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The Year of the Cicada

Year of the Cicada

We are all awaiting summer after the teasing of spring. The time to get out and garden and play in the water. The time to enjoy the fireflies and the quiet hum of other insects. The problem though is that many people may not realize that not all insects will be quiet this year. This is the year for the periodical cicada, specifically the 17-year cicada for most of Indiana, but worse in central to southern parts.


Don’t we have cicadas every year? Yes, we have the annual cicada that shows up and is typically green in color. We also have a periodical one that arises every 13 or 17 years in different areas. These cicadas are black-bodied with red legs, wings, and eyes. They will be seen coming out in late May to July by climbing up the trunks of trees and then singing their songs.


Besides being loud, are they a problem? It depends. Mature plants, like trees and shrubs, may bear some damage from these insects. New plants, like those planted last fall or this spring, will be the most at risk of injury or maybe even death. Why? The female cicada has a large ovipositor (for egg-laying) that cuts slits into the stems of plants. She will prefer stems that are 3/16” to 7/16” in diameter and damages the stem to the point that it may not live from point of injury to the tip of the branch. When you think about small plants, they can obviously have more stems of that size with less ability to recover. Larger plants can come back from the damage behind the injury since the insect will not typically lay in large diameter stems.


With that said, there is hope for new plants. You can cover them with netting or mesh that has holes no larger than 3/8”. There can be lots of natural predators like birds and squirrels eating them as well. If you are still worried, there are chemical options. The catch is that you have to apply it as the cicadas emerge. The product needs to be applied on the trunks of the trees so that the cicada contacts it as they climb up. You can use products that contain permethrin or cyfluthrin and may need to apply them every 3-5 days during the emergence. Again, this only stops them as they are “coming alive” compared to the damage-causing stage of laying eggs. Chemical control at that time is pretty ineffective. Trees at most risk are maples, serviceberry, redbud, dogwood, and hawthorns. If you have birch, hornbeam, magnolia, or cedar trees, they are at a lesser risk for damage.


If you want more information on this, feel free to consult Purdue’s Publication E-47 (attached below) or contact your local Purdue Extension Office. In Porter County, that is 219-465-3555.

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