The splash of jumping into a pool. The clink of ice cubes in lemonade. The whisper of swaying tree leaves. Those are the sounds of summer we simply can’t get enough of.
The one song you’d skip on your summer soundtrack? Probably the rhythmic (and incessant) chirping of cicadas, a common summer tree pest.
If you hear or see cicadas in your yard, are they just annoying, or can they do damage?
First thing’s first, let’s talk about how long cicadas will be around for. There are two types of cicadas: annual cicadas (also called dog day cicadas) and periodical cicadas (also known as 13 or 17-year cicadas).
Periodical cicadas live underground for either 13 or 17 years and emerge in either May or June. Then, they’re around for 4 to 6 weeks before burrowing underground again.
Annual cicadas come out later in the year (July and August) and stick around for about 2 to 4 weeks.
Cicadas actually don’t eat tree leaves or branches. Instead, they create slits in tree branches to lay their eggs. Those splits weaken the tree over time, and later, you could see those branches breaking, withering or dying.
Once the cicada eggs hatch, the critters attach themselves to the roots of the tree. Where literally hundreds or thousands of cicadas feed on tree and grass roots for either 2 or 3 years–or up to 17.
Cicadas prefer to lay eggs on branches that are 0.25” to 0.5” round. So, that means they prefer:
Cicadas favor young trees, so if you've recently planted a new tree or have one of the trees mentioned above, you can protect it from cicada damage by wrapping susceptible branches with mesh netting.
Generally, mature trees can sustain the minor damage from cicadas. But, young trees can be hit harder.
If you first saw a lot of cicadas, followed by slits in your tree’s branches, act fast–especially if your tree is younger. You’ll want to prune those branches off within 6 to 10 weeks. That way, you’ll remove the eggs before they hatch and move underground to feed on the tree’s roots.