A brood of cicadas that emerges once every 17 years is about to emerge in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. And as temperatures rise, more of the red-eyed nymphs are crawling above ground and morphing into their flying, singing adult form.
If you are in the path of Brood V this year, we have some tips to survive, and even enjoy, the invasion. Step one: Invest in some earplugs.
Cicada mating is noisy. Males vibrate a special drumlike organ in their bodies called a tymbal to attract females. Their bodies are built to amplify the sound, and males gather together in trees to “sing.” Cicada expert Gene Kritsky has recorded a cicada chorus at 96 decibels.
“The average jet flying overhead was between 70 to 80 decibels,” says Kritsky, who is an entomologist and chair of biology at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. “The cicadas were drowning out the jets.”
Cover Your Vulnerabilities
Male cicadas do little damage to the trees they occupy, and cicadas don’t have mouthparts for chewing, so your gardens are safe. However, females cut into small twigs to lay their eggs under bark. Large trees will survive this natural pruning without a problem, but trees smaller than 4 feet tall can die from the damage. Kritsky recommends wrapping small trees with cheesecloth ahead of time.
“If you can’t reach the branches of the tree, then it’s likely to survive anyway,” Kritsky says. And be sure to cover any pools, or clean them often, as dead cicadas will clog the filter.
Do Lawn Work at Dawn or Dusk
Cicadas sometimes confuse the vibrations of power tools with the vibrations of the males. As a result, males and female cicadas may swarm to you if you’re using power tools, lawn trimmers, leaf blowers, or mowers. Dan Mozgai, a cicada enthusiast who runs cicadamania.com, recommends using power tools at dawn or dusk, when cicadas are least active.
- Best Cicada-Repelling Tools
- Cicada Bugs In Trees: Preventing Cicada Damage To Trees
- Do Cicadas Damage Trees?
- Minimizing Cicada Damage to Trees
- Do Cicadas Damage or Eat Trees?
- How to Stop Cicada Tree Damage
- Cicada Control: How To Get Rid of Cicadas
- Key Takeaways
- Insect Sounds of Summer (With Graphic)
- Katydids and Crickets
- Bess Beetles
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Why are cicadas so noisy?
Best Cicada-Repelling Tools
Electric Self-Propelled Mower Ryobi homedepot.com $399.00
Ryobi’s electric mowers offer quiet operation and LED headlights, so you can mow at dawn or dusk without disturbing cicadas and other critters.
Variable-Speed Electric Jet Fan Leaf Blower Ryobi homedepot.com $149.00
This electric leaf blower has gas-like power with 480 CFM and 110 MPH, without the loud vibrations.
Cavex Series 22.5 in. Black Poly Leaf Rake Emsco homedepot.com $9.62
Grab this lightweight, durable rake to scoop up cicada carcasses and clear away leaves and other debris from the yard.
14-Gauge Round Point Shovel Bully Tools amazon.com $32.54
This steel shovel with a long fiberglass handle can handle burying cicadas as well as any of your other yard work needs.
Wear a Hat Under Trees
Cicadas drink the xylem fluid of trees as nourishment. That means they pee from their perch on trees too. The squirts of “cicada rain,” or “honey dew,” as it is called, won’t hurt you. But go outdoors with a hat or jacket ready if cicadas are overhead.
Watch Hungry Pets
Cicadas swarm in dense numbers as a “predator satiation” strategy, Kritsky says. That means that most wild predators will get sick of eating them in a few days. But monitor your dogs and cats—the cicada exoskeleton can cause digestive problems.
“If pets eat a whole bunch, they can choke. And if they get a wing sidewise, they can choke,” Mozgai says. Take special precaution with pets if fertilizers or pesticides were used around your house before the cicada emergence. Pesticides won’t kill cicadas, but pets can get sick from eating the pesticide-laced survivors. Who knows—you may want to try a cicada yourself.
Catch a Few for Lunch
“It’s a very green flavor. Like cold, canned asparagus,” says Kritsky, who cooks them blanched in salads. The whole cicada can be eaten shortly after they morph into their adult form, while they are still white. Catch them later and you’ll need to break off the wings, legs, and head.
A cicada cookbook from the University of Maryland can guide you through savory dishes and desserts, including cicada rhubarb pie. Be cautious if you have a shellfish allergy. Cicadas are arthropods and may trigger a reaction.
Get a Rake and Shovel
Adult cicadas emerge only to mate and die. Large numbers of rotting cicadas stink, so grab a rake and a shovel. Burying cicadas in a deep hole will remove the smell. Or, try composting their bodies. About six to 10 weeks after the cicadas die, the next generation hatches. The white nymphs will be the size of a grain of rice and will soon crawl back underground.
Report Them for the Greater Good
Experts are hoping you will report sightings near you at magicicada.org, run by John Cooley of the University of Connecticut. The site has compiled a map of the 2013 emergence thus far. “And look for the ones with white or blue eyes,” Mozgai says. “They are very rare.”
Protecting smaller trees from cicadas can be as easy as placing netting over the tree during the mating season. (Zachariah Durr, cleveland.com)
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Don’t worry, the 17-year cicadas won’t eat all your trees and kill all your plants. But there are some still ways that homeowners can prepare for the incoming invasion.
And the cicadas can have some positive effects on hardier fruit trees.
Female cicadas lay their eggs in smaller branches, about the diameter of a pencil. Often this will kill the branch, but that can lead to more blooms and healthier trees, said David Shetlar, professor of urban landscape entomology for Ohio State University.
“Cicadas are ‘nature’s pruners,'” he added.
However, if most of the branches on a younger or more delicate tree — blossoming crab apple trees for example — are small, cicadas could kill most of them leaving little more than a trunk for next year.
To protect these, you have a few options:
- Place netting on the trees.
- Pick cicadas off the trees by hand
- Use a hose to spray cicadas off the tree
- Use pesticide. Shetlar said he typically doesn’t recommend systemic pesticides, which kill insects that feed on the plant, because female cicadas damage the trees by laying eggs, not eating the tree. Other pesticides will kill the cicadas on contact, and leave a residue to dissuade others, but won’t last, so homeowners have to spray the trees multiple times.
There will also be a lot of cicada bodies lying around, but Shetlar advises to just let nature take its course. Typically the bodies will decompose in about a week and a half and act as fertilizer. Gardeners can use them to add more nutrients to compost piles.
Also, watch your dogs. Eating a few cicada bodies won’t kill them, but predators, including household pets, can gorge themselves on them and get sick.
Cicada Bugs In Trees: Preventing Cicada Damage To Trees
Cicada bugs emerge every 13 or 17 years to terrorize trees and the people who care for them. Are your trees at risk? Learn to minimize cicada damage to trees in this article.
Do Cicadas Damage Trees?
Cicadas can damage trees, but not in the ways you might think. The adults might feed on leaves, but not enough to cause any serious or lasting damage. The larvae drop to the ground and dig down to the roots where they feed until it’s time to pupate. While root feeding robs the tree of nutrients that would otherwise help it grow, arborists have never documented any damage to the tree from this type of feeding.
Tree damage from cicada insects occurs during the egg laying process. The female lays her eggs
under the bark of a twig or branch. The twig splits and dies, and the leaves on the twig turn brown. This condition is called “flagging.” You can spot flagging twigs and branches at a glance because of the contrast of brown leaves against the healthy green leaves on other branches.
Female cicadas are particular about the size of the branch or twig where they lay their eggs, preferring those that are about the diameter of a pencil. This means that older trees won’t sustain serious damage because their primary branches are much larger. Young trees, on the other hand, may be so severely damaged that they die from their injuries.
Minimizing Cicada Damage to Trees
Most people don’t want to wage chemical warfare in their own backyard to prevent tree damage from cicada insects, so here’s a list of prevention measures that don’t involve the use of insecticides:
- Don’t plant new trees within four years of the cicadas emerging. Young trees are at high risk, so it’s best to wait until the danger has passed. Your Cooperative Extension agent can tell you when to expect the cicadas.
- Prevent cicada bugs in small trees by covering them with netting. The netting should have a mesh size no longer than one quarter inch. Fasten the netting around the trunk of the tree just below the canopy to prevent emerging cicadas from climbing up the trunk.
- Clip off and destroy flagging damage. This reduces the population of the next generation by eliminating the eggs.
Do Cicadas Damage or Eat Trees?
The splash of jumping into a pool. The clink of ice cubes in lemonade. The whisper of swaying tree leaves. Those are the sounds of summer we simply can’t get enough of.
The one song you’d skip on your summer soundtrack? Probably the rhythmic (and incessant) chirping of cicadas, a common summer tree pest.
If you hear or see cicadas in your yard, are they just annoying, or can they do damage?
How to Stop Cicada Tree Damage
When will the cicadas go away?
First thing’s first, let’s talk about how long cicadas will be around for. There are two types of cicadas: annual cicadas (also called dog day cicadas) and periodical cicadas (also known as 13 or 17-year cicadas).
Periodical cicadas live underground for either 13 or 17 years and emerge in either May or June. Then, they’re around for 4 to 6 weeks before burrowing underground again.
Annual cicadas come out later in the year (July and August) and stick around for about 2 to 4 weeks.
What trees do cicadas eat? Fruit trees? Oak trees?
Cicadas actually don’t eat tree leaves or branches. Instead, they create slits in tree branches to lay their eggs. Those splits weaken the tree over time, and later, you could see those branches breaking, withering or dying.
Once the cicada eggs hatch, the critters attach themselves to the roots of the tree. Where literally hundreds or thousands of cicadas feed on tree and grass roots for either 2 or 3 years–or up to 17.
Cicadas prefer to lay eggs on branches that are 0.25” to 0.5” round. So, that means they prefer:
- Oak trees
- Maple trees
- Fruit trees (especially cherry and pear)
- Hawthorn trees
- Redbud trees
- Young trees since these branches are the perfect diameter
How can I keep cicadas off trees?
Because cicadas favor young trees, wait until next year to plant new trees if periodical cicadas are going to emerge in your area.
Or if you already have planted a young tree or have one of the trees mentioned above, you can protect it from cicada damage by wrapping susceptible branches with mesh netting.
Cicadas have already damaged my trees. Anything I can do?
Generally, mature trees can sustain the minor damage from cicadas. But, young trees can be hit harder.
If you first saw a lot of cicadas, followed by slits in your tree’s branches, act fast–especially if your tree is younger. You’ll want to prune those branches off within 6 to 10 weeks. That way, you’ll remove the eggs before they hatch and move underground to feed on the tree’s roots.
Cicada Control: How To Get Rid of Cicadas
This page is a general Cicada control guide. Using the products and methods suggested you will reduce the likelihood of Cicadas. Follow this guide and use the recommended products and we guarantee a great reduction in the population of Cicadas.
Cicada infestations are an issue that often springs up in the late spring or early part of summer and can be a noisy problem to deal with. Depending on your region you might have annual (which emerge every year), periodical (which emerge every 13 to 17 years in large numbers) or proto-periodical (which emerge every year, but also emerge in heavy numbers after many years) cicadas.
Cicadas are flying insects that are usually 1 inch or greater in size. They have transparent wings and are known for their mating songs. They produce one of the loudest sounds by any insect and each species have their own unique song.
Cicadas might be big, loud, and scary looking but they do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases. They can be a nuisance pest when they invade homes by the thousands and suck the sap of your trees which in large numbers could injure your plants.
If you want to remove Cicadas from your yard, follow along with our guide below which lays out our top tips and recommendations for Cicada Control.
Identification is essential for control. Before you can treat you need to make be sure you’re dealing with Cicadas. Below you can find some common characteristics of Cicadas.
- About 1 inch to ½ inch in length.
- Have transparent wings.
- Known for their unique loud songs and mating calls which varies by species.
- Body color will vary by species but could be metallic black to green to reddish-brown among many others.
- Eyes could vary in color from species, but usually black bright red.
Inspection is crucial for Cicada control. Before you can treat you need to know the areas Cicadas are infesting and the trees they are feeding on. During the inspection, you will focus on finding Cicada activity.
Where To Inspect
Since most infestations happen outdoors, search outside. Search in trees and shrubs and ornamentals in your property. Depending on the species they can be found in a variety of places, but usually, are found near undisturbed woody areas where nymphs can grow underground by feeding on roots.
What To Look For
You’re looking for Cicadas. They will usually perch in their host trees and sing away attracting other Cicadas. They might blend in with the tree so look closely. The best thing to do is to follow the sound they make. This is the easiest way of inspecting your property of Cicadas. This should lead you straight to the trees they are infesting. Once you have confirmed Cicada activity, it is time to begin treatment.
Once you have confirmed Cicada activity, it is time to begin treatment. Remember to first read all product labels and follow the application instructions on these labels, and stay safe by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
We recommend applying Reclaim IT as an outdoor treatment to your yard ornamentals and trees and as a barrier treatment to both kill and repel Cicadas that are settling on your property.
Step 1 – Outdoor Treatment
Reclaim IT is a broad-spectrum insecticide that is labeled for treating over 70 different pests, including Cicadas. It also has a long residual effect that can continue to control pests for up to 90 days after application. Measure the square footage of your yard to determine how much Reclaim IT you need to cover the entire area. 0.25 to 0.5 ounces of Reclaim IT with a gallon of water will treat 1,000 square feet.
Once mixed, you will do a perimeter treatment which means spraying 3 feet up and 3 feet out from the foundation of your structure. While spraying in this manner, also treat window frames, door frames, eaves, soffits, cracks and crevices, and electrical/plumbing penetrations.
You will want to spray your whole yard, excluding fruit-bearing trees and gardens. Start at the back of your yard, and make your way to the front spraying your whole lawn. Also, spray ornamentals and small shrubs.
Do not let people or pets enter areas treated until 2 to 4 hours have passed.
Depending on your location, you can predict the year, season, and month when Cicadas will emerge from the ground and begin swarming. Reapply Reclaim IT a month in advance before Cicadas are expected to emerge. In locations where you get annual species of Cicadas, treatments will usually occur in late summer and early spring, but double-check to be completely sure.
Also, make sure to keep your trees and shrubs well-trimmed before Cicadas emerge this will ensure they will not have a place to lay their eggs. Do not plant trees two years in advanced when Cicadas are expected to emerge since they will stunt their growth and possibly kill them. If you have planted trees, it is best to protect them with fine mesh meeting to prevent Cicadas from coming close.
- Cicadas are a common infestation which occurs during the summer and can be heard clearly from Cicada mating calls.
- A broadcast application of Reclaim IT to your trees, shrubs and entire yard can control Cicadas.
- Apply Reclaim IT prior to Cicada mating season to prevent their presences on your property.
Cicadas are large, loud, buzzing insects that create a deafening chorus on hot summer nights. Often mistakenly called “locusts,” cicadas have unusual life cycles. Some types, known as periodical cicadas, emerge all at once every 13 or 17 years, depending on their range. Annual cicadas, also called “dog day” cicadas, emerge sporadically every year throughout the hot, muggy period known as the “dog days” of summer. Cicada noise can be disruptive, but these pests can also damage plants above and below ground.
Identification: Many species of cicadas exist in various regions of the United States. All are distinctive, yet they clearly resemble each other. Cicada wings typically extend almost double the length of their bodies and may be anywhere from less than 1 inch long to nearly three times that length. Periodical cicadas are black with bulging reddish-orange eyes and orange-veined wings. Larger annual cicadas have green bodies with black markings and green-veined wings.
Signs/Damage: Cicadas spend much of their life cycle underground, where they suck sap from plant roots. Extensive feeding stunts plant growth. Once cicada nymphs emerge from the ground, they climb up trees or other vegetation and molt. The outer skin, left clinging in place and split right down the midback, is a certain sign of cicadas. After adults go through their noisy mating period, females slice holes into small twigs of trees and shrubs and lay their eggs. The split twigs droop and die back. Small plants may be damaged severely or killed.
Control: Effective control of cicadas starts as soon as you see emerging nymphs or hear the shrill, buzzing call of adults. GardenTech® brand offers several options to kill and control cicadas and prevent plant damage:
- Sevin® Insect Killer Concentrate, used with pump-style sprayer, is ideal for treating lawn areas and small trees and shrubs at risk for cicada damage. Spray all plant surfaces thoroughly, concentrating on small twigs where cicadas may lay eggs.
- Sevin® Insect Killer Ready to Spray attaches to a common garden hose to treat lawn areas and homes perimeters along with small trees and shrubs. It mixes with water as you spray, providing thorough coverage for cicada-prone areas.
- Sevin®-5 Ready-To-Use 5% Dust kills periodical cicadas on ornamental shrubs and flowers. Apply a thin, thorough dusting to affected parts of the plant at the first sign of cicada damage.
Tip: Large, mature trees can withstand most cicada damage, but young trees suffer when populations are high. Cover young trees with netting to protect against egg-laying adults.
Always read product labels and follow the instructions carefully.
GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.
Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.
Insect Sounds of Summer (With Graphic)
For many, peaceful summertime evenings are spent sitting on the front porch with family, enjoying a symphony of sounds produced by nature. The season certainly has its own music — and much of it is made by bugs! In fact, you might be surprised to learn exactly how many bugs play in summer’s orchestra. Here’s what insect sounds you can listen for, and how you can try to identify these various creatures by the sounds they produce.
Cicadas are famously known for their buzzing, which often rises and falls in both pitch and volume. In summers when cicadas populations are very high, the effect can be quite startling, with insects seemingly calling and responding to each other across the treetops. But did you know that only males produce sound? Male cicadas sing in order to make their presence known to potential mates or to send out distress calls. Each male cicada has two special membranes, called tymbals, located on its abdomen. Much of the rest of the cicada’s abdomen is essentially hollow and serves as a natural amplifier for the clicks produced as cicadas vibrate these organs.
Katydids and Crickets
Upon first glance, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a katydid and a cricket. Even experts can have a hard time differentiating them from each other visually. So, what’s the easiest way to tell them apart? Each species has its own sonic signature.
Like cicadas, only male katydids and crickets produce sounds. Crickets make a chirping sound by running the top of one wing along the other in a process known as stridulation. (Hence the popular image of a cricket as a fiddler because most people think they make noises by rubbing together their legs, not their wings.) Katydids also stridulate, but, rather than trilling, they often strike a buzzing, drawn-out and softer note.
Bess beetles, of which there are near 500 species of in the U.S., are most identifiable by their shiny black wings. While these large forest dwellers are more often encountered in tropical regions, they can be found in some densely wooded areas of North America. Bess beetles are capable of producing upwards of 14 different sounds. Not all of these sounds are audible to human beings, but, once you’ve heard a bess beetle hiss or squeak, you aren’t likely to forget it.
Almost everyone is familiar with the buzzing of a bumble bee, not to mention the intense droning of a beehive. The bees themselves directly produce this hum. What you’re hearing is an actual disturbance in the air created by the beating of the bee’s wings. The larger the bee — or wasp, or hornet — the slower its wings beat and the lower the pitch of the resulting sound.
The high whine of a mosquito flying close to your ear may be one of the most annoying sounds associated with summer. It’s believed this sound may serve some purpose in attracting a mate. Either way, mosquitoes are able to control the rate of their wing beats and serenade each other at very specific frequencies.
Next > Seven Strange Insects From Around the World
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The exoskeleton of a cicada on a tree trunk, St. George, Utah, July 21, 2018 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — The annual buzz is back, leaving many in St. George wondering what that noise is and how to make it stop.
The shrill noise coming from the trees is made by male cicadas, droning on in hopes of attracting a mate.
Mark Hodges, founder of Arbor Tech, a professional tree care and landscaping company, has noticed a lot of cicadas in locust and ash trees around St. George.
Cicadas eat and drink by sucking the xylem, or sap, from plants and trees. This process does not harm the trees.
“They’re consuming the tree, but it’s not damaging to it. It’s like a mosquito bite to us,” Hodges said.
The only harm cicadas do to trees is called “flagging,” which is when cicadas lay eggs in a weak branch of a tree causing it to die, according to Cicada Mania. However, this can actually be good for the tree, acting as pruning the weak branch so the tree no longer has to waste energy on a weak or dying branch.
The cicadas are loud, obnoxious and occasionally frighten people by flying by them, but this is their only offense. They don’t sting or bite, and Hodges has never seen an instance where cicadas have caused any real damage to trees.
Cicadas are resistant to bug sprays, so attempting to get rid of them with spray will be harmful to the environment, only last a few days and will kill more bees and other insects than cicadas, Hodges said.
“Sometimes when trying to control those nuisances we end up causing more problems than what we solved.”
Hodges said that destroying the egg sack is the most effective way to reduce the cicada population. Cicadas lay their egg sacks in a tree, just under the bark.
A cicada’s life span, depending on the species, can be around 17 years, according to National Geographic. Most of this time is spend underground. After a cicada hatches from its egg, it burrows into the ground and drinks from plant roots.
According to Cicada Mania, after the cicada makes its way above ground it climbs to a tree and sheds its exoskeleton, leaving it clinging to the tree to startle passersby.
Cicadas emerge from the ground only to mate, which is why they make that familiar loud singing, to attract female cicadas. Once above ground, they have about one month to live.
In the eastern half of the U.S., many cicadas come in broods, or groups of periodical cicadas that hatch in cycles. There are 12 broods that come out every 13-17 years depending on the group. The cicadas in the western U.S. however, including Utah, are annual cicadas and come out every year. Utah is home to 35 different species of annual cicadas.
Another insect that sounds like a cicada is a locust, and while the two can be hard to tell apart, they are different from each other.
Many people confuse the two, but locusts are more similar to grasshoppers, they have large hind legs for jumping and eat all kinds of plants while cicadas have small legs for perching and only drink the sap from plants, according to Cicada Mania.
Not only are cicadas harmless, they also play an important part in the ecosystem by providing a nourishing food source for animals, and even some people, around the world.
While cicadas can be loud, annoying and occasionally startling, they bring back pleasant memories for many people who grew up hearing them and finding their discarded exoskeletons. And since they are nearly impossible to exterminate, and live such short lives above ground, it may be best to simply wait them out.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.
Mikayla Shoup grew up in the beautiful mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University where she worked for the university’s newspaper, The Lumberjack, as a features writer, photojournalist and assistant news editor. Mikayla first joined St. George News in 2018 as a reporter covering health, public lands, and Springdale and Hurricane politics. She now works as the evening managing editor. In her free time, Mikayla loves exploring the outdoors, traveling and playing with her dogs.
Why are cicadas so noisy?
The cicada’s claim to fame is its singing. The high-pitched song is actually a mating call belted out by males. Each species has its own distinctive song that only attracts females of its own kind. This allows several different species to coexist.
Cicadas are the only insects capable of producing such a unique and loud sound. Some larger species can produce a call in excess of 120 decibels at close range. This is approaching the pain threshold of the human ear! Smaller species sing in such a high pitch that it cannot be heard by humans, but may cause dogs and other animals to howl in pain.
The apparatus used by cicadas for singing is complex. The organs that produce sound are called tymbals. Tymbals are a pair of ribbed membranes at the base of the abdomen. The cicada sings by contracting the internal tymbal muscles. This causes the membranes to buckle inward, producing a distinct sound. When these muscles relax, the tymbals pop back to their original position. Scientists still don’t fully understand how this apparatus produces such extreme volume.
Cicadas usually sing during the heat of the day. In addition to attracting a mate, the loud noise actually repels birds. The cicada’s song is painful to the birds’ ears and interferes with their communication, making it difficult for the birds to hunt in groups. Male cicadas in the same brood will stick together when calling in order to increase the total volume of noise. This reduces the chances of bird predation for the whole brood.
Even cicadas must protect themselves from the volume of their own singing. Both male and female cicadas have a pair of large, mirror-like membranes called the tympana, which function as ears. The tympana are connected to an auditory organ by a short tendon. When a male sings, the tendon retracts, creasing the tympana so that it won’t be damaged by the sound.
For more information on cicadas and related topics, please see the next page.
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