Cicada Countdown

April 28, 2021

The Cicadas are Coming!

You’ve no doubt heard by now that the periodical cicada Brood X will soon make its above-ground appearance in the local landscape. As the progeny of the last major brood emergence in 2004, this spring’s brood has spent the past 17 years underground benignly feeding on the roots of trees. Around mid-May, in an amazing feat of synchronicity, their biological clocks will lead them to their final phase of life. The warming soil will cue the clawed, tan-colored nymphs by the hundreds, and in some locations, the thousands and even millions, to tunnel out of the ground, and climb up the nearest vertical surfaces to molt and transform themselves into the wondrous winged adult insects we recognize as Magicicada, the periodical cicada.

Cicada Tunnel

Through most of June, the males will drone from the trees—the cacophony can be deafening, reaching decibels that can surpass the sound of a lawn mower—to attract females and mate. The females then lay their eggs in the branches of trees where, after hatching, the young nymphs drop and burrow underground to call the subterranean realm home until the clock once again counts the passing of 17 years.



Help the Cicadas Out!

Because their lifecycle depends upon wooded areas, habitat loss and urbanization pose a threat to this unique creature found nowhere else on earth.  In the midst of the spectacle its easy to lose sight of the environmental benefits their emergence brings:

  • As the adults die off, their decomposed bodies return nutrients to the soil that can then be used by plants, thus returning the favor to the trees whose roots sustained them for years while living underground as nymphs.
  • Their exit holes aerate the soil beneath trees and allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground.
  • They provide a ready protein source for birds and other wildlife.
  • They are harmless to most plants, and do not chew on leaves. The branches of some young trees may become damaged due to egg-laying activities, with newly planted trees at most risk. Healthier, more established trees generally recover from the impact, the effect being a mild pruning.

Things you can do:

  • Efforts to protect and preserve existing natural areas, especially woodlands, will help protect cicada populations.
  • Create new green spaces in urbanized areas and plant trees.
  • Don’t use pesticides.
  • Pick up any tarps, sheets of plywood, plastic or landscape fabric, and any other large items you may have laying on the ground now so that the cicadas can easily burrow out.
  • Don’t mow your grass or weed whack while they’re emerging.
  • If you’re in a high-emergence area and park outside, be sure to check your vehicle tires and remove clinging cicadas before driving.

Great resources for more information:

12 comments on "Cicada Countdown"

  1. Jacklyn Krisch says:

    Hi, Is there any county assistance for helping to cover young trees from Cicadas? Our young trees are already too tall for our tallest ladder and I was wondering if the county was able to help get the netting over the trees.

    1. Ana Arriaza says:

      Jacklyn, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, the County does not have the capacity and resources to assist. I’m wondering if any neighbors or gardening group can assist?

  2. Laura Leon says:

    How can I get rid of the cicadas in my front yard.

    1. Ana Arriaza says:

      Lauren, thank you for your comment. Cicadas will disappear on their own in a month or so. They do not bite or hurt your plants.

  3. Susan says:

    We just (today) planted new Rose of Sharon bush to attract bees. I also ordered two special butterfly bushes (extra $) which will arrive this week for the same reason. No offense to the cicadas but I want to encourage bees a heck of a lot more. What can We do to protect these new bushes? I. Am now officially horrified at what the cicadas will do to our newer plantings. HELP, please!

    1. Ana Arriaza says:

      Susan, thank you for the comment. That is exciting that you are trying to attract bees and butterflies to your garden. The Cicadas should be out of here in a month or so. Both Rose of Sharon and Butterfly bush are non-native and easily spreads around so we do not recommend you plant it in your garden. Depending upon site conditions, the flowers of native shrubs like red and black chokeberries (Photinia melanocarpa and P. pyrifolia), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), and blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) are all attractive to bees. The small flowers of shrubs in the holly family (Ilex sp. ) can provide good early spring resources for bees. You can find additional resource for native plants here:

  4. Hello, we just moved to Texas and experienced our first season of cicadas this last summer. Any tips for the south or are they the same everywhere?

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