Are cicadas a threat to landscaping?

Even if you haven’t seen them, you may have heard them hum. All over the country, the Brood-X cicadas have emerged underground for the past 17 years – and some of your landscapers may be wondering what they can do about it.

Evan Selby of Nature’s Mulch, a landscaping contractor in Louisville, Kentucky, says he receives daily questions from landscapers about this new breed of cicada. He gives more details of what can be done.

What are the Brood X cicadas?

Brood X are a group of periodic cicadas. This is different from annual cicadas. This group spends most of their lives a foot or two underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots. Then, in the 13th or 17th year (depending on the type), mature periodic cicada nymphs hatch in large numbers.

Selby says this is happening now

Unfortunately, the Brood X leafhoppers can cause some tree damage once they have emerged. Surprisingly, unlike many other pests (such as bagworms), they do not pose a risk of feeding damage.

It is actually the way the females lay eggs that can be problematic. A female cicada has an “ovipositor” on her belly. With this part she cuts off branches and twigs to lay eggs in the grooves.

The good news is that not all trees are at risk, Selby says. Cicadas don’t like coniferous or evergreen trees. Most likely, they will chase after deciduous trees. While their feeding is unlikely to harm the tree in any way, they tend to lay their eggs where they eat, Selby says. This could mean that deciduous trees are becoming egg-laying on your property.

Prevent harm

The greatest risk is for young trees, which are stressed by the “cuts” of the cicadas and find it difficult to recover.

Selby says they have products available that can control leafhoppers in their early stages when that is a big problem for a customer. However, many experts say that wrapping trees around them can prevent cicada damage. If your customers have young deciduous trees on their property, you can help them wrap the trees in nets. Just be careful to avoid bird nets, which usually have openings that are too large to keep cicadas out, Selby says.

If your customers’ trees suffer cicada damage, you can help your customers get them back to health with a little extra TLC. It can help ensure that the trees are receiving adequate water and that properly installed mulch rings are placed around the trees.

The additional good news, Selby says, is that the cicadas will be mostly gone by July. Adults only survive above ground for two to six weeks. You can reassure your customers that they are gone before they know it.

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