Cicadas are Coming!

DO I NEED TO BE WORRIED ABOUT THE CICADAS COMING?

A note from our Founder, Don Eaton, a ‘seasoned’ grower:

I have been growing now through two major Cicada cycles. The last in 2004 was much less than expected. In fact, they were of no concern in 2004 – 17 years ago. The period before that, in the 80’s I was growing in Tennessee, where it was amazing and awful at the same time. 

Right now, it is an estimated four to six weeks of noise is ahead of us potentially. Crazy numbers of Cicadas are expected – 1 1/2 Million per acre! For the last 17 years, these creatures have been feeding on the root sap of your trees and mine, and now comes the time to breed. Moving up from the soil towards the light, they leave dime-sized holes in the ground and race to anything heading up. They prefer trees but also go for large shrubs.  

 

Expect Cicadas when soil temps reach 64 degrees or warmer; some arrive early, some late. For Maryland, the forecast is for your area to be the epicenter of this event. Some will arrive early May, peaking late May through early June. 

The main damage that cicadas can inflict on our landscapes comes when female cicadas drill holes into slender tree branches, where they then lay their eggs. To protect younger or vulnerable trees, cover with netting to keep the cicadas away.

The eggs deposited by the females will eventually hatch, producing nymphs the size of a grain of rice. Those nymphs fall off the trees and burrow underground, beginning their 17 years of subterranean life. While above ground, their parents end their life stage, the carcasses piling up under trees and on the grass, returning nutrients to the soil that will feed the trees and eventually the next generation of Cicadas who will survive off the sap of the tree roots.

Bottom line: After 17 years underground, more than a billion Brood X cicadas will emerge in spring 2021 across parts of the United States.

PRACTICAL GROWER ADVICE

1) Apply NO pesticides; the numbers are just too great to overcome.

2) Cicadas on tree stems – use the same method as repelling Gypsy Moth or Spotted Lantern Fly and add barriers around your favorite trees to stop the Male Cicadas from climbing up your tree. It won’t stop all, but it will help.

3) Netting – the only practical method to protect young and smaller trees. Large mature trees will survive. Only younger trees are in jeopardy.

4) The females prefer pencil size branches and stems to drill their eggs into. This can cause the branch to break off and drop or leave scars. The eggs laid look like train tracks about 2 inches long – you can easily see where the bark has been disturbed. 

5) Go ahead and plant – yes to netting. The tree will still grow and flourish. 

6) What I witnessed growing hundreds of acres of younger trees through 2 Cicada broods is that trees survive well, and the grower and the tree quickly forget this event.

For any serious damage to take place, Cicadas will have to choose your tree out of millions. The real challenge is that young trees have smaller branches for egg laying and the drilling required. Any netting will help.

NOTE – I remember that rain and irrigation provided a deterrent, and cicadas would avoid if given a choice. Spraying your trees with your garden hose and being a nuisance to the cicada might help you and your plants!