Row of Emerging Cicadas on Blue Metal Background

Know The Facts & Discard The Hype

Let’s talk about CICADAS!!! 

If you haven’t heard the buzz on this topic yet, let’s discuss, because this year it’s been a bit over-sensationalized. To find out the truth of the matter, I contacted Topiarius’ go-to expert arborist, Kevin White from SavATree. 

Legitimately, Kevin tells me there is good reason to be excited. “There are two broods emerging this year. Brood XIII has a 17-year life cycle and Brood XIX has a 13-year life cycle. These two broods only emerge together every 221 years!”

But for those of us in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, only Brood XIII will emerge. As a matter of fact, they are now beginning to exit from holes in the ground. Kevin reports that “Cicadas will begin to emerge from the ground once soil temperatures reach 64°F and will be active for about 4 weeks.” He and his associates report that they’ve begun to see some cicadas on the bottom of rocks. 

Here’s where I’ll admit my ignorance. I always thought cicadas ate the leaves on trees, but lo and behold, they actually lay their eggs in younger, softer branches. So if you see a slit like this in a branch, you’ll know why.

The females create a slit that is about the diameter of a pencil. 

The issue at hand is that younger trees will potentially be damaged because they have a lot of softer, newer growth which is easier for the cicada to cut, whereas older, established trees and shrubs will potentially only have some damage on the branch tips.

For city dwellers, the reality is that cicadas won’t be an issue due to the expanse of concrete and the amount of soil disruption from construction that has occurred over the past 17 years. 

For other areas, this isn’t the case, meaning that there may be more cicadas; however, the experience won’t be entirely different than in years past. 

Here’s the big news: According to White and his colleagues, female cicadas can lay eggs through netting, so while it may feel like an act of protection, he says, “it’s a practice that is only marginally effective.” There is also no chemical treatment that can be used to deter the insects.

If there is damage, he says, most of it can be pruned off and affected trees can be fertilized in the fall to aid in recovery. 

Ultimately, Kevin says, “In most cases, the only recommendation for our clients is to enjoy the cicadas while they are here.” (I’ll add that you might want to get some reliable earplugs or put together a lively playlist for your outdoor dinner parties, because as we all know, cicada season can get LOUD.)

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