- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Eastern Oklahoma is due to experience one of nature’s great wonders this spring - but it remains to be seen if it will happen. Entomologists are asking Oklahomans to keep their ears and eyes open and to let them know when - and if - it does.

Periodical cicadas were due to hatch in Oklahoma in mid- to late May - although the hatches can occur into mid-June. The hope is that cool, rainy weather has simply delayed the hatch, the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/1RKhoCU ) reported.

Unlike cicadas regularly heard singing on a summer’s night, the reproduction strategy of periodicals is to emerge on a 13- or 17-year cycle in numbers so great that predators are overwhelmed.

Cicadas of this same kind emerged in the central part of the state 2013, said Rick Grantham, entomologist at Oklahoma State University.

“When you get 10,000 or 100,000 of them in a hatch and singing all at once it gets very loud, just deafening,” he said. “When they all get synchronized you get this pulsing that’s going on, it’s really something.”

Some people in Little Rock, Arkansas, called 911 to report the ruckus with hatches there this spring.

The 2015 Kansan Brood is expected in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, according to environmental scientist John Cooley who operates the Periodical Cicada Mapping Project, which is designed to better map and document the emergence of the wide variety species in the genus Magicicada across the country.

The cicada nymphs have been living underground, feeding on juices from tree roots for years. When the soil temperature rises into the mid-60s they burrow upward, crawl up the trees, morph into their winged adult form with red eyes and mostly black bodies with orange highlights, and begin to sing, mate and lay eggs for the process to begin again. They are a little scary-looking but harmless.

“They adopted the perfect color combination,” said Grantham, with a nod to his OSU credentials.

Usually the cicadas turn up in the southern part of their range first because the soil warms there first, but Kansan Brood cicadas are making headlines in Nebraska and Kansas already.

Oklahoma’s record-setting May rainfall raises a question about the cicadas that is not easily answered.

“You are correct that the rain is bad for the cicadas - they can persist in their underground chambers, but they can’t get out,” Cooley responded via email. “Nobody is quite sure what happens if they have a season of flooding - my hunch is that once they commit to emerge (something that happens the previous Fall), they must come out - they can’t wait a year.”

Cooley said the insects might be able to delay their emergence for a few weeks, “but if the floods don’t clear, local populations may crash. This would be a great loss, since the Oklahoma populations are at the margins of the Magicicada distribution anyway - the populations there now are of great interest to biologists.”

He emphasized his thoughts are speculative regarding the rain and flooding. “Very little is actually known about how they respond to flooding,” he said.

In Oklahoma, the expected hatch range includes most of the eastern half of the state, Grantham said. “It’s the eastern half of the state and then take a swath through Oklahoma City and Moore up toward Stillwater and take that out because it was a different brood,” he said.

Cooley’s website is the place to report sightings or, rather, soundings - please don’t call the police. Find the online form to submit sightings, and much more detailed information about the insects and their life cycle, at magicicada.org.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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