The Cicadas (and their whine) are coming!


2004 seems so long ago…17 years.  Enough time for a new born to now be a high school senior.  And enough time for the Brood X cicada nymphs that emerged from the eggs the adult females laid that summer to drop to the ground, burrow into the root-zones of plants and trees to feed on over the next 17 years to emerge this spring.

Just in case you think we’ve experienced cicadas since 2004, you’re correct.  Brood II cicadas were last here in 2013.  We won’t be dealing with them again until 2030!

So, back to the Brood X awakening.  According to both the Maryland and Virginia extension agencies, we can anticipate the emergence of cicadas this April and May.  According to Mike Raupp, a University of Maryland entomologist who specializes in cicadas, the DC/MD/VA area is going to be the “epicenter of an event that happens nowhere else on the planet except here in the Eastern United States.”

We should be so lucky!  The estimate is a density of 1.5 million per acre in our tri-“state” region.  Yes, 1.5 MILLION per acre.  That’s an astronomical number of cicadas filling the air with their distinctive mating sound.

Cicada nymph

Alas, it’s not a particularly pleasing sound.  As with many species, it’s the male that does the attracting, so blame the high-pitched whine that’s much like a chain saw or other 2-cycle engine noise we’ll inevitably be hearing in the weeks and month to come on the male cicadas.  The female, who doesn’t make any noise, is attracted to this incessant whine, which gradually grows quieter as the female approaches and stops all together during mating.  Unfortunately, the quieting is not a whole group phenomenon, so for our human ears, the noise is an ebb and flow of cacophony. 

After they’re done mating, the female lays 10 – 20 eggs, typically on tree limbs.  Then the adults die, leaving behind thousands of insect bodies on the ground…in your yard, on your deck, in the driveway….On the positive side, birds will be feasting on cicadas, as will squirrels, ants, snakes, frogs…even your dog if it has the chance.  You get the picture. 

So fat happy birds and wildlife in the midst of the noise is one positive in all this.  The other really good news?  While the noise can be deafening and the shear number of insect carcasses can be overwhelming, cicadas cause NO HARM to your lawn, your trees and shrubs, your family or pets.  Annoying, yes.  Destructive, no.  And you’ll have nine years to recover before the Brood II invasion!

After reading this post, be sure to contact the Pros at ProLawn at 540.662.8316 with any questions or to find out more about our Environmentally Sound, Organic Approach to Lawn Health Care!