Prepare for a Noisy Spring With the Return of 13-Year Cicadas

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Cicada nymph emerging

If the high-pitched, romantic song of a male cicada isn’t music to your ears, you may need earplugs this spring. [Share your cicada stories and photos here.]

When soil temperatures about four inches under the ground’s surface warm up to 67 degrees, millions of cicadas emerge in more than a third of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Middle Tennessee will see the greatest numbers of the bugs.

Four or five days after the cicadas surface in early May, the adult males start singing. Loudly. In some places, it may be deafening.

While the high-pitched, shrill songs of the males may be irritating, educators at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture say it is the females that can cause damage, especially to young trees. The females make tiny slits in the branches of trees – sometimes as many as 20 slits in a single branch – to lay their eggs inside. Those punctures can cause the twigs to wilt and die.

To prevent extensive harm to your trees, UT Extension suggests waiting to prune young fruit trees until after the cicada emergence so damaged branches can be removed. Also, covering small shrubs and trees with loose woven or spun fabric like cheesecloth can help protect plants while the cicadas are present.

After hatching, the cicada nymphs then fall to the ground and burrow into the earth, where they will spend the next 13 years.

Cicadas do not sting and pose no threats to people.

To learn more about the periodical cicada, check out cicadacentral.com.

We want to hear your tales of experiencing these red-eyed bugs, from this spring or a previous year. Did you attend a cicada-infested wedding or event? Do you fall asleep to the sound they make? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re fascinating creatures. Submit your story or photo at cicadacentral.com/contest. We’re giving away a Cicada Invasion print from Anderson Design Group to the person who submits the best story or photo.

5 Comments

  1. Hazel

    April 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    What about your vegetable garden? Do they damage you garden?

  2. Frank

    April 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    If you use a systemic insecticide on your trees and shrubs, will that deture the females from slicing open the branch and laying eggs?

    • Jessy Yancey

      April 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Frank,

      According to the UT Extension entomologist Dr. Frank Hale, “insecticides have not proven to be effective for preventing cicada egg-laying damage.” Your best bet (with young trees, where feasible, at least) is to cover with a loose fabric such as cheesecloth.

      Jessy Yancey
      managing editor, tnhomeandfarm.com

  3. Phillip Stone

    May 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I would like to take my two children to several TN. farms this summer, so that both of them can experience farm life. I want them to get an appreciation for both the food that they eat and the hard work that goes into farming. Also, are there any dude ranches in the Tn. area.

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