Experts weigh in.

By Meghan Overdeep
April 09, 2021
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Whether you want to believe it or not, billions of cicadas are coming, and they're coming soon.

While you can't prevent Brood X from emerging from the ground next month, there are things you can do to mitigate potential damage to your yard.

First thing's first. Cicadas are generally harmless, and do not spread disease. Sure, they're a nuisance, but they pose no bodily threat to you or your family.

After 17 years in the ground, swarms of periodical cicadas will begin appearing in mid- to late May. Their populations will be concentrated in Maryland, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, and in Washington, D.C. in particular.

According to Josh Matta, senior biologist for Spectracide, adult cicadas will be around for four to six weeks. He suggests that homeowners avoid planting any young trees or shrubs until the cicadas have died off.

"Cicadas like trees and shrubs. If you happen to live in the region where cicadas are common, they're going to be all over those plants," warns Matta.

He added that cicadas pose the largest threat to small, weakling, ornamental trees, and young deciduous trees. Not because they eat them—cicadas don't even have teeth! —but because females lay their eggs in tiny holes they make in the branches. Young, tender branches are easier to pierce, and therefore ideal for egg laying. Mature trees are also more likely to recover from cicada damage.

Matta said that cheesecloth or garden netting are safe, low-impact ways to provide protection for young trees and shrubs. For "robust" protection, products like Spectracide Triazicide are useful, though you run the risk of sickening other, unintended animals when using pesticides. Plus, attempts to control significant numbers are likely to be futile.

Instead, experts are urging homeowners to be patient and resist the urge to kill the cicadas

"The mass emergence of periodical cicadas is a phenomenon that is incredible to witness," Judy Black, vice president of quality assurance and technical services at Orkin, LLC., explained to Prevention. "If you attempt to kill them, you are robbing future generations of witnessing these emergence events."

As for maintaining your yard during the swarm, you might want to avoid using certain machinery.

"Some cicada calling songs are reminiscent of noises made by lawnmowers, weed-whackers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, power drills, etc." notes Matta. "If it is loud and vibrates, cicadas could be attracted to it."

Just sit back, relax, and watch the (noisy) show!