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A Cicada Invasion is Approaching — More Than One Trillion Will Cover 16 States

Original source:
Better Homes & Gardens

Do you hear that? It’s the impending sound of chirping cicadas, and they’re on their way to the Midwest and the Southeast in numbers we haven’t seen in over a century. According to the New York Times, two cicada groups—Brood XIX and Brood XIII—will appear in late April. More than one trillion cicadas will cover 16 states.

“Nobody alive today will see it happen again,” Floyd W. Shockley, an entomologist and collections manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told the Times. “That’s really rather humbling.”

Cicadas aren’t the most destructive bugs you could find in your garden: They live short lives, mating and depositing their eggs into tree branches before dying. They don’t bite or sting, and their presence has its advantages for gardeners.

Shockley said that instead of throwing dead cicadas away, “people should use them as free fertilizer for the plants in their gardens and natural areas.” Plus, the holes they leave behind when they emerge can help aerate the soil and get more water to plants.

That said, you should still consider these cicadas pests. The most at-risk plants are bushes and trees, particularly sapling trees, ornamental shrubs, blueberries, grape vines, bramble fruits, oaks, maples, cherries, dogwoods, and redbuds, USA Today reported. This is because cicadas eat the sap from trees and slicing into them to lay their eggs.

While they likely won’t ruin your garden by eating it, experts recommend taking preventative measures to protect your plants. You especially want to do this around any bushes or young trees—setting up any physical barrier works, but netting is particularly effective.

While looking for the right netting, make sure the holes are small enough to block out the cicadas. Bird netting, for instance, won’t protect against these pests. When you put the netting up, cover the entirety of your plant—cicadas can crawl up from the ground, too. You don’t want to keep your netting up year-round because it affects how your plants grow, but thankfully, cicada season only lasts about six weeks.

During those six weeks, right before the season starts, try not to plant anything new, as younger plants are more fragile and vulnerable. And don’t use sprays or other cicada killers: They’re a healthy part of our ecosystem, and there will simply be too many of them for the spray to really do much.

Overall, the best way to approach the invasion is simply getting your netting (if you wish), sitting back, and watching. It’s a rare spectacle that could be potentially problematic for your shrubs, but it doesn’t mean your garden is doomed.