People are losing their ever-loving minds over the most recent news-hyped threat to our area. They are battening down the proverbial hatches, shifting their gaze nervously left and right as they walk from place to place, and threatening to move out of the area until the threat is over. It’s akin to Y-2K and the Rapture threats. Are YOU prepared for . . . . . . . THE CICADAS?!
Doesn’t it seem like just about EVERY year that the threat of the 17-year cicada emergence hits us? There are many misconceptions about the cicadas. The cicadas – which are NOT the same as locusts – do NOT all live on the same time cycle. They are actually “periodic cicadas,” and they do work on a 17 year span, and they ARE around every year, because not all cicadas are on the exact same calendar or cycle. The “Brood X” cicadas (X being the Roman numeral 10, as each group is named/numbered) happen to be the largest brood, and are, in fact, due to emerge this year. . They are ugly. They are creepy. But give these little guys a break – they are for the most part, harmless, and they lead an incredibly boring life. They dug underground as babies 17 years ago, and have been harmlessly nibbling on plant roots so slowly that they have caused no damage to the plants at all. That been pretty much it for them these past two decades. And now they FINALLY get the equivalent of a night out. Their plan? To find a mate, lay eggs, and drop dead. That’s pretty much it. They are not looking to devour your garden. They are not looking to attack you or nest in your hair. Their biggest crime is being ugly. And noisy. And, well, they are.
While underground, they are called “nymphs,” and they have no wings. Those hideous, pre-historic looking shells or casings you often find attached to branches, houses, picnic tables, or virtually anything else outdoors, is what is left behind after they metamorphosize into the winged creatures we know after emerging from the ground. Once they get their wings, they start that lovely chirping mating call. Ironically, this sound, for many, is an integral part of the summer-feel experience. They mate, and then the females get ready to lay their eggs. They do this by burrowing small holes into trees – preferably new growth areas, presumably because that’s where the tree is softest. This is where the minor damage to plants can occur. They prefer fruit trees, or hardwood trees. Apple, pear, dogwood, oak, and hickory are among the female locusts’ top dream homes for family building. Ornamentals are in virtually no danger, so homeowners needn’t do a thing to protect them. But the trees where eggs have been layed may very well show signs of dying smaller, outer branches by the end of June. And here’s what homeowner’s need to know . . . . . it should NOT harm the overall tree. Consider it . . . . nature’s pruning. There is nothing you need to do to protect your yard. The babies, when they hatch, will disappear underground for another 17 years. And the only thing you will need to worry about is the potential above-ground graveyard of cicada bodies littering your property when the mating is all over. These you WILL want to remove. Mostly because the rotting little bodies will start to smell. But also because . . . . well, yuck. You sure aren’t going to want to send the kids outside barefoot to use that slip and slide, only to have it become more of a crunch and slide.
In the meantime, want some ideas of what to do with the cicadas while they’re here? Check out this site, and Buon Apetite! http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/pdf/cicada%20recipes.PDF