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Entomologist talks cicadas at Pleasant Hills lecture

By Brittany Goncar
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

It's a hot summer night, and a loud hum resonates from the dark.

Many people know that cicadas make this sound. Chad Gore, entomologist and regional technical manager at Rentokil North America Pest Control, hosted a lecture about that very subject at the Pleasant Hills Library last week.

“You can't really talk about cicadas without talking about all the chatter you hear,” Gore said.

He explained that male cicadas use their tymbal membrane to attract females for mating. The female responds with a short wing clip. The mating process has to be quick because the insects only have four to six weeks to live.

Allegheny County is home to broods seven and eight of the 17-year periodical cicada that are scheduled to reappear in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Gore said. Broods are masses of cicadas that come out at the same time.

Allegheny County also is home to the annual cicadas or dog-day cicadas, which are larger than the periodical cicadas and do not emerge in a brood.

The periodical cicadas surface after spending 16 years underground when soil temperatures reach 64 degrees toward the end of May, Gore said.

An adult female can lay 400 to 600 eggs in her life. Cicada eggs can be found on small hardwood tree branches. Cicadas cut small slits in the branch and lay 24 to 48 eggs in each slit.

“Most times, it doesn't do much damage,” Gore said. “Sometimes, it does this thing called ‘flagging,' where you get the dying cicadas off of the leaves and the twig. It can do damage to younger trees.”

Gore suggested covering small trees with mesh to protect them from cicadas.

Cicadas have several predators, including wasps, dogs and humans.

A mini-lobster?

“I can't talk about cicadas without talking about eating them,” Gore said, as members of the audience cringed. “It's really not that big of a deal. Just consider it a mini-lobster, if you will.”

Cicadas are high in protein and are gluten-free. Recipes can be found in a cookbook called “Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying the Periodical Cicada.”

Collectibles

After the lecture, Gore compared his collection to that of Emma Millard, 12, of Bentleyville. She has been collecting insects most her life and couldn't wait to meet Gore and get pointers about identifying her specimens.

“Insects are interesting,” Emma said. “I have butterflies, moths and scorpions in my collection.”

Gore didn't always have a fascination in insects like Millard.

“When I was a kid I was afraid of insects,” Gore said.

He said he developed his passion while working on a project about gypsy moths to help fund his master's degree in entomology at North Carolina State University.

Gore gives several talks about insects a year at the Pleasant Hills Library and the arboretum. Earlier this year he walked children through the arboretum collecting insects and identifying them.

“I like talking about insects to the kids and help them develop a passion,” Gore said.

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or bgoncar@tribweb.com.

 

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