CICADAS AND THE FUTURE:
1999 was an extraordinary year for the cicada, especially in Ohio. Magicicadas appeared by the millions and the annual cicadas followed suite by appearing in the thousands during the latter half of the summer. However, I fear years such as this one may become only a memory, provided if things don't change over the next 50 years.
Cicadas have many natural enemies... Birds, spiders, small mammals, parasites, fungi, and wasps... But none of these creatures are ever enough to totally eradicate an entire colony or species. If fact, it is these predators that help keep the natural balance in the cycle of life. There is only one predator that constantly likes to upset this balance and wants to control it to meet its demands... That predator is a primate known as the Homo sapiens; or commonly referred to as "MAN."
Mankind is the only predator in the world that destroys what it doesn't understand, manipulates to meet his/her will, and often has little regard for any other living thing other than him/herself. With each passing year, there is new pollution entering the atmosphere and the water, and forests are cut down in order to make room for human development. Once where tall trees have stood, are now replaced my monuments of steel and glass. Humanity is the only species on the planet whose populations are running unchecked with nothing to preserve the balance. The majority of this planet's forests and undisturbed areas are expected to disappear within the next 30 to 40 years. Once the forests are gone, so will many species of cicadas. Some perhaps; are still unidentified by scientists today... Some which we may never learn ever existed.
Human negligence is also another key factor in the downfall of the cicada. For example, an introduced species known as the Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) has spread westward from a small portion of the New England states to a range that nearly includes the entire Eastern Time Zone in less than a century. These moths multiply and appear in great numbers that rival the colonies of the Periodical Cicada. The moths are much more destructive than a Periodical Cicada colony could ever be. The larvae of this moth can completely defoliate many acres of trees and after a couple years of continuous feeding will eventually kill the host tree itself. I've seen their destruction in areas such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and Findley State Park; two areas where the Magicicadas have to compete for the same food sources.
There is also the introduction of the English or House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) during the 1850's. These birds have spread across the country and have decimated remnants of Magicicada colonies that were already competing with human intrusions. This sparrow is not only aggressive, but can be a serious pest to others creatures (and people) besides cicadas. These birds feed on grain, cause damage with their droppings, carry many diseases, and most of all, they compete with and have caused the decline of several native bird populations.
In more recent years, many Ash trees across the Eastern and mid-Western states had to be cut down and the wood destroyed due to an invasive species known as the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (Agrilus planipennis).
Another example of human negligence would be the spread of forest fires often due to utter carelessness. 1999 was a dry year and with the assistance of ignorance, forest fires flourished because of it. Whether alone or in combination; this type of negligence destroys many cicadas and other creatures as well.
Not all cicada species have suffered from human development. Many species of Neotibicens have come a long way and become accustomed to living under man's feet. Neotibicens seem to fare well in the city environment and can be heard in areas of downtown parks. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for every species. The Magicicada has suffered immensely and its range has diminished greatly over the past century and continues to do so. Magicicadas seldom frequent cities like the Neotibicen and prefer the woodland dwellings. There are organizations trying to preserve areas for Magicicadas and other animals but such efforts may be a sad case of too little, too late. Entire Broods once noted historically are now extinct. Even in Ohio, the ranges of its five existing Broods are shrinking due to habitat loss.
What is the eventual fate of the cicada? Unless something drastic is done, their numbers will continue to decline. Even though Magicicadas appear by the millions during designated Brood years, they are in fact...
A THREATENED SPECIES!!!
Many people may disagree or ignore this fact, but please...
OPEN YOUR EYES!
If you compare the historical records, you can easily see what I'm talking about. Once you make this comparison of the past hundred years, think forward to a future projection for the next century. With human populations constantly on the rise, do you honestly think the Brood ranges will remain the same?
The time to act is now... Otherwise an American heritage such as the Periodical Cicada which is found nowhere else in the world will become a part of American history. Please always keep in mind...
Extinction is forever....
Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then you will find that money cannot be eaten. - CREE INDIAN PROPHECY