Cicada Invasion Begins In Kentuckiana

By Frances Kuo

(FLOYDS KNOBS, Ind., May 12th, 2004, 5 p.m.) -- We've been warning you over the last couple of weeks about the invasion of the 17-year cicada. Well, they're now being spotted by homeowners throughout Kentuckiana. WAVE 3's Frances Kuo reports.

If the cicadas you see covering trees in your yard don't look familiar, it's because they haven't been seen around here in 17 years. But for the next several weeks, you'll be seeing them a lot. They may be tiny, but put millions of cicadas together, and you've got a sound as loud as a freight train.

What we may think is a nuisance is just a part of life for the little critters. How they know to come out at a certain time every 17 years is one of the biggest biological mysteries.

After 17 years, some of the millions of cicadas swarming in our region have made their home at Heather Kirtley's house in Floyds Knobs. "I've done a lot of hosing, hosing them off the house," she says, but added "as soon as I hose them off, they come back up."

Cicadas now cover her driveway, fence post, plants and the big tree in her front yard, but she holds no ill will towards the insects. "After 17 years in the ground, they're here for a week, and then they die. It's kind of sad."

It may be sad, but just a part of life. They come up to eat and mate. The noise they make comes from the male's courtship song. Then the female lays her eggs on the tips of tree branches.

Bill Abel with the Grantline Gardening Center says the cicadas pose no real danger to the trees. "The damage done will repair itself," he says. "The tree will survive and be fine. It's basically just trimming the tree."

And since they don't cause much harm, Abel says spraying isn't worth the time. Plant covers with grids smaller than bird netting are an option. But Kirtley's taking the invasion in stride, and in a small way she's looking forward to the next time they return, 17 years from now. "I'll kind of miss them, they're kind of neat, they're quite a conversation piece."

Experts say cicadas don't bite, but they crawl everywhere, so watch your step. We'll have to put with them until about the end of June, then they're gone again until 2021.