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WLW: UC biologist says get ready for return of cicadas

Nathan Morehouse tells 'Eddie & Rocky' this year's emergence heralds a bigger one next year

Ready or not, the cicadas are coming.

University of Cincinnati biologist Nathan Morehouse spoke to WLW's "Eddie & Rocky Show" about what to expect with this year's emergence of 17-year cicadas.

The red-eyed insects spend most of their lifetimes underground as larvae where they feed on sap from roots, Morehouse said.

Nathan Morehouse stands in his biology lab.

UC biologist Nathan Morehouse. Photo/Jay Yocis/UC Creative + Brand

The last time Cincinnati saw cicadas, the Boston Red Sox won its first World Series in nearly 100 years, Kanye West was Billboard's new artist of the year and a social network called The Facebook launched.

"We don't know how they count the number of years down below. Some biological clock monitors the changing of seasons," Morehouse told WLW. "But a season with two hot spells could throw them off. That might be why some are showing up early.

"Or maybe they're just bad at math."

Morehouse is an associate professor of biological sciences in UC's College of Arts and Sciences. He is in the middle of a international project sponsored by the National Science Foundation to study the evolution of color vision in jumping spiders.

Periodical cicadas are found from Texas to Massachusetts in more than a dozen regional broods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cincinnati's cicadas are part of Brood X.

North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia also will see cicadas emerge this year, according to the USDA.

Morehouse said this year's emergence in parts of Ohio and the Midwest likely will be a fraction of what we can expect in the summer of 2021. But some neighborhoods could see thousands of the noisy insects in the next month or two.

"We're not expecting to see them in big numbers until next year. But they're already coming out a year early," Morehouse said.

"This is a fun little surprise, depending on whom you are."

Morehouse said the males are responsible for the deafening cacophony associated with the massive swarms as they try to attract females, which lay eggs in the tree canopy. When the eggs hatch, the baby cicadas burrow into the ground to lurk another 17 years.

Featured image at top: UC biologist Nathan Morehouse says we could see 17-year cicadas starting this summer. Photo/Laura Gilchrist/Unsplash

A map of the United States shows the distribution of the 16 different broods of cicadas in states from Texas to Massachusetts.

Periodical cicadas are found from Massachusetts to Texas. Cincinnati will begin to see them emerge this summer and again next summer. Graphic/U.S. Forest Service