Cicadas are those large (up to 1 inches long), dark greenish colored insects that serenade us to sleep during the summer. There are two categories of cicadas in the United States One is the typical cicada that has a one year life cycle and a few of them show up each summer.

The other type is called the periodical cicada. These show up on either a 13 or 17 year cycle and they arrive by the millions. Entomologists have been tracking the periodicals for a century and more and can predict when and where they will emerge. Sometimes they are mistakenly called locust which are actually just a large sized grasshopper. Cicada are a different beast entirely.

The yearly cicadas emerge in very small numbers and cause little, if any, damage to our plants. They do not warrant and treatment.

Periodical cicadas with their massive numbers are a different story. They do not eat plants but they cut into twigs in order to lay their eggs. A couple of yearly cicadas will cause a couple of twigs to die. However, several thousand periodical cicadas in a tree will cause noticeable damage. You will get large numbers of twigs and their attached leaves turning brown.

Keep your trees as healthy as possible.

You may be able to control many of the periodical adults by spraying them with an insecticide labeled for cicadas. Since they do not all emerge from the soil at once, you may have to make a second application 6 or 7 days later. Keep an eye on the local news and they usually have stories about periodical cicada emergence. If you have smaller trees, they may be covered with mosquito netting to prevent damage. Avoid planting new trees during springs when a 13 or 17 year cicada emergence is predicted.

The small number of yearly cicadas that emerge are not worth treating.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

Types of Insects

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