Ask a Master Gardener: Cicadas come in peace

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Photo by Jane Kutzley, Madison County Master Gardener   This cicada was sighted at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park on May 20.

 

(Posted June 4, 2021)

Ohio State Extension has an Ask an Expert Hot Line for questions submitted in writing through the website:  Ask an Expert | OSU Extension.

Recently, there have been lots and lots of questions from homeowners seeking to save their trees, their homes, and their children and pets from the hordes of Brood X cicadas. One person wanted to “save” his 4-year old crabapple tree from being destroyed by cicadas. Another was worried about their flowers and yet another about their dog getting sick if he ate any of the big bugs. One caller was most concerned about his children being bitten by a cicada. If you have similar concerns, click on this link and read what Joe Boggs, Ohio State entomologist, has to say about cicadas: Return of the 17-Year Cicadas! | Science and Technology (osu.edu).

First of all, cicadas do not bite, sting, or hurt people. You can scoop one up and hold it if you wish (gently, please). It’s cool to see their little orange eyes up close. They do not devour food crops or flowers. The most damaging thing they are likely to do is drown out the TV announcers at the Memorial Golf Tournament.

If your housing area has been developed in the last 15 years or so, you will probably not see the Brood X cicadas in large numbers because of the construction disturbance and the lack of mature trees. Also, if your trees are relatively young, they will probably avoid any serious invasion from the cicadas as the female cicadas tend to stick with one tree throughout their life. You may still see some of the annual cicadas later in the year but in much smaller numbers.

Don’t spray an insecticide. It won’t stop or hurt the cicadas and will harm other beneficial bugs and possibly the tree itself. The cicadas are really almost harmless. The slits they cut for their eggs in tree limbs are tiny (the newly hatched larvae are ant-size), and they like to use the smallest branches. The larvae do not feed on the branches; they fall to the ground and burrow in for the 17 years they spend underground. At worst, a few small branches may need to be pruned.

The cicadas provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds and other animals. They are not toxic, and a few won’t hurt your pets. However, overindulgence makes for a tummy ache, so be sure to watch Fido when he’s out. If you are adventurous, they are a high-protein, low-fat, gluten-free people food, also. According to the link below, they can be substituted for shrimp in any recipe (note that if you are allergic to shellfish, you should not eat cicadas). Either collect them early in the morning before their wings harden or remove the wings and legs before cooking. Here is a link to recipes you can try:  The Cicadas Are Coming! : NPR.

Cicadas just wanna have fun. They want to make noise, find a mate, and ensure the next generation. They are an important biological phenomenon – a short-lived, extremely noisy, and very interesting event.

 

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