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.
What Do They Look Like?
- Length: Adult cicadas vary in size depending upon the particular species, but are generally about 2-3 inches long.
- Wings: They have large, clear wings with many easily seen wing veins. The cicada’s immature stage, called the nymph, is wingless.
- Eyes: Their eyes are large, reddish or black and set apart on each side of the head.
Annual vs. Periodical
There are two basic groups of cicadas: annual vs. periodical. Most species of cicadas in the U.S. are annual cicadas, meaning cicada season occurs every year.
While annual cicadas complete their life cycle and emerge from the soil habitat every year, 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.
How Did I Get Cicadas?
Where Do They Live?
Different species of cicadas emerge in large numbers during the summer. The pests develop in the soil and hang out on plants or trees. People might find shed cicada skins littered on and around tree trunks and yards.
Do They Infest Homes?
These insects are strong but clumsy fliers, sometimes running into objects that get in their way. It is common for a cicada to fly into a home, especially when residents leave doors or windows open. Cicadas cannot breed indoors, so infestations in houses are unlikely.
How Serious Are Cicadas?
Cicadas do not eat leaves, but may harm some plants when they lay eggs. Typically, homeowners only have problems with cast-off cicada skins, which pile up in yards and on patios. The pests do not carry diseases and do not bite or sting people. Most issues with cicadas relate to their noisy and messy behaviors.
Males make loud, shrill calls that some residents find annoying. Cicada “singing” can be heard for up to 1/2 mile away, making cicadas the loudest of any other insect in the U.S.
How Do I Get Rid of Cicadas?
What Orkin Does
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.
Additionally, chemical treatments have little to no effect on “migrating populations,” as the pests often move to one’s property from adjacent, untreated and infested locations.
Protecting Plants: What You Can Do
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. Some effective non-chemical methods of cicada treatment include:
- By Hand – Picking adults and nymphs off plants by hand, if found in small enough numbers.
- Garden Hose – Knocking cicadas off plants by spraying water with a garden hose.
- Foil & Barrier Tape – 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.
- Netting – Protecting young or valuable plants by covering them with netting.
The female adult cicada lays eggs on trees and shrubs by inserting the eggs into the small twigs at the outer end of branches. 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.
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 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.