Brood X cicadas will cause limited damage to trees, yard plants across eastern U.S.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The world's largest insect emergence of "Brood X" cicadas in May will result in some damage to fruit trees and prized yard trees and shrubs, but the large insects will not cause crippling harm to common farm crops, an Indiana University scientist says.

"There will be some crop damage, especially to orchards, but we don't expect a disaster," said IU Bloomington biologist Keith Clay, who recently received a three-year, $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to study Brood X. "The cicadas don't harm evergreen trees or leafy, non-woody plants. But isolated shrubs, broad-leafed trees, and trees with soft, woody branches are vulnerable. People who have just spent thousands of dollars on landscaping may want to consider throwing netting over the trees during the two-to-three-week period when the adult cicadas are out."

Clay recommends that concerned gardeners, vintners and farmers place netting -- with holes no greater than one-half inch across -- securely over the top of vulnerable plants.

Brood X's population is densest in southern Indiana, Kentucky and southwestern Ohio, but it has pockets in Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, New Jersey, Missouri, northern Georgia, New York (Long Island), eastern Pennsylvania (including Philadelphia) and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Scientists expect Brood X cicadas to crawl out of the ground and begin the reproductive segment of their life cycle when soil temperatures reach 62 degrees Fahrenheit. While it's hard to know just how many cicadas will appear in late May, Clay said the total number of emergent cicadas in the state of Indiana alone could reach the trillions.

Contrary to what one might expect, the population of 17-year periodical cicadas doesn't cause much damage to trees and smaller plants by feeding on them. After more than 16 years of slowly sucking tree roots, Brood X cicadas arise from their subterranean chambers sated with most of th

Contact: David Bricker
Indiana University

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