Facts, Identification & Control
Cicadas often are incorrectly called locusts. In fact, locust is the common name for the group of insects that are categorized as short-horned grasshoppers. Adult cicadas vary in size depending upon the particular species, but are generally about 2-3 inches long. They have large, clear wings with many easily seen wing veins. Their eyes are large, reddish or black and set apart on each side of the head. The cicada’s immature stage, called the nymph, is wingless.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
The female adult cicada lays eggs on trees and shrubs by inserting the eggs into the small twigs at the outer end of tree branches. Cicadas don’t cause damage by chewing leaves, but do create damage as they lay eggs. Eggs hatch in about 40-60 days and become nymphs. Nymphs drop to the ground, burrow about 1 – 2 feet into the soil where they feed on the fluids in the small roots of the host plant. Mature nymphs emerge from the soil, climb onto surrounding trees or shrubs and mature into adults. Soil temperatures of 64 degrees trigger emergence of the nymphs.
Adults live for about 14-50 days during which time they mate, lay eggs and die.
Annual and Periodical cicadas are two basic groups of cicadas. Annual cicadas complete their life cycle and emerge from the soil habitat every year, while the Periodical cicadas emerge at either a 13 or 17-year interval. Periodical cicadas are so predictable that charts are created to forecast when and in what states they will appear. Most species of cicadas in the U.S. are annual cicadas.
One of the most impressive cicada predators is the cicada killer wasp, a burrowing insect that looks like a huge yellow jacket. During the time of the year that adult cicadas are active, cicada killer wasps are often seen either carrying or burying a cicada that was paralyzed by the wasp’s sting.
Homeowners can control cicadas by removing adults or nymphs off the plants by hand. This may be an overwhelming task, though, especially when dealing with Periodical cicadas. More effective control methods include spraying them with water from a garden hose to knock them off plants or placing foil or sticky bands (barrier tape) around the trunk of trees and larger bushes to prevent the cicadas from moving up the plant to feed and lay eggs.
If homeowners need to protect valuable plants, they should wrap the plants with netting purchased at garden and plant nursery centers to exclude cicadas from the plants. Avoid using insecticides since cicadas will come to your plants from locations outside your property in such large numbers that spraying is of little benefit.
While cicadas appear daunting due to their large numbers, they do not bite or sting and will not harm people. While eating cicadas usually does not harm pets, owners should not let their pets eat large numbers of cicadas. Cicada “singing” can be heard for up to ½ mile away, making cicadas the loudest of any other insect in the U.S.
How Orkin treats for cicadas
As the name implies, annual cicadas emerge from the soil each year to begin the life cycle. Periodical cicadas emerge from the soil at either 13- or 17-year intervals. Their life cycles are so predictable that there are charts which forecast what year and in what states periodical cicadas will appear.
Most species of cicadas in the U.S. are annual cicadas.
The first step in a cicada treatment program is to understand the behavior of the pest cicadas and to know whether the insect is an annual or periodical cicada. Your pest management professional will conduct an inspection and, based on his or her findings, will prepare the cicada treatment plan.
Chemical treatments generally are not required for use on homeowner properties. Since cicadas complete their nymphal stage in the ground, emerge and become adults who live for only about 2-4 weeks, soil treatment with chemicals is usually not worthwhile unless cicadas are active in a commercial orchard or ornamental plant nursery. Since cicadas often move to one’s property from adjacent, untreated and infested locations, chemical treatment has little if any effect on a “migrating” cicada population. Cicadas may seem daunting because of their large numbers, but the insects pose no bodily threat to humans, as they do not bite or sting.
Some very effective non-chemical methods of cicada treatment include:
- Picking adults and nymphs off plants by hand, if found in small enough numbers.
- Knocking cicadas off plants by spraying water with a garden hose.
- Wrapping tree trunks and large bushes with foil or sticky bands (barrier tape) to catch cicadas trying to move up plants to feed or lay eggs.
- Protecting young or valuable plants by covering them with netting that excludes cicadas from the plants and reduces the amount of damage from egg laying activities from adults.