Thursday, June 30, 2011

Insect Effects

Last month I told you about our periodical cicada infestation. I forgot to tell you that it's over.

Cicadas only live for a few weeks, mate, then die. However, when millions of the insects come out at the same time things get a little crazy. At its peak, their mating call hum was like your neighbors all cuting their lawns at the same time, all day long. Then as quickly as it started, the hum it stopped.

After the cicadas mate, the female scrapes a channel in small twigs or branches (anything up to the diameter of a pen) and deposits her eggs. Here's an example, with the scrapes circled in red.
 lorax /Wikipedia 
When I didn't see or hear the cicadas any more, I promptly forgot about them. Last week I had to pick up a couple of small branches from the red bud tree in the back yard, but that's not unusual; the tree has soft wood and loses branches all the time. Then we had some pretty strong storms and there were branches from the neighbor's ash tree in the yard, but I attributed that to the wind. However, I started noticing a lot of small branches (some with leaves still attached) when I walked around the neighborhood. I wondered what was going on.

Thanks to Saralynn at Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips., now I know. If too many female cicadas use the same branch, the twig gets weak and fall to the ground. The process is called flagging, and just like the cicadas, flagging is temporary and will be over soon.


  1. I weeded Mom's planter under an oak tree this last weekend. The cicada nymph skins were 2 - 3 inches thick in some places! Made weeding kinda creepy.

  2. Thank goodness the crazy making hum is over and done with for how long? Did you say every 7 years or was it longer? These critters sound very annoying and they sure leave their mark. I'm wondering what their purpose is, don't all creatures great and small have purpose?

    Enjoy your weekend Kathy!

  3. How well I remember when the 17 year cicadas all came out in Illinois. The humming was deafening at times. I hope your trees and shrubs are all still healthy.