cicadas yet to appear

Harsh winter, cool spring and summer may be affecting numbers

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Typically by this time of year, one sure sign would be loudly proclaiming that summer had arrived: the din of cicadas.

Although a single buzz can occasionally be heard in the Fort Wayne area, the racket of flocks grinding out their mating call is strangely absent.

In other parts of the country, including southwest Ohio and Kentucky, what are called broods of 13-year and 17-year cicadas have emerged on schedule, blanketing some areas with the insects and sparking a feeding frenzy for birds, squirrels and other animals.

Not so in these parts.

Ricky Kemery, of the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service, said the extreme winter and cool spring and summer might play a role in the scarcity of annual cicadas. The broods of periodic cicadas are not emerging in this area.

“It’s not surprising that the cicadas are late since everything else is late,” including development of trees and shrubs, Kemery said in an email.

Plants and insects, Kemery said, depend on degree-day accumulation, or a certain number of warm days to get up to speed.

“Just estimating, I would say we are about three weeks behind schedule this year,” Kemery said. “This was caused by the cool weather we experienced this spring. There may also be some mortality due to the extreme cold over the winter.”

The cicada larvae live 8 to 12 inches deep in the ground before emerging. Last winter, which saw record snow and record-low temperatures, the ground froze as deep as 5 feet in some places.

Jason Pence, owner of Jason Pence Tree Service, also said the late spring and low temperatures are probably playing a role in the cicada’s late appearance.

Around the country there are various broods that emerge in huge numbers according to 13- and 17-year cycles. None of those broods is in Indiana this year.

According to an Indiana University study, which mapped various broods, which can cover entire states and almost entire regions of the country, the broods that are closest to this area emerged in 2004, 2008 and 2011.

Cicadas are typically common here, but the Fort Wayne area does not appear to be in any of the major brood areas.

There are, however, cicadas that emerge on an annual or two-year schedule. Those are apparently among the cicadas that can be found in this area.

If the cicadas do emerge, it will be easy to tell. Their buzz, which varies slightly depending on species of cicada, can be as loud as 90 to 100 decibels. That is comparable to a jackhammer at 50 feet or the volume of a hand-held power drill.

Ron Shawgo of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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