If you live in Maryland, you might have noticed the large, red-eyed bugs are back! That’s right, Brood X cicadas have emerged this year in 2021. With such a host of buzzing insects on their way, many are understandably concerned about any dangers they might pose, especially to your garden. Can cicadas harm your plants?
Types of Cicadas
There are actually two types of cicadas in Maryland, one that is annual and one that is periodic. The annual cicadas, also known as dog-day cicadas, come back every summer and have a green and black coloration. Meanwhile, the periodical cicadas, or “17-year locusts,” are the critters we all know and love. They emerge, give or take, every 17 years with different broods and schedules in different regions.
The Brief Cicada Life Cycle
Periodical cicadas live approximately 17 years underground, sucking on the tree sap found in tree roots. This feeding does not harm the tree. After their long life underground is up, the cicada nymphs emerge from the ground and climb up the nearest vertical surface, often a wooden structure or a tree. There they molt and become a winged adult. About a week later, the males “sing” to attract females, and the females lay their eggs in young twigs. Six weeks later, the eggs hatch and the young nymphs burrow back underground to live for 17 years.
Will Cicadas Harm Your Plants?
Cicadas might come out all at once to deter predators, but they are by no means harmful to humans, animals, or plants. In moderation, it doesn’t even hurt for people and creatures to eat them. Cicadas only feed on the sap of tree branches and never consume leaves or plants themselves. Therefore, you can rest assured that these bugs will do no harm to either your vegetable garden, your flower garden, your lawn, or your trees.
The only potential for harm is when the females lay their eggs inside the twigs of young branches. If it is a young or newly-planted tree, you might see sagging branches. If it is an established tree, there is no need to worry even if the branch droops or breaks off. One can protect young trees and fruit trees with netting.
What Can You Do?
Aside from protecting your trees, you can also cover your garden pond with netting if you have one. Do not use insecticides on cicadas, as they are not harmful at all and are a rich food source for wild animals. If you intend to plant new trees or shrubs, consider waiting until fall when they are gone.
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