Conservation Corner: The Great Eastern Brood

It’s happening this year! After 17 long years, Brood X will dig their way up from the ground and will invade our neighborhoods, yards, and landscapes.

Nymphs will emerge mid May through June when the ground temperatures reach approximately 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Millions will emerge simultaneously in great numbers to help prevent predation.

Once above ground they will climb up on trees, fence posts, and other vegetation to shed their exoskeletons and inflate their wings. This process of hardening off can take 4-6 days.

The male cicada will “sing” by flexing his tymbals, a drum like organ found on their abdomen, to attract a female to mate. The female will then deposit her eggs into small tree branches by cutting a slit in the bark. She will deposit 20-30 eggs in each slit and they will mature in approximately six to ten weeks. These slits or grooves can cause “flagging” or die back in young trees.

Eggs will eventually hatch out and young cicadas will begin feeding on tree fluids (xylem) within the groove. The nymphs will drop to the ground, burrow to find roots and stay underground feeding on roots for the next 17 years.

17-year cicadas will be approximately 2” long with red eyes, orange and black bodies, and transparent wings. Occasionally you will find a blue-eyed cicada.

Concerned about your trees?

Damage can occur in young trees from females depositing eggs in small branches. Please don’t spray your trees with pesticides. If you are concerned about a small tree, protect the branches and crown with netting. The netting should cover the entire tree and the mesh size should be no larger than 1 centimeter or ⅜”. Larger mature trees will survive just fine, so skip the unnecessary pesticides.

Benefits to wildlife

Birds, raccoons, frogs, skunks and FISH will all benefit from this onslaught of food, even your cat will enjoy some. The nymphs also aerate soil as they emerge — and when the adults die and decay, they will provide nutrients to plants and vegetation.

Enjoy them!

Don’t worry, cicadas don’t bite or sting and they are actually quite tasty to eat! These crazy critters only come around every 17 years, so embrace this natural phenomenon.

Match the Hatch

Tie some cicada flies and get out and catch some fish. Here is a link to some great patterns:

By Dave Keane