Oklahoma Stories

Buggin’ Out in 2021

By Carli Eubank April 2021

While Oklahomans won't see the 2021 Cicada Brood X outbreak, the summer months provide many opportunities to see annual dog day cicadas.

2 cicadas in tree
Photo by Robert Sanders

The 2021 Cicada Brood X outbreak will emerge between the middle of May and end of June 2021. This brood is forecast to be the most widespread and populated in history. Predictions indicate that Brood X will likely be most dense in the eastern and Midwest regions of the United States. This area includes New York to Georgia and as far west as the Mississippi river basin.

“Oklahomans will not see Brood X,” Dr. Phillip Mulder, Oklahoma State University entomology and plant pathology professor and department head, says.

Even though the Cicada Brood X population will not be in Oklahoma, it is just as important to know where the cicadas are not living, according to Robert Sanders, a cicada researcher.

Oklahomans will not experience Brood X cicadas but they can expect to hear and see the dog day cicada species. These large, green insects make an appearance every year during summer months. Sanders says Oklahoma is home to 35 annual and five periodical cicada species.

“Periodical cicadas are the reason most Oklahomans, along with other parts of the U.S., incorrectly refer to cicadas as locusts,” Sanders says.

Early New England colonists compared the first cicada emergence to a locust plague, and this incorrect definition continued with the westward expansion, according to Sanders.

“Unless you see [the large numbers], you can’t convey what it actually is,” Sanders says.

Oklahomans in eastern and southeastern parts of the state will have the opportunity to experience a periodical cicada emergence in 2024 with Brood XIX, Sanders says.

Cicada species are distinguished by their songs and appearances, and they vibrate a membrane on their thorax to communicate with one another.

“It feels like there is energy pulsing through the forest,” Sanders describes the cicadas’ “song.”

Cicadas make a lot of noise, but they are an overall harmless species. The insect species are even safe for human consumption, Mulder says. There is no need to worry if dogs or cats eat a few, but it’s not a good idea to allow them to eat a large number, Mulder says.

The only concern with cicada emergences is they can harm trees, especially fruit bearing ones, when females lay their eggs. Each female will lay up to 10 or 20 eggs.

According to Sanders, while cicadas may raise worries, these insects can provide many benefits for our ecosystem. Searching for cicadas provides the opportunity to enjoy being outside in nature. If Oklahomans hear, photograph or capture any cicadas, they can identify and receive reports on Oklahoma cicadas at facebook.com/oklahomacicadas.

Oklahomans can also see how either a mass emergence of periodical cicadas or from just a few of the species that occur annually can be a food source for other animals.

“To me, it’s an exciting time,” Mulder says. “It’s an opportunity to grab some for your collection.”

Category: Oklahoma Stories
Photo by Robert Sanders

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