I have heard quite a bit of concerned scuttle about the anticipation of the 17-year cicadas emerging this spring. They are coming, but there is no need to panic! While these insects can cause some damage to young woody trees and shrubs, it is unlikely that the damage will be devastating. If you are worried about cicada damage on your property consider netting young trees using a mesh cover or cheese cloth with holes smaller than 1/4 inch. Old wives tales about banding or wrapping tree trunks with an assortment of materials will do little to protect your plants, because the immature cicadas that climb the trunks do not actually cause any damage. The adult females, who are fully capable of flying past those trunk wraps, are the culprits. They lay their eggs within the twigs of woody perennials. If you notice a cicada party in your yard keep a look out for damaged twigs and prune them within three weeks of the damage. Pesticide control is not recommended for cicadas because applications are more likely to harm beneficial pollinators than make a dent in the temporary cicada population. Do be prepared for these boogers while out on your motorcycle or 4-wheeler. Making skin contact at a decent speed with a 2 inch insect can be unpleasant, but they mean you no harm and there is no need to fear being bitten or stung by cicadas.
Perhaps some of the cicada’s bad reputation can be traced back to they way we talk about them with our friends and neighbors. Cicadas are often called “locusts” in conversation, but locusts and cicadas are very different critters! If you know the biblical reference to “a plague of locusts”, imagining a cloud of insects coming to munch everything in it’s path can be scary. Locusts are very similar to grasshoppers and they can cause a natural disaster. Cicada’s however are more of a singing seasonal annoyance than locusts which I think of as a flying brush hog. All in all, the 17-year cicadas will emerge, find their mates, lay their eggs, and then take another 17-year hiatus until 2033, when the cycle continues again.