Cicadas making some noise in Pulaski County this summer

Cicadas, or locusts as the loud-mouthed bugs are commonly called, have made a limited appearance this summer in Pulaski County.

Ben Looney, a retired ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, called attention to emergence of the insects. He said he has noticed a few shells around his place at 100 Vicki Lane. "I've called several of my former co-workers and they say the insects are thick in some places," said Looney.

The Gardner's Network says cicadas have shown up in many areas of the country. In areas where a limited number of these insects are present, cicadas are only a minor nuisance. However, where cicadas emerge all at once by the millions, they can do serious damage to young trees and shrubs. In addition, their high pitched, shrill noise is very irritating.

While cicadas are fascinating to some, presence of the insects in large numbers may be unnerving to many people. This occurred in Pulaski County -- as memory serves it was 34 years ago -- and the insects were pests in some places. Cicadas are clumsy, like a bumblebee, and fly in sporadic flight, like a woodpecker.

Folks often refer to cicadas as locusts, but technically this is incorrect. A locust is a type of grasshopper. Cicadas break out of shells abandoned as empty inch-and-a-quarter-long, brown bug-like creatures left clinging to tree trunks.

Cicadas, in large spring hatches, called "broods", emerge in 13 year and 17 year cycles. Extension entomologists at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture say the 2019 Cicada emergence is Brood VIII, a 17 year Cicada.

Spectacular broods of periodical cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years across the eastern United States. Representatives of both occur in the Kentucky.

Emergence of millions of these insects provides a striking visual image and sounds can be deafening. Sounds are produced by males which fly to high branches and sing to attract females.

The insects have black bodies, red eyes and red-orange wing veins in two pairs of clear wings. Folklore has it a "W" on the wing of a cicada means there will be war. A "P" on the wing means there will be peace.

Cicadas often stay in the upper canopy of trees while active from late April thru June. Encounters with periodical cicadas can be unnerving to some but cicadas don't sting and do not harm humans, livestock and pets.

These insects can cause problems in orchards, vineyards, nurseries, home and commercial landscapes. Physical injury or "flagging" occurs after females slit twigs to insert batches of eggs. Twigs break at these weak spots and are left to dangle, turn brown and die. This "pruning" is not a serious problem for large trees but can adversely affect the developing structure of small trees. A more subtle impact can occur several years later as growing nymphs remove sap from roots.

Some information from Gardner's Network and University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.