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Cicada

I’m sure that by now a lot of people have heard about the cicadas that are due to emerge this year. Because this will be a once 17 years type of event, I wanted to talk about it. Let’s talk about what they look like, what they eat, and any other facts you might need to know about cicadas.

Adult cicadas are a winged insect that grows to be about 2.5 inches long. They sometimes get confused with locusts because people associate them both with coming in waves or plagues. Cicadas are not nearly as destructive as locusts. Their bodies are black with some orange stripes down the wings.

Cicadas are divided into different broods. The brood coming out this year is brood X (10). Some broods are on a 13-year cycle, and the brood like what we’re this year every 17 years. 12 broods that emerge every 17 years and 3 broods emerge every 13 years. Brood X is one of the most widespread as there will be appearances from the east coast to the Mississippi River and from New York down to Georgia.

We get cicadas every year, as there are also annual cicadas that emerge. These annual cicadas actually live 2-5 years, so they are annual in the sense that they reappear annually. This brood of cicadas is projected to have as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre. That brings the total population to the trillions. These cicadas even though they only emerge for a few weeks have been living underneath us for the past 17 years. Scientists don’t know why 17 is the magic number. The cicadas will even wait a couple of days together if the weather is rainy. Underground they feed on tree roots. The damage that they cause is minimal. Once they are emerged, the damage that they do to plants is mostly cosmetic. I do not recommend spraying any pesticides for them. There will be so many of them that it will be impossible to control them with the use of pesticides. Their mouthpart is a piercing-sucking one. It’s designed like a straw so that they can slurp plant juices. This means that they can’t really bite you, but they might stick you if you antagonize them.

The main issue with cicadas is going to be the amount of noise that they create. In groups, their sound can reach 100 decibels. This is the same as a jet flyover at 1000 feet or a helicopter at 100 feet. The males trying to attract a female to mate create this noise. After mating, the female will lay her eggs inside the trees. If young trees are completely swarmed it can damage them. You can use a net to protect them. These eggs will hatch in 6-10 weeks. The nymphs fall to the ground and burrow in, starting the 17-year cycle over again.

Cicadas will begin to emerge when soil temperatures reach 64 degrees. We typically start to hit those temperatures the end of April. Cicadas do provide some benefits. The nymphs in the soil burrow and create channels for roots. They are a source of food for a lot of wildlife like trout and wild turkeys. Moles also feast on the nymphs that are underground.

If you have questions about the cicadas contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.