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2020 derecho may have a significant impact on cicadas’ emergence



Solon, Iowa – At Macbride Recreation Area, cicadas are beginning to emerge, and scientists are making a long trip to find out more about these peculiar insects.

There are two distinct cicadas this year. On a 13-year cycle, certain broods emerge simultaneously with other broods that occur once every 17 years. Since Thomas Jefferson was president 220 years ago, this is the first time it has occurred.

According to one researcher, the cicada population this year may have been significantly impacted by the derecho’s 2020 recovery.

Though the Macbride Recreation Area cicada breakout is still in its early stages, it has already drawn scientists from around the globe to examine the insects.

“They have 1,000 dedicated auditory receptor cells,” said University of Leicester Professor Ben Warren.

Warren joined together with Professor Adam Brown and Rebecca Blessing of Michigan State, who are doing an entirely different task: using those sounds to produce a future artistic performance. Warren traveled from England to investigate the auditory neurology of cicadas.

“We are sort of testing the anthropocentric view of the world by looking at cicadas in a different way,” said Professor Brown.

Days have passed while the crew has listened to the bugs underground, watched as they molt their outer covering, and researched the reasons behind their extraordinary sense of hearing.

“It’s perplexing us at the moment, but we are hoping to discover a bit more about exactly why they have these structures,” said Professor Warren.

Millions of these bugs would be all over Macbride Recreation Area come next week, according to park officials. However, the euphoria surrounding this year’s cicada breakout could have been quite different had the park not managed the 2020 derecho.

“Macbride Recreation Area was heavily damaged,” said Land manager Tamra Elliott.

According to Elliot, cicadas such as these periodic ones had spent the last 17 years underground, dwelling on tree roots. The cicadas may perish if the tree dies or if the earth becomes excessively compacted. Elliott’s group took that into account.

“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t put compaction on the ground, and that would have in fact killed the cicadas, or other insects, or plant life that were in the ground,” she said. “We didn’t use equipment; we went all in by hand.”

According to Elliott, that would entail hand-trimming and removing broken limbs from trees. Though she said it paid off, it was difficult work.

“We’re expected to have the densest population of anywhere in our state,” said Elliott.

Allowing for research like this to take place.

“We haven’t found anything convincing yet I would say, but they definitely make noises as they crawl around,” said Warren.