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, but it doesn't appear that the cicadas' arrival should cause any harm to horses. Periodical cicadas--having black bodies, bright red eyes, and amber wings with orange veins--usually emerge in mid- to late May.

Tree damage will result from the cicadas' laying of eggs, and secondary damage will 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, a University of Kentucky entomologist who has researched Eastern tent caterpillars and their 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 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," he added.

The green and black annual cicadas that horse owners are familiar with cause similar damage to foliage, but the sheer numbers of the periodical cicadas are what will damage trees.

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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