Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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Protect Your Plants From Cicadas


Cicadas will be arriving in Cincinnati in Mid-May or June for 4-6 weeks. A big concern is their damage to plants and trees. They do not have mouths and cannot feed on your plants. Instead, they have a straw-like tube to suck a plant’s juices. However, it rarely causes plant damage. In general, cicadas will not damage larger trees and shrubs and typically will cause only minimal damage to smaller ones.

A promising sign that you will be experiencing cicadas is the mud chimneys that occur under trees and in the lawn before they emerge from the ground. If they come to visit your garden, here are tips on how to protect your plants from cicadas:

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM CICADAS?

They emerge at night, climbing up on the sides of trees, poles, walls, etc., where they molt into adults. From that point forward, they have three things on their to-do list to find a partner and mate, lay as many eggs as possible, and die. Typically, the process takes 4-6 weeks.

HOW DOES PLANT DAMAGE OCCUR FROM CICADAS?

After mating, the female lays eggs on branches by slicing through the bark and depositing the eggs. The slicing can cause damage to the branch. However, it is usually not much of an issue on larger trees, just nature’s way of pruning. But on smaller trees, this damage can be devastating to the plant if there are high cicadas populations. 

SHOULD I PROTECT MY TREES AND SHRUBS FROM CICADAS?

If needed, 7-10 days after a heavy emergence of cicadas, create a physical barrier to prevent the female from laying eggs. The best prevention is to cover your plant with netting and tie at the base of your plant with a zip tie. Choose mesh or mosquito netting that allows water and sunlight to reach your plant. For smaller shrubs, drape over the shrub and anchor to the ground. Leave your covering on your plants until most cicadas have died off, which usually is about 3-4 weeks. 

PRUNING PLANTS AFTER CICADA DAMAGE

If cicadas have damaged your tree or shrub, prune the affected branch tips within 4-6 weeks of when the eggs were laid into the branches. By destroying those pieces, you can eliminate some of the eggs from hatching and the larvae falling back into the turf.  

Note: Chemical sprays are not effective. We recommend the natural control of hosing them off plants. 


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