As temperatures in Southwestern PA rise above the 60s and 70s, many Pittsburgh residents are out enjoying the sunshine while doing yard work, grilling, or participating in activities with family and friends. While you enjoy your fun in the sun, the Periodical cicadas also called 17-year cicadas, are preparing to scratch their way through the warm soil and emerge.
Soon your outdoor activities will be interrupted by the buzzing of Brood VIII which will emerge in Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and the tip of the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Brood VIII last emerged in 2002 and is expected to emerge as early as mid-May.
What are Cicadas?
A cicada is a type of insect best known for its loud buzzing or “song” sung by many but not all male cicadas. This buzzing is produced when the male cicada flexes their tymbals (drum-like organs located on their mostly hollow abdomens. The sound is produced by the small muscles rapidly pulling the tymbals in and out of shape.
Cicadas are members of the superfamily Cicadoidea. Characteristics of cicadas include:
- Stout bodies
- Broader heads
- Clear-membrane wings
- Large compound eyes
There are roughly 3,000 species of cicadas, with the 17-year cicada species making up Brood VIII.
Can Cicadas Damage My Trees?
Cicada nymphs will cover shrubs, trees, and other plants where they will molt into adulthood. This may cause homeowners to become concerned that their gardens or landscapes will be damaged. The cicada nymphs of periodical cicada only feed on underground tree roots, which will not lead to significant damage to your trees.
Their feeding benefits the trees by aerating the soil to help bring nutrients and nitrogen to the surface.
When the nymph molts, it will remain on the shrubs or trees for a few days, but will not feed on the plants during this time.
Mated females laying their eggs on trees does cause damage. The female cicada digs out a channel in small branch or twigs and lays her eggs in the channel. This results in the branch splitting. This results in damage called flagging where the damaged branch will brown and wilt.
A mature, healthy tree can withstand the damage caused by cicadas, whereas young trees, especially ornamental fruit trees, must be protected. The excavation of the female cicadas can lead to a young tree losing most if not all of its branches.
For Southwestern PA residents, you should place netting over your young trees before the cicadas emerge. The netting must have opening less than one half inch wide to prevent the cicadas from crawling through. Be sure to drape the netting over the tree canopy, covering the canopy entirely and then secure the netting to the trunk and be sure it is sealed so the cicadas can’t crawl underneath.
Superior Lawn Care Tree & Shrub Program
At Superior Lawn Care, we are ready to help you prepare for the emergence of Brood VIII with our 5-Step Tree & Shrub Program
to keep your landscape looking healthy all year round. With applications such as insect and disease control, let the team at Superior Lawn Care keep your trees and shrubs looking great! We serve southwestern Pennsylvania, including Wexford, North Huntingdon, Belle Vernon, Indiana, Upper St. Clair, Penn Township, and Pittsburgh. Call or contact us today to learn more.