It may sound like the title of a sci-fi horror movie, but unfortunately, this one isn’t playing out on the big screen, but instead in backyards and parks throughout the country this spring. Yes, those pesky 17-year cicadas will emerge from the ground, by the billions, this May and June. Concerned? Consider this your handy guide to cicadas, courtesy of your friends at Walnut Ridge Landscape & Design.
What is a Cicada?
According to National Geographic, cicadas are insects with stout bodies, broad heads, clear-membrane wings, and large compound eyes. There are more than 3,000 cicada species—some show up every 13 to 17 years, while others emerge every year when the weather gets warm.
Cicadas have a unique life cycle, hatching from eggs as nymphs and then burrowing into the ground to feed on liquid from plant roots. This is where they remain until surfacing from the ground as adults.
What do they do?
For 17 years, cicadas do very little. They hang out in the ground, sucking liquid from tree and plant roots. Finally, after a ridiculously long hibernation, they are ready to emerge. They sprout wings, make lots of noise, mate, and then die within a few weeks. Their progeny will return to the ground and repeat the cycle, making a return to the world in 17 years.
What Do Cicadas Sound Like?
Cicada “songs” can reach 90 decibels, which is “as loud as a lawn mower, dirt bike, or tractor,” per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Cicadas make these loud sounds to communicate, reproduce, and possibly defend themselves. For the periodic cicada, the noise usually associated with this species is the mating call of the male trying to attract a female to breed with.
Will Cicadas Affect My Yard?
Periodical cicadas are not considered a pest, especially of people. They are not going to bite and are not regarded as toxic to humans or pets.
If you have young trees, especially newly transplanted ones that are potential hosts to the bugs (such as oaks and fruit trees), you should prepare to protect the trees. Consider wrapping the young trees with netting (with holes less than one-half-inch wide) for about six weeks while the insects are out. This should prevent the female cicadas from laying their eggs on the trees.
How to Prepare My Landscaping for Cicadas?
Wait to plant new trees or shrubs until fall. Cicadas like trees and shrubs and will be attracted to these types of plants.
Get a good hose. A great way to rid your trees or house of insects is to spray them off with a hose.
Cover vulnerable plants. Young tree seedlings can be damaged by a cicada swarm so putting up mesh or cheesecloth around the trunk can prevent cicadas from crawling up.