Butler County farmer finds unusual blue-eyed cicada as brood winds down in Ohio

A blue-eyed cicada is a one-in-a-million find, but a local cicada expert said they are not as uncommon when several billion of the insects are flying around.

Butler County soybean farmer Dale Richter, a retired Springboro police officer, found one of these blue-eyed mutated cicadas near one of his sugar maple trees on his 151-acre farm in Wayne Twp. recently. Cicadas are known for their the bright-red eyes they normally have.

At a birthday party for his son, family and friends were talking about the cicadas and a rumor scientists would pay “a lot of money” for the mutated cicadas. Richter didn’t check to see if those claims were true ― and scientists don’t pay for mutated cicadas — but he still looked.

Credit: Dale Richter/Contributed

Credit: Dale Richter/Contributed

“I just kept it in the back of my mind and on Monday I started looking for them. Then lo and behold on Tuesday, I found one,” said Richter. “It didn’t take me long to my surprise. We’re pretty loaded up with them here.”

Cicada expert and Mount St. Joseph University professor Gene Kritsky said that while the blue-eyed cicadas are reportedly a one-in-a-million find, they’re pretty common when several billion cicadas emerged in mid-May in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states.

“I’ve been receiving one to two emails a day from people over the last two weeks of finding them,” he said.

Kritsky is uncertain what causes the genetic mutation, but said “it acts like a dilution gene, a genetic characteristic that reduces the expression of the red pigment in the cicadas.”

He also said the major wing veins can also be a pale color.

Kritsky said he recently took a photo of a cicada with more orange on its face than it should have, adding, “it’s difficult to find that kind of variation.”

Mutations are in other periodical cicadas, as well as in the annual cicadas, but won’t be in the same numbers as Brood X that are in at least 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Cicadas are on the decline in the area. Kritsky said they’ll be gone by the end of June or first of July.

“They’re declining pretty fast, which is not unexpected,” he said. “They reached the peak the week before last and then in the last week, the intensity of the calls dropped about 20 percent.”

The intensity of the cicadas’ calls dropped another 10 percent in the past few days, he said.

What people should watch for next are their trees, which is where cicadas lay their eggs, he said.

“Some of their leaves are going to wither and turn brown, and it might even break at the edge of the branch,” said Kritsky, which is called flagging and is a sign of periodical cicada egg-laying. He said it’s not harmful to mature trees.

“They may see it in a few places over the next week, and it’s going to get more pronounced over the next month,” he said.

Areas with a heavier infestation of cicadas will see a higher number of dead cicadas around the base of trees.

“That will smell as they decay, but it doesn’t last for more than a couple of days,” Kritsky said. “It’s best to just let them sit there in the soil and decay and decompose and back under the soil and into the trees where they help the trees and the cicadas.”

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