Friday, August 4, 2017

Ohio's Dog Days cicada brood emergence is catnip for state's wild turkeys

A newly emerging variety of cicadas – called “Dog Days” cicadas - is going to help fuel this year’s crop of wild turkey pollets.

And these young turkeys are anticipated to assist in filling up Ohio’s all ready populated flock of the species.

Thus perhaps for this fall’s wild turkey-hunting season and almost certainly for next year’s spring wild turkey-hunting season, the woods will echo loudly with the sound of gobbler-speak and turkey hen-led squadrons of birds.

For the past several weeks some portions of Ohio have seen the arrival – emergence in science lingo – of what’s known as “Dog Days” cicadas, including a swath of Northeast Ohio. This class of the fearsome-looking though harmless cicadas appear annually, though staggered enough so that individuals can fully utilize their two- to three-year develop cycle.

That is the take from The Ohio State University’s Extension Service which has studied the species habits in Ohio and has published several items on the subject.

The Extension Service’s published data also hastens to note that the Dog Days variety of cicadas is the same as but a different group of the insects which appear on 13-year and 17-year cycles. In 2016 a large portion of Ohio was inundated with a heavy emergence of 17-year cicadas that helped feed a good hatch of wild turkeys.

Which in turn helped biological fund an excellent kill of birds during this past spring’s wild turkey-hunting season, says Mark Wiley, an Ohio Division of Wildlife research biologist,

This past spring’s wild turkey-hunting season saw a total kill of 21,015 birds compared to the 17,793 birds shot during the 2016 spring season. And much of the huge by-county-recorded gains overlapped where 2016’s huge cicada Brood V occurred; which became a timely deli for the just-hatching baby wild turkeys as well as their parents.

Thing is, cicadas are protein dynamos that are eagerly sought after by wild turkeys and other forms of fowl and all.
Such an energy supply is being helped kept full by the Dog Days branch of the surprisingly large and diverse cicada family tree. The next significant emergence of the nearly always prolific multi-year cicada storm is expected in 2019.

That emergence will occur along a generally small quarter-moon-shape of territory from southeast Ashtabula County and bulging out into Trumbull and Mahoning counties before curving back into northeast Jefferson County. This batch of cicadas is known as Brood VIII.

Ohio's next massive emergence of cicadas across a larger portion of the state is expected with Brood X in 2021 and also Brood XIV in 2025. Such appearances are important, says students of cicada lore because the vast numbers of emergent insects so overwhelm predators that more than enough of the insects avoid being eaten and consequently keep their tribe fruitful for the next brood go-round.

In the meantime the Dog Days cicada class is helping to sustain Ohio’s wild turkey pollet survival and which will thus help the hunters’ chase for birds this coming fall and next spring, says Wiley.

“Absolutely a good brood cycle is excellent for wild turkey production and turkey harvest,” Wiley said. “Our wild turkey brood index in 2016 was three time greater than average. And that was reflected in this year’s spring turkey harvest figures.”

Better still, says Wiley also, is that this fall the state’s hunters should see not only a goodly number of now-mature birds from the 2016 wild turkey hatch but also a respectable number of birds born this year.

“That is assuming we follow the pattern that we saw 17 years ago,” Wiley said. “Generally, we see a turkey harvest spike two years after a large cicada brood harvest. That means there should be a good number of two-year old birds to hunt.”

Thanks in some measure at least to the broods of diet-rich cicadas which just don’t have it in their genetic make-up to wait 13 years, let alone 17 years.

By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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