Periodical cicada returns

Friday, May 27, 2011

Last appearing in 1998, Brood XIX of periodical cicada will pupate into adulthood and make their way above ground this spring. Brood XIX is a 13-year cicada grouping that stretches from Missouri to Illinois and south into northern Louisiana then east to North Carolina.

Periodical cicada will start to emerge in April to early May and be around into early July. They are large insects, ranging from .75 to 1.5 inches long.

The males will fly to the top of trees and start to sing to attract a mate. The large number singing will develop into a joint cadence. The volume of the singing can become annoying.

After mating, females will look for small twigs, preferably one-fourth to one-half inch in diameter, to lay eggs in. The female inserts a saw-like ovipositor to open a slit in the twig where she will lay her eggs. She will repeat this multiple times possibly creating a continuous slit along the twig. The nymphs will hatch after six to 10 weeks then drop to the ground to burrow in and feed on tree roots.

The sheer numbers of cicada all at one time will ensure most trees will have some damage - apple, pear, dogwood, oak and hickory are favorite hosts. Branches with severe damage will have twig dieback. On larger, established trees this will not be a problem for tree health but will create a short term visual of brown leaves.

Highly valued ornamental trees, young trees and small shrubs may be protected by wrapping with mesh cloth with openings less than three-eighth of an inch. Be sure to tie the cloth tightly around the trunk to prevent cicada from climbing in from below.

While sensitive to some protective chemicals, female cicada usually will be able to lay some eggs before succumbing.

Corrective pruning of small damaged trees in the winter may be needed to re-establish a central leader of the main stem.

For more information, contact call Jon Skinner, Missouri Department of Conservation urban forester, at 417-629-3423 or email him at

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