Northern Virginia is abuzz with 17-year cicadas this month. They’re cool to look at with their bright orange wings and red eyes. The familiar buzzing sound that male cicadas make is annoying to some and a joyful song to others. But will they hurt my trees and plants?
How Do Cicadas Impact Plants and Trees?
There are 15 active cicada broods in the US, according to the US Forest Service. The DC region is a hotspot for Brood X (Brood 10), one of the largest cohorts in the country. Brood X is currently emerging in Northern Virginia for the first time since 2004. Unlike the annual Dog Days cicadas, which come out every year in August, periodical cicadas come out every 17 years.
Cicadas have a fascinating life cycle. They spend 17 years underground feeding on tree roots (this part of the cycle does not damage your trees). Then, nearly two decades later, they emerge and climb trees as nymphs. They shed their exoskeletons and emerge as winged adults to mate and lay eggs, which is happening now in much of Loudoun County. Later in the summer, the juveniles will drop to the ground, burrow underground and start the 17-year process all over again. The females lay eggs in live wood, which has some homeowners concerned about their trees.
However, for the most part, mature trees are not at risk. Here are a few things to keep in mind about cicadas and your plants and trees:
- Cicadas lay eggs in woody plants and trees. They are not a threat to flowers or vegetable gardens.
- Cicadas generally avoid laying eggs in evergreens because of the sticky sap.
- Most mature trees can handle cicada eggs, but you may need to prune a few smaller branches if minor damage occurs.
- Pencil-thin branches of very young trees and shrubs are most at-risk for damage from cicada eggs.
- If you have planted a tree or shrub in the last three years, we recommend protective netting to prevent cicada damage.
Should I Use Pesticide To Control Cicadas?
We may sometimes recommend limited and responsible pesticide use for commercial fruit trees and vines. But for homeowners, insecticides are more likely to harm beneficial insects and pollinators than manage cicadas. Netting is the best way to protect young trees and shrubs from potential cicada damage. Remember, cicadas live for only a few weeks, and most will die off by the end of June.
How Can My Landscaper Help Manage Cicadas?
At Epling Lawn and Landscaping Service, the health of your landscape is a top priority. In some cases, we offer responsible pesticide services to help keep your lawn and plants healthy. However, when it comes to cicadas, pesticides generally aren’t the answer. Instead, we can help select and put in place netting for young trees and shrubs and conduct health checks on mature trees to look for any dead branches. If you need pruning services related to cicada damage or for any other reason, our skilled team can help. It’s an excellent way to protect the lifespan of your valuable trees and shrubs. It’s wise to have your landscape professional come out and screen for potential damage. Beyond that, sit back and enjoy this unique natural phenomenon.