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The Buzz On Cicada Damage To Trees

The Cicada Invasion: Understanding the Damage to Trees

If you live in an area where cicadas are prevalent, you know that their arrival can be both fascinating and frustrating. These insects emerge from the ground in massive numbers, filling the air with their distinctive buzzing sound. While they are harmless to humans, cicadas can cause significant damage to trees, particularly young ones.

Explanation of Cicadas and Their Life Cycle

Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. After 13 or 17 years (depending on the species), they emerge from the ground as adults, shed their skins, and begin their brief period of above-ground life. During this time, they mate, lay eggs, and eventually die, leaving behind a new generation of cicada nymphs to start the cycle anew.

Brief Overview of Cicada Damage to Trees

While cicadas themselves do not harm trees, their feeding habits can cause significant damage. Adult cicadas use their sharp, straw-like mouthparts to pierce the bark of trees and feed on the sap. This can cause the tree to lose nutrients and water, leading to wilting, leaf discoloration, and branch dieback. In severe cases, the tree may even die.

Why Understanding Cicada Behavior is Important for Tree Care

By understanding the life cycle and feeding habits of cicadas, tree owners can take steps to protect their trees from damage. This includes identifying the different types of cicadas that may be present in their area, learning how to recognize the signs of cicada damage, and taking preventative measures to minimize the risk of damage.

In the following sections, we will explore the different types of cicadas, how they damage trees, and what can be done to prevent and treat cicada damage. By taking a proactive approach to tree care during cicada season, you can help ensure the health and longevity of your trees.

Types of Cicadas

Cicadas are insects that belong to the order Hemiptera and the family Cicadidae. There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, but only a few of them are known for their periodic emergence, which happens every 13 or 17 years. Here are some of the most common types of cicadas:

Periodical Cicadas

Periodical cicadas are known for their synchronized emergence, which happens every 13 or 17 years. These cicadas spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. When the time comes, they emerge from the ground in massive numbers, shed their skins, and mate. The noise they make during their mating calls can reach up to 100 decibels, which is as loud as a chainsaw.

Annual Cicadas

Annual cicadas, also known as dog-day cicadas, emerge every year in the summer. Unlike periodical cicadas, they do not synchronize their emergence, and their numbers are not as massive. They spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. When they emerge, they shed their skins and mate. The noise they make during their mating calls is not as loud as that of periodical cicadas.

Neotibicen Cicadas

Neotibicen cicadas are a group of cicadas that includes several species, such as the common cicada, the scissor-grinder cicada, and the lyric cicada. They emerge every year in the summer and are known for their loud and distinctive mating calls. They spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. When they emerge, they shed their skins and mate.

Tibicen Cicadas

Tibicen cicadas are another group of cicadas that includes several species, such as the northern dusk-singing cicada, the southern dusk-singing cicada, and the grand western cicada. They emerge every year in the summer and are known for their loud and distinctive mating calls. They spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. When they emerge, they shed their skins and mate.

Okanagana Cicadas

Okanagana cicadas are a group of cicadas that includes several species, such as the western cicada killer and the broad-headed sharpshooter. They emerge every year in the summer and are known for their loud and distinctive mating calls. They spend most of their lives underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. When they emerge, they shed their skins and mate.

Understanding the different types of cicadas is important for tree care, as different types of cicadas can cause different types of damage to trees. In the next section, we will discuss how cicadas damage trees.

How Cicadas Damage Trees

Cicadas are fascinating insects that spend most of their lives underground, only emerging every few years to mate and lay eggs. While they may not be harmful to humans, cicadas can cause significant damage to trees during their brief above-ground phase. In this section, we will explore the ways in which cicadas damage trees.

Cicada Feeding Habits

Cicadas are known for their piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on the sap of trees. They typically target the branches and twigs of deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, and hickory. While cicadas do not eat the leaves of trees, their feeding habits can still cause significant damage.

Physical Damage to Trees

One of the most obvious signs of cicada damage is the presence of egg-laying scars on tree branches. Female cicadas use their ovipositors to cut slits into the bark of a tree, where they lay their eggs. These slits can be several inches long and can weaken the branch, making it more susceptible to breakage.

Cicadas can also cause damage to trees by their sheer numbers. During a cicada emergence, there can be thousands of insects per tree. The weight of so many cicadas can cause branches to bend and break, especially if the tree is already weakened by disease or other factors.

Long-Term Effects on Tree Health

While cicada damage may not kill a healthy tree outright, it can have long-term effects on the tree’s health. Egg-laying scars can become entry points for pests and diseases, which can weaken the tree further. In addition, the stress of a cicada emergence can cause a tree to divert energy away from other important functions, such as growth and reproduction.

In conclusion, cicadas can cause significant damage to trees during their above-ground phase. Their feeding habits and sheer numbers can weaken branches and make trees more susceptible to pests and diseases. While cicada damage may not kill a healthy tree outright, it can have long-term effects on the tree’s health. As tree caretakers, it is important to be aware of cicada behavior and take steps to protect trees during a cicada emergence.

Prevention and Treatment

Cicadas are known for causing damage to trees during their emergence season. However, there are ways to prevent and treat this damage. Here are some tips to help protect your trees:

Tips for preventing cicada damage to trees

  1. Cover your trees: Covering your trees with a fine mesh netting can help prevent cicadas from laying their eggs in the branches. This is especially important if you have young trees or trees that have been recently planted.

  2. Prune your trees: Pruning your trees can help remove any weak or damaged branches that may attract cicadas. This can also help improve the overall health of your trees.

  3. Water your trees: Keeping your trees well-watered can help prevent stress, which can make them more vulnerable to cicada damage.

  4. Use insecticides: Insecticides can be used to kill cicadas before they have a chance to lay their eggs. However, it is important to use these products carefully and follow the instructions on the label.

Methods for treating damaged trees

  1. Remove damaged branches: If your tree has already been damaged by cicadas, it is important to remove any damaged branches as soon as possible. This can help prevent further damage and improve the overall health of the tree.

  2. Fertilize your trees: Fertilizing your trees can help improve their overall health and make them more resistant to cicada damage.

  3. Water your trees: Keeping your trees well-watered can also help them recover from cicada damage.

  4. Use insecticides: Insecticides can be used to kill cicadas that are still present on the tree. However, it is important to use these products carefully and follow the instructions on the label.

Discussion of potential risks and benefits of treatment options

While there are several options for preventing and treating cicada damage, it is important to consider the potential risks and benefits of each option. For example, using insecticides can be effective in killing cicadas, but it can also harm other beneficial insects and wildlife. Similarly, covering your trees with netting can be effective in preventing cicada damage, but it can also be costly and time-consuming.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the specific situation and the needs of your trees. Consulting with a professional arborist can help you determine the best course of action for protecting your trees during cicada season.

In conclusion, cicada damage to trees can be prevented and treated with careful planning and attention. By taking steps to protect your trees, you can help ensure that they remain healthy and strong for years to come.

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