Cicadas - protect trees?

conniemcgheeMay 5, 2011

Hi all,

It just occurred to me that I should ask you about this.

Tennessee will be hosting the 17-year cicadas in May. They are projected to be very heavy in my region, middle Tennessee.

I have several young deciduous trees, many of them less two years old. Do I need to cover all of these? I'm especially concerned about a very small Yellowood, and the 4 ft. Chalk Bark Maple and Paperbark Maples I planted last fall. I also have five Japanese Maples that I'd sure hate to lose! They're a bit older than the aforementioned trees, but not completely mature.

Most of what I'm reading online recommends covering young trees with netting, but my mom talked to a local expert and came away with the impression that he wasn't too concerned - he seemed to think most trees would bounce back from any damage done.

What say you, tree experts? If I'm covering stuff, I'd better be getting on it this weekend. Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

just a gut reaction ....

but no self respecting large bug is going to be hanging out at 4 feet ...

they hang out in my 60 foot cherries ...

take a walk after dinner each day.. and shake your 4 foot tree ... and if anything falls out.. step on it ...

it aint worth looking at covered trees all summer to do that noise .. lol ...


    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 4:13PM
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Cicadas are very specific (3-11 mm) on the girth of the branches on/in which they'll deposit their eggs. Those can be found on the tips of the canopies of huge trees, or yeah.....four feet off the ground in a very young tree. However, Ken was right in his hunch they prefer taller trees, usually at forest edge or roadside as they cue in on their oviposition sites by light.

We had them in spades some years back and there was tree damage, but mostly on the larger (yes native cherry) and there was some branch death and resulting shedding. Not a big deal and it didn't impact the health of the tree. They tend to stay near their birth sites to mate and lay eggs, and that tells me if their cycles were very destructive, that evolutionary pattern would not have evolved.

In the trade I am in (nurseryman) some of my colleagues who raise mostly woody stock get concerned, but it's more about the cosmetic damage they can produce on trees awaiting sales. No I would not and did not net anything, and absolutely don't fall for anyone's suggestion of chemical control.

Just enjoy the experience. People travel from all over the world to enjoy and participate in our brood emergences. The roar here is deafening and one can hear it progress daily and get closer until you are engulfed in the drone. I had geese that year and they thought they died and went to heaven and it was very hard to confine them in their pens at night because they were engorging themselves on cicada.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 9:48PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

Cicadas are cool!!! Something generational to experience.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:07PM
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Thank you so much for your excellent replies and advice! :) I feel so much better. I'm just very much in love with these few new trees I've planted and wanted to make sure they weren't in danger.

I feel positive that the dogs will be extremely excited about the emergence of the cicadas, and they'll probably be gorging too. We'll definitely have some fat and happy birds, too. I'm not sure I'll ever reach the point of enjoying them myself. ;) I think there is nothing more unsettling than a drunken cicada flying into your hair and getting stuck. But at least I'll be able to rest easy about the trees.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:18PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I agree that Cicadas are cool! Apparently the south central states are having a 13 year emergence.

I remember watching a nature show about an emergence, showing zillions of Cicadas everywhere and all the wildlife stuffing themselves, and the narrator saying "A miracle has happened in the forest. Everyone has full bellies."

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 6:59AM
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Oh, that's right, it's the 13-year cicadas.

I read the other day that if you eat them soon after they emerge, before they form a hard shell, they taste like cold asparagus. I'm not sure how hungry I'd have to be to try it. :p

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 7:52AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i was once driving down to columbus OH .... with 2 screaming kids .. and the radio up high .... trying to drown out the kids ...

and went thru this forested area .... and the din was so great.. that i heard it over the radio.. so i flipped it off.. figuring the car was about to explode .. lol ... the kids quieted ... we rolled down the window.. it was intense ...

not sure how good they will be for the dogs ... lol


    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 8:09AM
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I think they're fine for dogs or people to eat. It will not be good at all for the dogs' attention spans, though. I predict that it will be impossible to get them to play fetch for the duration of time they're around. Training outside will be out of the question. :p

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 9:51AM
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Have a look at the linked recipe booklet below. Mmm-mmm, good!

I remember the last big emergence we had here - seems like it was in '96, '98 - somewhere along then.
Really eerie sound all day long - sounded like something out of a bad '50s space alien movie; and the little single-string Echo weedeater I had at the time must have emitted a frequency similar to the mating call of the female cicadas, 'cause every time I used it, I'd be swarmed by amorous males.
They caused some pretty significant damage to young fruit trees that had been in the ground 2-3 years, but all recovered, and I doubt I could show you an oviposition scar today.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cicada-licious

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 7:25AM
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Oh my gosh, yuk! LOL! Thanks for that link. Very interesting. Will share it on facebook! :D

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 8:07AM
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tgmccallie(z7a NW GA)

They may be cute for some people, but not for me. They have invaded my property. How can they be killed with any kind of insecticides?


    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:50AM
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I can assure you tgmccallie they have been on that property thousands of years before you ever moved there. They are a feast for all sorts of beasts when they emerge....the birds...the geese........dogs and cats......if you've never seen an emergence, you'll see why spraying is futile and it won't begin to put a dent in their population, just poison birds, geese, dogs, cats. Goooooooooooo uhmmmmmmmmmmmmm, study your navel for about a week until it's all over and the cycle completes itself and you won't have to face it again for a long while.

My schnauzer ate them as fast as he could gobble them up and he'd eject one load and then go for a second. LOL.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:01PM
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Here in northern Alabama they have definitely started to emerge as well. I assume they are no danger to my fledgling vegetable garden? I see them landing on my squash and tomatoes, but don't seem to be eating the leaves.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 9:38AM
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Adult cicadas do not eat anything. They emerge, breed, lay eggs for the next generation and then die.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:39PM
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Update: They are out in full force now. One of my dogs loves to eat them, the other has decided he's terrified of them and refused to go out to potty last night. I am of the same opinion - it is impossible (for me) not to jump out of my skin when one lands on me and makes that horrible screeching sound.

I'm on a little gardening break until this is over. :\ Which I hope will be in the 4 week range rather than 6 weeks.

I am getting a little worried about all my young trees. I didn't cover them, so I sure hope they'll be OK. I didn't even think about this when I was buying trees like crazy last year. What a bad year I picked to do that...

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 10:38AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Cicadas are cool!? Ugh. No. Not at all cool. They are going to devastate my container citrus trees. These are mostly on dwarf rootstock so they have tons of the size of branches that the cicadas love to do this to: From Plant Diagnosis

That branch will die. When those eggs hatch the nymphs will start eating the roots of this 8' tree in a 30" pot. How long, do you think, before they kill it? Maybe they aren't a serious problem for any established plant in the ground - but I'm furious over here about my container trees...

Not. Cool.

Millions of bugs flying around your head all day long - and god forbid you TOUCH a maple tree and cause the thousands of large bugs to come flying off. We're talking Biblical plague here. I guess those are cool? Oh wait. No. Not at all cool.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 6:04PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Well the Cicadas were here long before people were, and they aren't going away. They are also very important in the natural pruning process, and most branches due survive. Best to learn to cope with them. Also see link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cicadas

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:00PM
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In my area a brood emerged the summer after I had planted over 100 new plants- talk about bad timing.
But I was new to the climate and didn't know about brood numbers etc.
I did cover everything- either with tree bags or custom covers I made from lightweight row cover material bought in bulk. I double folded the seams and used staples.
It was a giant pain but everything survived and I would certainly recommend covering.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:16PM
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mckenna(Z5 Chicago IL)

It took my trees several years after our cicada event to look decent. I did lose a couple of small ones but even what I did cover looked like crap for while, you can't fight them. I think it just depends on how many cicadas your talking. My conifers were untouched. Lots of dead small limbs in the late summer which mature trees shrug off but small trees with less to lose suffered. I would pat myself down before entering the house but still managed to bring some in down my pants. Neighbors got a show that evening.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 10:44PM
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