Cicadas emerging early due to fungus

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ST. LOUIS – The sounds of summer are making an early return, with the early return of cicadas.

Like the passage of time, the sounds of cicadas arriving every 17-years is a natural cycle.

But in Missouri and across the country, some cicadas are sounding off a little earlier.

“What we’re seeing in the St. Louis area are early 13-year cicadas coming out four years ahead of schedule,” said Gene Krinsky, Ph.D., M.S. Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences Mount St. Joseph University.

The brood wasn’t expected to emerge until 2024.

Entemologist Dr. Gene Krinsky says the 17-year cycle has been reduced by four years.

His cicada safari app tracks photographs and videos of emerging cicadas nationwide.

The first sightings of a 17-year cicada brood 19 arrived April 3rd in Fairview Heights, Illinois and High Ridge, Missouri.

“We know after a major cicada emergence; male turkeys have a larger body weight,” said Krinsky.

The Saint Louis Zoo, familiar with citizen science, and familiar with the cicada safari app, especially in the  time of Covid-19.

“People tend to be freaked out by just so many.  But think of them as additional food for animals when they emerge and those large numbers.  Secondly, they act as nature’s pruners.  They’re drilling into the stems of plants to lay their eggs.  As they burrow through the soil, they open the soil for aeration.  They turn over the soil and those holes help for better water infiltration, to help reduce things like flooding,” said Ed Spevak, Curator of Invertebrates Saint Louis Zoo.

So, why the early arrival?

“It turns out cicadas get a fungal disease and when there’s a heavy emergence you’ll see a cicada flying around with a sort of chalky mass in the abdomen.  And that’s a fungus that affects a cicada.  And it turns out when cicadas come out four years early, they get out of sync with the fungus and the infection rate drops,” said Krinsky.

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