17-Year Cicadas to Emerge in Kentucky This Spring
By Easton Sanders
LEXINGTON - Beginning in May, parts of Kentucky and 14 other states will see an emergence of billions of cicadas that have been burrowed in the ground since 2004.

The 17-year periodical cicadas are part of Brood X, also known as the Great Eastern Brood because they live from Kentucky and Tennessee all the way to Virginia and Delaware.

Brood X used to cover over half of Kentucky. However, UK Extension entomologist Jonathan Larson said when the brood last emerged in 2004, the insects were mainly reported in just 16 counties, chiefly in the central and northern regions of the state. 

"It's possible there could be (Brood X) cicadas in other spots that got missed in 2004, but those are the counties we expect to see the biggest emergence in," Larson said. "These reports are, of course, only as reliable as when people report them to either the universities they're around or to the folks that do a lot of this national database work."

Western Kentucky is actually where two broods of 13-year cicadas overlap. Brood XIX covers much of Missouri and Illinois, as well as western Kentucky, and will next emerge here in 2024.  Brood XXIII last appeared in 2015 in west Tennessee and Mississippi, as well as western Kentucky and southern Illinois. 

Although we see some cicadas locally every year, Larson said the reason certain broods appear every 13 to 17 years is a million-dollar question.

"The reason we think it happens that way is because it helps to make sure that nothing specializes in feeding on or laying their eggs on these particular cicadas. It's a way of avoiding predators," Larson said.

Periodical cicadas also look different than the ones you see every summer. According to Larson, the 17-year cicadas are part of a genus called Magicicada, which are black with red eyes and orange colors on their wings. Annual cicadas are typically green, black, and brown. Additionally, annual cicadas emerge late in the summer.

While cicadas are mostly harmless, Larson warns that the noisy bugs can target some newly planted oaks or elms by laying their eggs in them.

He said, "You can see some damage on those trees. We do try to protect those plants with netting wrapped around the tree. The netting should have holes in it that are smaller than half an inch to keep the female cicadas away. That way she can't lay her eggs in the twigs."

In a more positive light, the cicadas can be a food source for many animals, including turkeys, foxes, squirrels, and even people. 

"The ones that come out of the ground first, a lot of them get gobbled up by basically anything with a mouth and digestive tract, and that can include your dogs and cats," Larson said. "You can even nibble on them yourself if you're feeling daring. They're supposed to have a walnut-ty flavor, is what I've been told."

Larson noted that if you are allergic to shellfish, you should not eat them.

You can learn more about cicadas at the links below.

On the Net:

Periodical Cicadas in Kentucky
More Information on Periodical Cicadas in Kentucky

Published 07:00 PM, Tuesday Apr. 06, 2021
Updated 09:48 PM, Tuesday Apr. 06, 2021



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