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Why Are Millions of Cicadas Infesting Virginia After 17 Year Hiatus?

It’s a natural phenomenon that happens only every 17 years. Throughout Southwest Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, millions of cicadas swarm these regions. Almost 1.5 million cicadas emerge as summer begins. This unique experience hasn’t occurred since 2004, and scientists are still stooped as to why it happens.  

Every 13 to 17 years, cicadas infest trees throughout this region. Although there’s no definite answer as to why that is, it’s predicted that it might have something to do with predator cycles.

You may not have heard of cicadas, as they’re often mistaken for locusts. These bugs are like a combination of a grasshopper and a flying beetle. They’re known (and often spotted) because of the distinct cricketing sound they make. This sound is a mating call which attracts more cicadas. 

Cicadas are about half an inch to an inch long. They have transparent wings with an array of different body colors from black to green, and even reddish brown. Their eyes usually vary in color, but they’re most likely large and black bright red. 

These infestations won’t negatively impact that environment, or invite other pests into your garden. However, they can cause a lot of problems for ornamental tree growers and vineyards. Nymphs, or immature cicadas, spend most of their time in soil and feeding on tree roots.    

Cicadas Are Harmful To Trees

During the mating process, females lay eggs throughout the smallest branches they can find. When they do this, they use a sharp tube called an ovipositor to implant the eggs into the branch. After the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil, feeding on plant roots for sustenance.

During the egg-laying process, branches and vines begin to split and wither, resulting in flagging. As many gardeners and vineyard keepers know, flagging not only stunts growth in young trees, it can also cause the tree to die.  

This can cost gardeners and vineyard owners hundreds and even thousands of dollars worth of property damage within a matter of weeks. Thankfully, there are a few ways to protect against cicadas, but tree owners must act fast. 

How To Get Rid of Cicadas 

It only takes cicadas about 4 to 6 weeks to complete the mating and egg-laying process. If you’re an avid gardener or tree owner, you might already do some of these tips which prevent cicadas and other pests. 

Pick as many adults and nymphs off vegetation by hand 

This may not work if you have an extreme infestation, but may work for smaller infestations can be handled this way. Adult cicadas are very clumsy, and natural predators to a lot of different species. Simply removing them and discarding them away from your garden or crops can work for smaller infestations. 

Use a garden hose and get to spraying

If you’re grossed out by touching bugs, or you think your infestation is too much to be done by hand, try spraying them off. It might seem juvenile to attack bugs with a hose until they’re off your crops, but again, they’re quite clumsy and should fall off easily. 

Add netting and other protective barriers 

Finally, you’ll want to install mesh netting or a protective barrier around your trees. This should reduce the number of egg-laying cicadas. Adding netting and other protective barriers can help protect against other pests that commonly invade plants such as aphids and gnats!

Unfortunately, there are no chemical sprays and treatments that can effectively kill cicadas. Colonies only breed and lay eggs for about 2 to 4. The best solution to stop cicadas is to prevent them and quickly remove any that do stumble upon your trees.  

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