17-year cicada

The 17-year cicada will reemerge as early as next week.

Many recall their dark bodies and blood-red eyes, amber highlights shining on wing veins.

Locals remember the deafening sounds they made, their screams piercing the twilight.

“I was driving down a country road and pulled over because I heard what I thought was a noise from the engine,” Vincennes resident Dennis Kordes said. “After I shut it off, I realized it was the cicadas.”

As early as next week, the 17-year cicadas are expected to begin boiling out of the ground once again — an estimated 1.5 million of them per acre, experts say, especially in heavily-forested areas.

The 17-year cicadas — as their name suggests, they emerge only every 17 years — can be found throughout the Hoosier state, but the biggest populations will be right here in Southern Indiana.

The cicadas feed underground for most of their lives, drinking sap from tree roots. Then, once every 17 years, they emerge en masse, climb trees and sing — though those familiar with them from their last visit describe it as a near deafening scream.

They will mate and lay their eggs on the tips of tree branches. They provide a feast for wildlife, and mostly cause only cosmetic injury to trees.

And while some people may find them frightening, these cicadas are actually not harmful to humans.

“I had a ‘pet’ cicada who would sit on my shoulder when I hung laundry on the clothesline,” recalled local author and resident, Molly Daniels of their last emergence.

To celebrate their return, the Knox County Purdue Extension office is hosting a special seminar on May 8, one hosted by Ag and Natural Resources Extension Educator Valerie Clingerman.

The seminar will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Quabache Trails Park Nature Center, located at 3500 N. Lower Fort Knox Road.

Topics set to be discussed include the cicada’s life cycle, how to properly identify them, and prevention of damage to a handful of vulnerable trees and shrubs.

The event will also feature a hike in the woods to look for them, so everyone is encouraged to wear comfortable shoes, long pants, bug spray, and to dress appropriately for the weather.

Face coverings and social distancing are also encouraged due to COVID-19. This event is free to the public, but space is limited.

Clingerman said Quabache Trails Park is actually a great location to find cicadas as the dense and mature tree canopy provides much nourishment to them.

The cicadas will only emerge and nest in trees that were here 17 years ago, so an area cleared for farmland 10 years ago, for instance, will not have a cicada emergence.

Once the insects do come out, they will only live for about six weeks, Clingerman explained. They will then retreat once again into the ground and return in the year 2038.

For more information about the cicada seminar or to reserve a spot, contact Clingerman prior to the meeting at 812-882-3509.

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