Cicadas in Virginia

What are Cicadas?

The cicada is an arthropod which has several different broods of varying size. Over the next couple of months, the largest of these broods, Brood X will be emerging from their 17-year slumber. Most forecasts indicate that brood X will not affect the Central Virginia region. However, it can be expected that outlying populations will make their way to our markets. 

What is their timeline?

Brood X will begin to emerge between the end of April and the first part of May, and they will be present through the end of June. In this time, customers can expect to see evidence of their emergence by the base of trees as well as several molt casts throughout the property. 

What are the effects on my property?

The good news is that both the emergence cores and the molt casts can be beneficial to the landscape. As cicadas burrow, they help naturally aerate soil and alleviate compaction often found near the base of trees. Additionally, molted exoskeletons left behind by nymphs as they grow will provide additional organic material to the soil profile as they break down. They do not breed inside, carry diseases, nor bite or sting people. 

It should be noted that cicadas generally aren’t responsible for severe damage to ornamental plant material. Cicadas’ mouths do not have chewing mouthparts, meaning that leaf material will be safe. They do feed on xylem, which is sap, as they do have a stylet-shaped mouth. Soft-bodied trees will be the main target of the cicadas; however, most damage will not come from feeding—but rather the immense number of eggs, nymphs, and adults present within the branches. 

What can I do as a customer?

If a customer has younger soft-bodied trees on the property and are concerned about potential damage, they can set up dual-layered bird netting around the more susceptible plant material on the property to provide a mechanical barrier between these insects and their trees. Additionally, customers can apply a band of barrier tape to trap cicadas who are climbing up their trees and shrubs to mate. 

Most damage is done from the sheer weight of the adult populations and their laid eggs, because of this younger and thinner plant material will show more signs of damage.