Dr. Gene Kritsky, Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences and a professor in the Department of Biology at Mount St. Joseph, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us a little bit about how he came to be known as the ‘Cicada Guy.’
By Jill Nicholson
If you’ve been following the emergence of the Brood X cicadas, you’ve likely heard of Dr. Gene Kritsky. He has written a book about them, been interviewed by countless news outlets all over the country, developed the Cicada Safari app to track them, and has produced a wonderful podcast with WVXU. Thanks in part to Dr. K, there are many great resources available for those who are interested to learn more about Brood X. That’s why we wanted to learn a little more about the ‘Cicada Guy’ and how he came to be the leading expert on periodical cicadas, particularly Brood X.
Q: You’ve been with Mount St. Joseph since 1983, almost 40 years. What initially attracted you to this area, and what has kept you here all these years?
A: Three things: Major League baseball, trilobite fossils, and cicadas.
Q: There are almost 1 million different kinds of insects in the world and over 90,000 in the United States. How did you come to focus your studies on the periodical cicada?
A: I love history, and periodical cicadas are bugs of history. They have attracted the attention of scientists like Linnaeus, Darwin, and people outside of biology including Thomas Jefferson, Ogden Nash, and Bob Dylan.
Q: Do you mind being called the Cicada Guy?
A: Not at all, after 44 years of University teaching I have been called a lot worse.
Q: Other than cicadas which are of course native to this area, are there any insects in the region that are of particular interest to you?
A: I also work on the history of beekeeping and have kept bees for years. I am also fond of tiger beetles as well.
Q: Here in Cincinnati we are all focused on Brood X, but there are other Broods of periodical cicadas that will be emerging in other parts of the world. When will the next one be and where will that take place?
A: The next brood to emerge will be a dual emergence of Broods XIII and XIX. That is something that only happens once every 221 years.
Q: Will you be traveling to experience the emergences of any other periodical cicadas in the future? If so, where will you go?
A: The above mentioned dual emergence will take place in 3 years, and will be in Illinois and Chicago.
Q: I imagine your work has taken you many places around the world? Do you have any favorite spots?
A: I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively. I have lived for extended periods in Egypt and the United Kingdom and been able to return on numerous occasions. They certainly would be my favorite places, but I am also fond of Greece, France, and Slovenia.
Q: Your wife, Jessee Smith, is an artist and jewelry maker who has designed and created a lovely collection of cicada jewelry. Has she always been interested in cicadas or has your enthusiasm for cicadas inspired her?
A: She has loved cicadas since she first experienced them in 1987, and she has co-authored several research papers on cicadas as well. I could say that cicadas brought us together.
Q: I know I said this interview was going to be about getting to know you more, but I do have one question about the cicadas. Our Labrador retriever mix has been on a diet his whole life because there is nothing he doesn’t like to eat. What is the caloric content of a cicada?
A: It has not been scientifically measured, but based on other insects, I would think it would be in the range of 100 calories for a female cicada.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to talk to us. We have learned so much from you these past several weeks about Brood X, so it was really a treat to get to learn a little more about you.
Dr. Dene Kritsky’s new cicada book, Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition, is available here
Download the Cicada Safari app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store
Jessee J. Smith’s silver cicada jewelry is available on her Etsy shop
Make a donation to Mount St. Joseph’s cicada research in the School of Behavioral and Natural Sciences
Jill Nicholson is a senior editor for Robinson Sotheby’s International Realty’s Home Front newsletter and a novice naturalist.