Cicadas are Coming--But Shouldn't Affect Horses

After a 17-year absence from Kentucky, one of the largest known broods of periodical cicadas will emerge this spring, and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is warning vineyard and fruit tree growers to be aware of the coming of "Brood X," what entomologists have dubbed this year's hatching. However, it doesn't appear that the cicadas' arrival should cause any harm to horses.

Photos courtesy of North Carolina State University Department of Entomology

The periodical or 17-year cicada (above) has a black body, bright red eyes, and amber wings with orange veins.


This Tibicen cicada is more typical of what is seen annually.

"The real damage to agriculture (specifically to trees) will come from the cicadas' laying of eggs," Commissioner Farmer said. "Secondary damage will also occur after hatching, as nymphs feed on sap from plant roots during their lengthy stay below ground."

"This is a non-event from a horse perspective," said Bruce Webb, PhD, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky, who has spent time researching Eastern tent caterpillars and the link to mare reproductive loss syndrome. "There may be some cosmetic damage to trees on horse farms, but I frankly can't imagine this having any effect on mares.

"Of course, I would have said the same thing about tent caterpillars five years ago, but we truly have not even the slightest hint that the cicadas will do anything bad to any animal--other than to perhaps startle an occasional animal...or person," added Webb.

Periodical cicadas--having black bodies, bright red eyes, and amber wings with orange veins--usually emerge in mid- to late May. Cicada numbers will continue to increase, then, usually in early to mid-June, female cicadas begin laying eggs. In early August, the eggs hatch and nymphs fall to the ground to burrow into the soil, where they will live for the next 17 years. Annual cicadas, which are green- and black-bodied and have clear wings with green veins, cause similar damage, but the sheer numbers of the periodical cicadas are what will damage produce.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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