They emerge with red bulbous eyes, in groups called broods and a full-scale emergence can be as loud as a lawnmower. So, we can be forgiven for wondering if we should worry about Brood X, this year’s re-emergence of cicadas.
But there’s nothing to worry about. Just some really helpful and reassuring things you should know about cicadas:
1. They don’t bite or sting.
They may not be pretty, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but they won’t hurt you. They do not carry disease, either.
2. Only the males sing.
The loud buzzing and clicking sounds you hear? That’s the males’ mating call. They have sound-producing structures on both sides of the abdomen, right under the wings, called tymbals.
3. The noise won’t last forever.
Periodic broods in our area emerge just every 17 years. Brood X will be a big one, but these periods typically last four-to-six weeks before the brood disappears.
4. They are not locusts.
Cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts, but there’s no relation.
5. They lay their eggs in trees, but they don’t devour crops, trees or flowers.
Cicadas don’t even eat solid food. They burrow into the ground shortly after birth and feed on liquid from plant roots, a behavior that is completely harmless to the tree.
6. They are beneficial to the environment.
According to Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, there are very real and practical benefits to the cyclical appearance of cicadas.
They provide food for other animals, nutrients to trees and the holes they emerge from in your yard create natural aeration.
“Periodical cicada years are quite beneficial to the ecology of the region. Their egg-laying in trees is a natural pruning that results in increased numbers of flowers and fruits in the succeeding years,” says Kritsky, a recognized cicada expert who has delivered hundreds of media interviews, published academic papers on cicadas and authored two books on Cicadas (‘Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle’ and ‘In Your Backyard: Periodical Cicadas’).
“Their emergence from the ground turns over large amounts of soil, and after they die, their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nutrients to the soil.”
7. When you understand how cicadas lay their eggs, you can take steps to protect young trees.
Just to review: cicadas won’t bite or sting. They don’t carry or spread diseases. Adult and newly hatched cicadas will not eat your trees. For most of their lives, you won’t even know we’re coexisting.
When female cicadas lay their eggs this May, they will pierce slender, pencil-width tree branches and implant their eggs. Most trees are equipped to handle this natural process.
It’s the younger and newly planted trees that can be a bit more vulnerable. These trees are still working on establishing themselves, and excessive ‘pruning’ from the females can stress your tree.
8. Brood X cicadas will emerge when soil temps exceed 64 degrees, normally in mid May.
Nothing to worry about and no need to change any plans in the yard or garden.
9. There’s an app for that: Cicada Safari
For those of you who consider yourselves ‘citizen scientists,’ there’s a free app to help you track, photograph, video and help map these interesting insects.
Dr. Kritsky developed the mobile phone app in partnership with the Center for IT Engagement at Mount St. Joseph University because so many people are fascinated by cicadas.
“People can use their phones with our app to track, photograph and help us map the cicadas to verify where they are emerging” says Kritsky. “The photographs submitted to our map are like voucher specimens permitting us to verify the observations, making the maps more useful for future research.”
Download the free Cicada Safari app wherever you find apps.
To find Cicada Netting or more information on cicadas and your landscape, visit the friendly experts at Benken.