Miami University campus readies for cicadas emergence: What they’re doing

It’s an overwhelming invasion the heavily wooded campus of Miami University has to fight every 17 years, and officials say they are ready for the onslaught’s start this week.

Thousands, perhaps millions, of cicadas will soon be emerging and shouting their mating calls at deafening pitch on Miami’s main Oxford campus.

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Cody Powell, associate vice president of Facilities Planning and Operations at Miami University, said the school’s facility and maintenance crews are on standby for the emergence of 17-year Brood X.

“We know our staff need to be prepared to clean up these cicadas as much, and as often, as possible during this period of time,” said Powell of Miami’s 2,300 acres.

Powell, who has worked at Miami for more than 20 years, says that his office has been doing a number of things to prepare for the emergence of cicadas, which is expected to occur this week.

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“The largest amount of preparation and the most impact tends to be with our mechanical trades and utilities operations,” he said. “The cicadas seem to be attracted to the fan noise, potentially moist environment, and perhaps temperature associated with our cooling towers, ventilation systems, and other such mechanical equipment.”

Powell said the university has installed netting around certain pieces of equipment that his team knows will be hot spots for cicadas trying to congregate.

He said Miami staff will be cleaning strainer baskets and filtration systems on a daily basis around campus to prevent cicadas from plugging up equipment and causing malfunctions.

Miami University’s Yoshi Tomoyasu, an associate professor of biology, “this is a very unique event that happens only in eastern North America.”

“Only in eastern North America do we have ‘periodical’ cicadas that have a much longer life cycle than the ones you see in your neighborhood every year.”

Tomoyasu, who studies the molecular basis underlying morphological evolution, explained that periodical cicadas have a life cycle of either 17 or 13 years, compared to the two-to-five-year life cycle of a typical annual cicada seen during the summer.

“What’s fascinating about periodical cicadas is that their life cycle is in complete synchronization,” Tomoyasu says. “This means that all of them — trillions of them — hatch within the same month, all spend 17 years underground, and all come out at the same time, within a period of a few weeks.”

While cicadas can be bothersome, Tomoyasu said that people should discard their preconceived notions and appreciate the rare phenomenon at hand and the benefit they bring.

“Cicadas are an indispensable part of the ecosystem in eastern North America,” Tomoyasu says. “Given the huge number of cicadas that emerge, they play a huge role in our ecosystem, as both a food source for others and as a regulator of the trees they feed on.”

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