The silence has been deafening for Knox County residents eagerly awaiting the return of the 17-year cicadas.
The Knox County Purdue Extension office recently hosted a seminar at Quabache Trails Park, located at 3500 N. Lower Fort Knox Road. It was designed as an informative nature walk and a chance for people to discover the Brood X cicadas as they emerged.
But Valerie Clingerman, an agriculture and natural resources educator, was a little disappointed with the turnout — overall.
“We had about five people show up,” Clingerman said. “So we had a few more people than we had cicadas.”
She believes there could be several reasons why Knox County is not seeing and hearing these highly-anticipated insects despite their arrival in counties both to the north and south.
“They could just be waiting for the right soil conditions,” she ventured. “The soil below the surface has to reach the ideal temperature, or around 64 degrees.”
But likely the biggest reason why this area hasn’t seen the arrival of the 17-year cicadas is recent, record flooding. The Wabash River saw record-level crests — ones above 27 feet — in 2008, 2011, and again in 2013, which left many parts of Knox County under water.
Curt Coffman, dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics at Vincennes University, is not necessarily surprised that the cicadas have not made themselves known.
“Flooding like that would have washed these little guys away,” Coffman said. “They might have been able to survive some flooding but not to that magnitude.”
He also pointed out that this area did not have a dense cicada population 17 years ago.
While Coffman was in California at that time, he has discovered since that Knox County had a low population of this particular type of cicada and that the lack of them emerging now could likely be credited to their absence then.
“Knox County has the most tilled acreage in Indiana,” Coffman said referencing the county’s rich agricultural industry. “There aren’t enough forested areas here for us to really have the emergence people are expecting.”
It is still early enough, though, and a few cicadas could still emerge here, he said. But if the next month passes uneventfully, it will likely be something experts study closely in the coming years to determine why.
Rama Sobhani, superintendent of Knox County Parks and Recreation Department, looks forward to a better understanding. He, like many, expected Ouabache Trails Park to be alive with their sights and sounds.
“It’s baffling,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”
Coffman, for one, hopes people will venture outside of Knox County to other areas with dense populations to experience these unique — and rather loud — cicadas.
“If you want to see them, you’ll probably have to go to Bloomington,” Coffman said. “If you want to avoid them, you’re probably in the right place.”