Cicadas Bugging You? Put Away That Insecticide
Entomologists say there are few excuses to destroy these insects.
Cicadas mating in North Georgia.
Depending on where you live, you might hear an incessant wailing right now. Step outside and you’ll see loads of discarded exoskeletons from Brood X cicadas. The insects themselves have bulging red eyes and massive veined wings, looking like something out of a sci-fi movie.
“Cicadas are perfectly harmless. They cannot bite. They don’t sting. They don't feed. They aren’t going to harm animals, wildlife, or people,” Nancy Hinkle, an entomology professor at the University of Georgia, tells Treehugger. “They are very beneficial. Nearly every animal eats cicadas. They are a great nutrient burst for nearly every type of wildlife.”
“We want the wildlife to eat the cicadas. It’s so beneficial. Each cicada is a nugget of nutritional goodness,” she says.
When Cicadas Harm Trees
Cicadas don’t harm mature trees, but when they are young, called their nymph stage, they eat plant roots. That can harm trees and other plants. So can cicada eggs.1
“Young trees can be damaged as eggs are laid in slits cut in twigs and stems that can cause stem and twig dieback. Larger, healthy established trees can tolerate the damage,” Stafford says. “A grower with a newly planted large fruit orchard would be one of the cases where spraying might be needed, but timing the planting would be easy to avoid a 17-year emergence and netting can be used to protect individual small trees.”
He says netting would be more effective and likely less expensive. And it would be safer for other wildlife and the environment.
If the Bugs Bug You
If you want to protect your plants (or you’re just trying to have a picnic in your backyard) there are things you can do that don’t involve chemicals.
Simply knock off cicadas from plants or trees with the spray from a water hose. You can also pick them off by hand.2