How to Protect Young Trees and Plants from Cicada Damage?

How to get rid of a cicada in your house

You have probably seen the cicadas in your yard, but perhaps have mistaken them for locusts.

Despite the similarities, cicadas are not locusts at all, but a different species.

The cicadas are generally two to three inches long, but they can vary in size depending on the exact species.

They have large eyes that may be black or reddish on each side of their head. And the most noticeable feature are the clear, large wings.

You should be able to see the veins inside the wings which helps identify them as cicadas.

The wings develop after the cicadas leave the immature stage in which they were wingless.

Although there are many species of cicadas, they can be broken down into two types which are annual and periodical.

The most common at least in North America is annual. They pop up every year in the summer, feed, mate, and then go dormant as fall and winter approach.

Periodical cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years. Their cycles are so predictable that news and weather stations have created charts that indicate their return.

If the cicadas are active, you will probably see them around your home.

In fact, it is far more likely that you will see their shed skin which retains their basic shape stuck on trees or on the soil.

Are Cicadas Harmful?

It depends on how you characterize the term “harmful”.

The cicadas do not bite or scratch people, nor do they carry any poison.

In addition, even if several cicadas enter your home, they are unlikely to be any threat in terms of their numbers because they cannot eat nor breed while inside.

This means that you should not fear an infestation of cicadas in your home.

They are Noisy

However, the cicadas are best known for their loud calls that can be quite shrill and repetitive, especially at night.

A single, signing cicadas can be heard up to a half-mile away, which makes them the loudest insect in all of North America.

And since there are rarely just one cicada around, the sound can be quite annoying especially late at night.

They can be Damaging for Plants

Cicadas can prove to be damaging for your small young plants and trees that have fruits on them.

They will generally like to nest on deciduous trees, like elm, ash, chestnut, maple, and oak.

Some of these insects might feed on leaves while some others damage the trees during their egg laying process.

There are few cicadas that may also be able to damage the young plants by flagging their branches of.

So, it is little wonder that most people do not want the cicadas to be anywhere near their homes. The question is how to get rid of this particular insect?

How to Get Rid of Cicadas?

It all starts by understanding the behavior of the cicadas and knowing the difference between the annual and periodical.

Given that there are charts for both, it is relatively easy to know which type of cicadas is in your area.

The bad news is that standard chemical treatments which work against most insects are not that effective with cicadas.

This is because the life cycle of the cicadas is relatively short two to four weeks.

By the time most chemicals have an effect, the cicadas are already gone.

Only in areas where the cicadas are likely to stay for generation after generation such as an orchard or plant nursery are chemicals used.

But there are some simple methods to deal with the cicadas which include the following.

  • Picking them by hand
  • Spraying water to knock them off plants
  • Placing netting to protect valuable plants.

If there are relatively few cicadas, you can pick them up by hand and remove them.

You can also use your garden hose to spray them off your plants.

However, netting is quite effective as you still let in the sun, but not the cicadas.

If you want to keep them off your young trees, there are different methods available.

Protecting Young Trees from Cicadas

For the most part, the trees that need protection from the cicadas are fruit trees along with rose bushes.

They are quite attractive to the cicadas and will need the protection.

Although cicadas rarely, if every eat or consume trees, the sheer weight of their presence on the branches of young trees may damage them.

To keep the cicadas from causing drooping branches, you will need the following.

  • Polyolefin Fabric or ¼” Insect Netting
  • Zip Ties
  • Clothespin, Scissors, Stapler, and Utility Knife
  • Tripod Orchard Ladder: If the tree it taller than you can reach.  

You can wrap this fabric around the trunk of young trees just below the area where the branches are growing.

If you do not have polyolefin fabric, you can use ¼” netting instead.

Start when you first hear the cicadas begin to sing or just before they are expected to emerge.

  • Wrap the open end of the fabric or netting from the bottom to the top of the trunk below the branches
  • Be sure to overlap each layer and that it is snug around the trunk.
  • Place a zip tie over the fabric or netting and then secure it.
  • Depending on the size of the roll, you may need someone else to hold it.
  • Clip the unused fabric at the top
  • Secure it with a clothespin
  • At every overlap point, staple the fabric about every ¼”.
  • Once the stapling is complete, remove the clothespin at the top.

Once completed, you should inspect the fabric or netting to ensure that the cicadas cannot enter and harm the tree.

Since most cicadas need about a ½” of space, by keeping the spaces smaller than that it should be enough to keep them away.

Care must be taken with young trees, so you do not bend the branches yourself.

The polyolefin is strong enough to keep the cicadas off the trunks of the trees that that often use to climb up and sit on the branches.

Check it every so often to ensure that the fabric or netting remains strong and repair any damage that might have taken place.

For the dead cicadas that you find on the ground, you can till them into the ground until they reach a depth of 8” to 12”.

This will not only provide extra nutrients for your trees or garden it will also help eliminate the odor that comes from the dead cicadas.

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