Saturday, May 8, 2004

Some areas brace, others aren't bugged by cicadas

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dave Stonehill prepares to photograph a cicada resting less than an inch below the surface of his yard on Oliver Road in Wyoming. Stonehill's yard was covered with the bugs 17 years ago. He plans to document the invasion and post photos on his Web site.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
Cicada resting in Stonehill's yard.
Photo provided
Mount Healthy may be as close as one can get to a ground zero for the 17-year cicadas' imminent Brood X invasion, and that Hamilton County city and other western Greater Cincinnati communities are bracing for D-Day.

Employees in Mount Healthy expect extra work sweeping streets and maintaining the city's 2-year-old pool complex.

"We've talked about what a headache it's going to be as far as cleaning (the pool) more often," said Jeff Murphy, a volunteer firefighter who also works for the Parks Department.

Other communities are covering trees, cutting back on outdoor concerts and rescheduling events.

But some have decided that resistance is futile.

"We're not going to try to fight Mother Nature," said Forest Park City Manager Ray Hodges. "We're going to work with Mother Nature ... All the planning in the world is not going to stop the fact that the cicadas are going to be here."

Local cicada expert Gene Kritsky, College of Mount St. Joseph biologist, has set D-Day - or C-Day - at May 14, give or take five days, when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees. "Heavy" emergence is expected for the west side of Greater Cincinnati, particularly in Mount Healthy, according to Kritsky's estimates.

Several "cicada zone" communities are warning park shelter renters of the upcoming invasion, and offering to reschedule. Others say don't expect to get your deposit back once the bugs hit.

After Cincinnati's Park Board added a cicada clause to its no-refund policy, Colerain and Green townships decided to use disclaimers, too.

Instead of the usual 12 summer concerts in West Chester Township, there will be only eight this year, "and not because we're concerned about (the cicadas) drowning out the music, but it wouldn't be as enjoyable with them crawling all over you," parks director Bill Zerkle said.

In Colerain Township, parks employees, aided by county residents ordered to perform community service, have been putting up netting around about 100 12-foot trees in the township's newly renovated Colerain Park.

Parks director Greg Snyder said a Maryland textile mill sold him about 1,200 yards of cheesecloth for about $700, less than half the price quoted by a garden supply company.

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At $100 to $250 a tree, it's cheaper than replacing them, he said.

"Some people might look at it as a waste of taxpayer money, and some look at it as you're protecting our taxpayer investment," Snyder said. "I feel very comfortable we're doing the right thing."

In Wyoming, the annual city-sponsored art show will be held as usual on the tree-lined grounds of the Civic Center May 23.

The T-shirt for this year's show features - surprise - a cicada.

"I think everybody's a little concerned, but not overly," said Terri Pinkson, assistant recreation director. "You just can't shut down life because of the cicadas."

Still, to be on the safe side, the city decided to put off some other plans. Some tree plantings have been delayed until fall and a summer concert series was pushed to late June. Wyoming's dedication of its $1.2 million business district renovation has been postponed from the end of May to late July, said City Manager Bob Harrison.

"I think we would have a better event if it were cicada-free," Harrison said.

Trees taller than 6 to7 feet "can usually survive a pretty heavy emergence" of female cicadas, according to Kritsky. The female insects slice into the twigs to deposit their eggs, which poses the most risk to saplings, he said.

In Fort Mitchell, , the city has decided not to do its annual tree planting.

"The municipal tree board is not planting our trees this spring for that reason," said city clerk Linda Coburn.

In Fort Thomas, city manager Jeff Earlywine said the city isn't making any special preparations - "just mental preparations to cope with them, and trying to remember, it's just for a season."

In Boone County, a "heavy population" of cicadas is expected in areas of the county with older trees, said Boone County Cooperative Extension Service agent Mike Klahr. But even the newer suburbs aren't entirely safe.

"They have wings," Klahr said, "so they will travel a half a mile across an open field."

Forest Park, like Wyoming a nationally recognized "Tree City USA," has no plans to cover or spray trees, and will take its chances on losing one or two.

"If the human race wasn't around, trees would still be around," Hodges said.

E-mail Enquirer reporter Brenna R. Kelly contributed to this story.

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