If you’re searching for something to look forward to in this year of continuing COVID weirdness, here’s a story for you: Brood 10. That’s the name of the trillion-member cicada colony set to emerge this spring from its 17-year hibernation. Yep. Trillions of winged insects coming out of the ground to (ahem) mate noisily. And you thought this year couldn’t get more magical .
Will this matter? You bet, especially if you reside in one of the 15 states where these buggers live. Let’s take a quick look at the facts about these insects and what you need to do to prepare.
What are Cicadas?
Cicadas, sometimes inaccurately called locusts, are a super family of true bugs know for wide-set eyes, short antennae, and a loud song. Three members of this varied family, the Magicicada septendecim (broad orange stripes), the Magicicada Cassini, and the Magicicada septendecula (black abdomens) belong to Brood 10.
What is the significance of 2021?
The cicadas in Brood 10 have a 17-year life cycle. When the eggs hatch, the new nymphs drop to the ground and burrow down. Cicadas spend most of their lives living about 8” underground as nymphs. Nymphs have strong legs for digging and they feed on sap from underground roots. When it’s time, the nymphs build a tunnel to the surface, climb a sturdy plant, shed their skins, and emerge as adults. In 2021, 17 years after the last emergence, the trillions of nymphs in Brood 10 are ready to come out of the ground and become adults.
No one is really certain why these cicadas have such a long life cycle and we’re not really sure how they keep track of the years. Do cicadas count? Seems that way. One hypothesis is that the long life cycle has developed as a response to predators; having a longer life cycle than your predators means they cannot rely on you for food. There are also some theories involving the significance of 17 being a prime number, but the idea that cicadas can count and recognize prime numbers is too much for this blog, so we’ll leave that one alone for now.
What happens when Cicadas come out of hibernation?
When the soil 8” down (where the nymphs live) reaches about 64 degrees, the cicadas will start to emerge. Estimates are that this will happen somewhere near mid May. You’ll start to see cicada chimneys, or turrets in the ground or small finger-sized holes near the roots of trees if you have cicadas in your area. When they reach the ground, the cicadas find a tree or other relatively sturdy vertical surface to climb. Once settled, they shed their nymph skins, expand their wings, and reveal their adult coloring.
Then the fun begins. It’s time to sing, mate, lay eggs, and die. With population densities on the order of 1.5 million insect per acre, the volume of the mating songs can reach 100 decibels. It’s impossible to ignore the phenomenon.
What happens when cicadas lay eggs?
When female cicadas lay their eggs, they use a sharp appendage on their abdomen to dig out the bark on soft new branches to make a space to deposit the eggs. This can damage the branch significantly enough to kill it. The result is branch flagging, a condition that occurs when branches on a tree die, turn brown, and fall off. While this seems alarming, large trees can survive cicadas; healthy branches will heal and keep growing. Smaller, newer trees however, struggle under the onslaught of heavy cicada damage.
This then leads us to this question: what can you do to prepare?
How to Get Rid of Cicadas
The emergence is coming and netting might be your only savior. We know, that sounds like the trailer for a bad sci-fi movie, but it’s anything but fiction. If you live in one of these states, cicadas are in your very-near future:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
1/4" Netting is your Best Option
Now is the time to protect your vulnerable bushes and trees with Cicada Netting from Bird B Gone. Our 1/4” UV-protected polypropylene garden netting is your best defense against cicadas. The 1/4” mesh size is critical; any larger and cicadas can move right through. Use this reusable netting to protect small trees, vineyards, or other plants and shrubs that are susceptible to cicada damage.
Oaks are a common cicada target, but so are any new deciduous trees, including apple, pear, cherry, dogwood, hickory, and peach. When in doubt, protect the tree.
Tips for Netting Small Trees for Cicadas
1) START EARLY
If you wait to take action until you hear or see signs of cicadas, you’ve missed the boat. Install your cicada netting well in advance for the best protection. March and April are good times to prepare.
2) PROTECT THE BASE
The most important thing to remember about protecting your trees and shrubs is to protect the base. Mating cicadas don’t fly up a tree, they climb up from the ground.
With that in mind, to protect your plants, lightly drape the mesh over the tree to look like the wrapper on a lollipop. Use zip ties or Garden Netting Clips to fasten the open sides together and to gather the mesh tightly at the base of the tree.
3) WHEN IN DOUBT, PROTECT
Large, healthy trees will survive with little trouble. Small plants like flower bushes and vegetable plants aren’t usually affected because the cicadas know they aren’t strong enough to sustain the mating and egg laying activities.
It’s the reasonably sturdy yet still young and new trees and shrubs that are at risk. Nurseries are especially vulnerable. If you’re planting, wait until July and the danger has passed. If your trees are already in the ground, install cicada netting to be safe.
Bird B Gone - for Cicadas, too
Trust Cicada Netting from Bird B Gone to protect your trees and shrubs from Brood 10. Our 1/4” extruded plastic netting is exactly what you need to keep your young trees safe. It carries a 1 year warranty and is available in a variety of dimensions.
Call us today for more advice on preparing for cicadas. Our team is here to ensure you get the products you need. Don’t wait, shop today.