Friday, May 27, 2016

Cicada - Invasion of the 17 year-olds!

I wonder about the Cicadas. Their life cycle just fascinates me.  They are all over my area – the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.
I truly wonder why God created certain things, like slugs and cicadas. They seem to have no purpose to me – and are annoying - and yet they thrive!

Last week there were a few of them – this week they’re literally dripping off the trees and clinging to anything and everything. I went out and came into my house and one flew right in!

Dr. Daniel Frank, Entomologist Specialist at West Virginia University sums up the lifestyle of cicada’s perfectly:

My neighbor's tree
Have you heard of Brood V? Brood V is a group of periodic cicadas that will be appearing throughout much of West Virginia in 2016. These cicadas will be emerging in mass from the soil where they have spent the last 17 years sucking the nutrients from tree roots. From May through June the adult male cicadas will announce their presence with a loud chorus of sound that they use to attract a potential mate. Once the females have successfully mated, they will cut small slits in the twigs of trees to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch the immature cicadas (called nymphs) will burrow into the soil where they will remain for another 17 years to start the process anew.

Next to my tree
The only damage that cicadas can inflict is on small or young trees, as they slice into the branches to bury their eggs. Dr. Frank suggests that people cover their small and/or newly planted trees with light fabric to keep the insects away from them.

This is my remaining tree (above). The roots are so thick that I couldn't grow anything under it, so last year I just put several pots under it and planted flowers and ferns in them. The cicadas are all  over the pots and in them. I wanted to plant them today, but YUCK!

And, yep, the males have started their mating call......

As I said, I’m in awe of these creatures. There’s just an existential depressing “ness” about them that makes me ask “why?” But maybe I should leave the philosophy to the philosophers!

Do you know why?

What is your cicada situation where you live?

Would love to hear from you below, or you can email me at


  1. While the appearance of the 17-year cicada hordes might seem like a reenactment of one of the plagues of Egypt, they do serve a purpose in the natural order of things. Just think of them as being part of the "cycle of life," and it will make it easier to endure them as you carefully walk to your car in the morning.

    Let's see, cicadas are great at aerating the soil, clearly noticed as they emerge from their hidden spots underground. They also act as little garden helpers, pruning little limbs and branches we probably meant to trim, anyway. But I can say they are a wonderful feast for the birds and small animals that dine on them.

    One website I found a couple years ago says that the emergence of the 17-year cicadas is like "having Christmas, Thanksgiving and a huge birthday party, all rolled up into a great meal." What can I say? If they help nature, they can't be that bad, right?

  2. Well, then, I guess they certainly earn their right to life. I was wondering why so many millions of them sucking juices from tree roots don't injure the trees....but I guess they don't - well that is if the tree is well-established and not a young one.

  3. This is my first experience with an infestation of these big, ugly, beady~eyed bugs - it was quite creepy at first! The dog is eating then and there are so many, I can't stop her. I am hopeful they do not kill my beautiful perennials ! The yard and gardens are definitely aerated now.

  4. I couldn't believe the size of the holes around my tree! Rita, if you pick them off of your flowers, you'll see they are nothing but a hollow shell - the baby-laying thing crawled out of the shell and up into the tree. But the shell is weird, too! I just wish the birds would carry them all away!