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Expert says cicadas will be here soon

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Bloomington, May 9 - Periodical cicadas will begin to emerge this week from holes in the ground where they have been living for 17 years, an Indiana University biology professor said. 

Cicadas were not due to arrive here until mid-to late-May when soil temperatures have warmed to 64 degrees, entomologists have said.

But IU biologist Keith Clay told the Herald-Times for a story Saturday that he was certain they would start emerging this week with the weather warming up.

Almost as abruptly as they arrive from Georgia to Michigan, the cicadas will reproduce and die. But their offspring will move underground by early July for another 17 years as part of their normal life cycle.

The winged, grasshopper-like insects are best known for the scratching, screeching "singing" of the males. 

"Once they emerge, they will climb up anything vertical, shed their skins and then go up into trees. The males will begin calling and looking for mates," said Purdue University entomologist Tim Gibb.

Scientists have dubbed this year's crop as Brood X or "the big brood."

Gibb said he and other entomologists are fascinated by the internal clock that makes the insects' arrival predictable. 

"If this species missed the emergence by two weeks, it would miss its chance to mate and extinction could result," Gibb said.

The more agile females lay their eggs on trees, called "flagging," and smaller trees may be seriously damaged. Property owners can cover their smaller trees with netting or cheesecloth for protection.

Purdue entomology professor Cliff Sadof urged people not to use insecticides to lessen the impact of the bugs.

"I suggest you enjoy the cicadas while they are here."

Southern Indiana will especially see the insects. about 1.5 million per acre, Clay said. The most dense areas will be in thick forests in Brown County and around Lake Monroe near Bloomington. 

The emergence of the insect has special meaning for an Orange County couple.

Karyn Moskowitz and Robert Hoyt named their now 4-year-old daughter Cicada Ruth Hoyt after listening to other species of cicadas sing outside their home.

"After she was born, she made a sound very similar to a true cicada," Moskowitz said. "The name fit. And since, we have noticed that she has a vibrant kind of energy, just like her namesake."
      
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
      

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