Horticulture News: Annual cicadas coming soon

By Adam Leonberger, Published:

Although we are not set to have a massive explosion of periodical cicadas for another 10 years, I wanted to take the time to talk about the annual cicadas, which should be emerging in the next few weeks. 

Annual cicada (also called dogday cicadas) adults are seen every summer in Kentucky. 

There are several species of periodical cicadas in Kentucky, many of which belong to the genus Tibicen. Most annual cicadas are larger than periodical cicadas and most have dark green or black bodies and dark eyes. They are about 1¼-1½ inches long and from ½-7/16 inch wide. Some species may be as long as two inches.

The wings are clear membranes except for the green coloring along the leading edge of each wing. The wings are 1½-2 inches long depending on body size. The upper body has a green and brown pattern to green and black pattern while the lower half of the body is mostly whitish. 

Nymphs feed on the sap of tree roots with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. After becoming fully developed, nymphs emerge from the ground at night and climb onto nearby objects such as tree trunks, plants, fences, etc. Adult cicadas emerge from the last nymph stage leaving behind the cast skin. Adults can live 5-6 weeks.

Cicadas are sometimes mistakenly called locusts. In actuality, they are not at all related to locusts but are rather a kind of grasshopper.

The male cicadas “sing” during the day to attract females. Two vibrating membranes on either side of the abdomen produce the sound. Females do not “sing.” Dogday cicadas tend to sing more in late afternoon and evening. Each cicada species has its own distinctive sound to avoid attracting the wrong cicada.

Periodical cicadas occur in such high numbers that they can cause damage to trees as the females cut slits into tree twigs to lay eggs. However, annual cicadas are typically at such low numbers that they don’t require any control. 

For more information on this and other horticultural issues, contact the Franklin County Extension Office, 502-695-9035, or adam.leonberger@uky.edu.

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