The last time we saw Brood X cicadas was the summer of 2004. Phew! 17 years was a long time ago. So much has happened in these past 17 years. A literal lifetime for many. In the summer of 2004, I was a 31-year-old mother of just one child. My son, Christopher, was only two years old. By comparison, he just wrapped up his freshman year of college. He has gone from being a toddler to a grown up since last we saw Brood X.
I do have some recollection of the last time we saw excessive cicada populations. I remember driving on the highway and having my car pelted by insect after insect. I remember feeling like my car would never be clean again! I also recall that we had a healthy population of cicada killer wasps in our yard and remember being terrified to be in my yard as those creatures, while not usually harmful to humans, are incredibly aggressive making them a scary nuisance to humans and pets.
The biggest annoyance from a large hatch of cicadas, though, is the noise that they make. Some liken their incessant noise to the sound of a constant lawn mower. The sound of grass being cut is a familiar sound of summer. We all accept that sound as part of our summer rituals. This assumes however that grass is cut in an efficient manner and the mower is put away or moves on to the next job. Not so with the Brood X cicadas. Their noise is constant, and no amount of coaxing can convince them to stop until they are ready to do so.
Only male cicadas can “sing”. Females are relegated to silence; their only purpose in life is to reproduce. Brood X cicadas are a red-eyed boy band whose song is the one that is on every radio station. You can change the channel all you want, but no matter which station you choose, each one is playing the same songs by the same boy band. I went back and looked to see what boy bands were popular in 2004. I knew 17 years ago was too recent for the Backstreet Boys but I felt pretty confident that 2004 would have seen *NSYNC at the top of the charts. I was so surprised to learn that in 2004, Justin Timberlake was already on his way to a career more meteoric than he ever saw with is former band mates. But you know who was on the top of the 2004 charts? Maroon 5, that’s who. You know who is on the top of the charts in 2021? You guessed it, Maroon 5. Wow, that’s some staying power.
Now, I’m going to venture a guess that Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine would prefer that he and his band not be likened to an emergence of insects, but you gotta admit, it’s pretty remarkable that these guys have managed to be on nearly every radio station for the better part of 20 years, singing their hearts out and charming the ladies, much like the males of Brood X.
While some folks opt to net their young trees, we are not doing much to prepare for the arrival of Brood X at Ruppert Nurseries. There is unfortunately, not much we can do. The cicadas are coming whether we like it or not, and we simply have too much land and too many trees to protect them all. The one conscious decision we have made is to wait until after the cicadas have gone to prune our young trees. Usually we are already in the midst of our summer pruning program. However, female cicadas prefer to lay their eggs in the tender new shoots of young trees. They do this by inserting their ovipositor into these soft juvenile branches, often leaving behind damage.
We can’t stop the next emergence of Brood X in 2038. We won’t have enough time between when the eggs are laid and when they hatch and move to the roots of the trees to do all that pruning. Not to mention that to completely eradicate the nymphs, we would have to remove and burn all the branches we prune out. This is simply not practical in the time we have. But we can lessen the damage both aesthetic and physical to our young trees with this late pruning. We can only hope that delaying summer pruning will still allow us to get it all done before the busyness of fall settles upon us.
So how will you deal with Brood X in your home? I recommend finding a screened-in porch, pouring yourself a cold beverage, selecting a Maroon 5 play list and settling back to “enjoy” the sweet sounds of a summer. And while you’re at it, you can put together your list of what you hope to accomplish before the next emergence in 2038. I’ll be 66 then. I expect I might have grandchildren. I hope I’m living at the beach. And Maroon 5? Who knows, perhaps Adam Levine will be the next Mick Jagger. Still cranking out hits into their 60’s. Only time, and the next emergence of Brood X will tell.
Ronda Roemmelt Sneider, CPH
ISA Certified Arborist MA-5274A
Ruppert Nurseries Sales Manager/Mid Atlantic Sales