May 12, 2004 | By: Haven Miller, Laura Skillman

Brood X of the periodical cicada is emerging in Kentucky.  As encounters with the public become more frequent during the next few weeks, a common question will arise: “Will this noisy insect cause harm to people or animals?”

According to insect specialists with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service the answer is “no.” 

“Myth and rumor to the contrary, cicadas are not poisonous and do not sting or bite,” said Lee Townsend, Extension entomologist in the UK College of Agriculture.  “Consequently, they pose no direct threat to the health and well-being of livestock or humans.”

Townsend said dogs and cats may be curious about cicadas as they fly slowly around and blunder into objects. 

“Some pets may play with the insects and could possibly eat some of them but, as with most food, overindulgence would be the main but unlikely downside,” Townsend said.

Some people and animals may be disturbed by the buzzing flight of cicadas, especially if they live near wooded areas where the insect is abundant.  If livestock are located near heavily-infested woods it may be necessary to relocate them temporarily.

The singing noise of the periodical is likely to be very loud where large populations have emerged. 

“For the vast majority of people other than fear and irritation, they are nothing more than a curiosity,” said Doug Johnson, UK Extension entomologist.

Johnson said one of the myths associated with cicadas is that they are locusts, but locusts are very different.  Another myth is that whatever fruit the cicada feeds on is poison, but that is false.

“There are a lot of stories about them because they are so rare, they come out so quickly and then they are gone.”

With the exception of a few small pockets west of the Mississippi River, periodical cicadas are found nowhere else in the world except in the eastern United States.


Sources: Lee Townsend, 859-257-7455; Doug Johnson, 270-365-7541