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?
How To Stop Cicada Tree Damage
When Will The Cicadas Go Away?
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 as nymphs for either 13 or 17 years and emerge in either May or June. Then, they’re around for 4 to 6 weeks during which time they breed and lay eggs for the next generation in the stems of trees, causing 'flagging, damage.
Annual cicadas come out later in the year (July and August) and stick around for about 2 to 4 weeks.
What Trees Do Cicadas Eat? Fruit Trees? Oak Trees?
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 nymphs attach themselves to the roots of the tree.
Cicadas prefer to lay eggs on branches that are 0.25” to 0.5” round. They prefer:
- Oak trees
- Maple trees
- Fruit trees (especially cherry and pear)
- Hawthorn trees
- Redbud trees
- Young trees since these branches are the perfect diameter
How Can I Keep Cicadas Off Trees?
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.
Cicadas Have Already Damaged My Trees. Anything I Can Do?
Generally, mature trees can sustain minor damage from cicadas. Young trees, however, can experience canopy loss and a reduction in photosynthesis due to their limited number of branches.
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 but don't remove too many branches as over-pruning may lead to decline of the tree. That way, you’ll remove the eggs before they hatch and move underground to feed on the tree’s roots.