On a recent Friday afternoon I was leaving the Licking Valley Campus where I work, when I saw our Bradford Pear tree working alive with activity.
A closer inspection revealed hundreds of singing cicadas. I grabbed my camera out of the car and climbed under the lower limbs of the tree to get a better look.
I started shooting pictures while my colleague Debbie Gill gasped, "What are you doing?" She doesn't like cicadas.
I think they are wonderful; truly a miracle of nature. To think these creatures have been living underground for 17 years, just to emerge for a 2 to 4 week jaunt in the sun and we get to watch.
I did some research and thanks to the University of Kentucky's Entomology website I found out this is cicada brood number XIV.
They are 17-year periodical cicadas. They have been living underground eating sap from tree roots and their alarm clock went off around the first of May. They started burrowing through the ground to make their way to any vertical surface; preferably a tree, and begin the courtship and egg-laying process for the next batch.
Each female cicada can lay about 600 eggs in slits at the bottoms of small twigs. If you see some dead leaves and twigs on your trees you can blame the cicadas, but that is the extent of their damage.
These cicadas have a life span of about two to four weeks. They do eat while they are alive, mostly plant juices from a variety of plants and trees.
They are not locusts which are more closely related to the grasshopper and generally wreak havoc on crops. They do not sting or bite so don't be tempted to squash them.
The birds are certainly enjoying them. I watched blackbirds in our tree at home eat until they were full.
There can be as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre. Some people like to fry them up and eat them. My dad uses them for catfish bait and my niece's little dog, Beau, loves to crunch on them.
Me, I just like to look at them and kick back and enjoy the music.
The heat of the day seems to be their favorite time and since our photo shoot took place around 4:30 p.m., they were in perfect musical form.
The noise from their songs was deafening. It would crescendo, then decrescendo, only to crescendo again. I raised my hands as I recalled my music teacher, Mary Ruth Hendricks, and led the cicadas in a summer time medley.
The cicadas have invaded and are tuning up to serenade us for just a short while. We won't hear their songs again until 2025. I think they sound great.
Sandy Power is the public relations specialist at Maysville Community and Technical College-Licking Valley Campus.