How to protect your trees from cicadas, and other things to know

protect againstCLEVELAND, Ohio — Don’t worry, the 17-year cicadas won’t eat all your trees and kill all your plants. But there are some still ways that homeowners can prepare for the incoming invasion.

And the cicadas can have some positive effects on hardier fruit trees.

Female cicadas lay their eggs in smaller branches, about the diameter of a pencil. Often this will kill the branch, but that can lead to more blooms and healthier trees, said David Shetlar, professor of urban landscape entomology for Ohio State University.

“Cicadas are ‘nature’s pruners,'” he added.

However, if most of the branches on a younger or more delicate tree — blossoming crab apple trees for example — are small, cicadas could kill most of them leaving little more than a trunk for next year.

To protect these, you have a few options:

  • Place netting on the trees. Pennsylvania State Extension recommends doing this as soon as gardeners hear the first male singing (indicating the mating period) and removing it after the mating period is over. There’s debate over what size of netting to get, but usually, female cicadas who land on netting and can’t feel foliage or a branch will just leave instead of trying to get to the tree, Shetlar said.
  • Pick cicadas off the trees by hand
  • Use a hose to spray cicadas off the tree
  • Use pesticide. Shetlar said he typically doesn’t recommend systemic pesticides, which kill insects that feed on the plant, because female cicadas damage the trees by laying eggs, not eating the tree. Other pesticides will kill the cicadas on contact, and leave a residue to dissuade others, but won’t last, so homeowners have to spray the trees multiple times.

There will also be a lot of cicada bodies lying around, but Shetlar advises to just let nature take its course. Typically the bodies will decompose in about a week and a half and act as fertilizer. Gardeners can use them to add more nutrients to compost piles.

Also, watch your dogs. Eating a few cicada bodies won’t kill them, but predators, including household pets, can gorge themselves on them and get sick.


About Redden Custom Netting

In 1958, John Redden started Redden Net Co. Ltd to supply commercial fishing gear to the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest. Now, more than fifty years later, we have an in-house net loft staffed by professional, experienced net builders – and our executive team has more than 100 combined years of experience in every facet of industrial netting. So no matter what industry you’re in, if you need a net, we can build it.

Over the last fifty years, our technology, applications, and materials have become more complex, but our business philosophy remains simple. Treat employees and customers – right.  We do. And we’ll do it for you.

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