Bugs, Predators, and Turkeys — Cicadas will emerge in 18 states

By Jason Lupardus

This spring into summer, the 13-year Brood XIX will emerge in 15 states, and the 17-year Brood XIII in 5 states. Overall, the emergence of these cicada broods will be in 18 states, so be ready to hear a lot more of the buzz in the background as the warmer days come upon us. The cicada activity should be at its most significant from late May through mid June when ground temperatures reach 64 degrees approximately 8 inches below. The deafening drone of cicadas calling in the sunshine is a long note of good news for turkey populations and many other species, as predator and prey shifts occur at a very large level.

What does this mean for turkeys?  Many states that have experienced these massive cicada emergences typically notate much higher hen to poult ratios that year. A 1:2 hen to poult ratio means that the turkey population is not growing or declining, and when an abundance of cicadas appear, expect the ratio to swing in favor of population growth. Generally, 2 years later we will see higher turkey harvest numbers, as we have more of those loud-mouth 2-year-old gobblers in the population. For example, Kentucky observed a massive emergence of cicadas in 2008, then correlated it to a record fall turkey harvest in 2009 and an even larger spring turkey harvest in 2010. This has been experienced in multiple states. If you are like me, we welcome those days of hearing multiple birds thundering loudly each morning. I welcome these emerging Cicadas, as the love for the loud, noisy insects only ensures that my passion for hearing/seeing more turkeys is fulfilled.

Do turkey populations grow because there is more cicada nuggets on the dinner plate?  Yes and No. The abundance of additional high-protein food is very important to turkeys, especially hens and poults; however, what we are really seeing is a major shift in predator and prey dynamics at an unfathomable scale. All of the mesopredators and aerial predators also see an abundance of delicious cicada morsels. Theoretically, these turkey predators are filling up on this new food source and the pressure on our turkeys tend to go down. Basically those predators are not actively searching for prey items, and critters such as raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, and many others are gorging on cicadas without having to do much work. 

The interesting point to ponder is that when predators are not in the equation, we see turkey population growth. In this real-word scenario, predators are shifting to other prey — cicadas — and turkey numbers increase in subsequent years. If we collaborate together locally and use one of the best wildlife management tools — trapping — then we could potentially experience localized turkey population growth. Let’s appreciate these upcoming cicada days, as we know what that means for our beloved birds; however, we need to take a proactive approach to ensure that none of us or future generations experience a silent spring. 

We will continue to unravel the mysteries of wild turkey decline, as TFT shall save the wild turkey using science-based solutions for long-term sustainability. Let’s celebrate the cicadas this year, as bright days are ahead in these 18 states throughout many counties. We compiled a list of all of the states and counties to see where you will see impacts in your local area below. I hope that your season is full of many sounds: songbirds, gobbles, and then the buzz from cicadas.

  1. Alabama Counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Choctaw, Clarke, Crenshaw, Elmore, Etowah, Greene, Lawrence, Limestone, Lowndes, Monroe, Montgomery, Russell, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Wilcox
  2. Arkansas Counties: Boone, Futon, Howard, Izard, Lawrence, Marion, Montgomery, Pike, Scott, Searcy, Sevier, Sharp, Washington, Yell
  3. Georgia Counties: Bibb, Bleckley, Butts, Columbia, Elbert, Greene, Harris, Houston, Jasper, McDuffie, Monroe, Muscogee, Oconee, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Richmond, Stephens, Taliaferro, Troup, Waren, Wilkes
  4. Illinois Counties: Adams, Brown, Bureau, Calhourn,Carroll, Cass, Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles,Cook, Cumberland, De Witt, DuPage, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Fulton, Gallatin, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kankakee, Lake, LaSalle, Livingston, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Massac, McHenry, McLean, Menard, Moultrie, Peoria, Pike, Pope, Putnam, Saline, Sangamon, Shelby, Stark, Tazewell, Vermillion, Washington, Whiteside, Will, Williamson,Winnebago, Woodford.
  5. Indiana Counties: Lake, LaPorte, Porter, Posey.
  6. Iowa Counties: Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Cedar, Dubuque, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Louisa, Muscatine, Scott, Tama.
  7. Kentucky Counties: Allen, Caldwell, Christian, Trigg
  8. Louisiana Parishes: Caddo, Claiborne, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Washington, Webster. Parish information comes from older literature, and might not be as accurate as recent information.
  9. Maryland Counties: St Marys
  10. Michigan: Magicicada have been found along the border of Michigan and Indiana.
  11. Missouri Counties: Adair, Boone, Callaway, Carter, Clark, Cooper, Dent, iron, Jackson, Knox, Louis, Lincoln, Macon, Maries, Marion, Montgomery, Morgan, Oregon, Osage, Pettis, Phelps, Ralls, Reynolds, St. Carles, St Francois, St Louis
  12. Mississippi Counties: Kemper, Newton
  13. North Carolina Counties: Buncombe, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Davie, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Rowan, Stanly, Union
  14. Oklahoma Counties: McCurtain
  15. South Carolina Counties: Aiken, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Lancaster, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Union, York
  16. Tennessee Counties: Blount, Cheatham, Clay, Davidson, Grundy, Hamilton, Jackson, Loudon, Macon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Putnam, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Smith, Stewart, Summer
  17. Virginia Counties: Caroline, Glouchester, Halifax, James City, King and Queen, King William, Middlesex, New Kent, York
  18. Wisconsin Counties: Crawford, Grant, Green. Rock, Walworth.

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