If you live in the northeast, it’s time to gear up for cicada season! OK, while this may not be the most exciting news you’ve ever heard, these little buggers – or, quite large buggers, actually – are getting all the buzz in the media as they fill the sky with their incessant chirping. For those who have flower gardens or vegetable gardens, the rapid advance of the bugs may seem daunting, as you are left wondering how to protect your precious plants from the phenomenon now being hailed as “Swarmageddon.” No worries – we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know:
First things first … what is a cicada?
Great question: Many people are a bit skeptical about cicadas because they don’t really understand this strange creature and its even stranger breeding cycle. Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives underground in complete darkness and sustain themselves by sucking the fluids out of shrubs and trees. When they are fully grown – an astounding 17 years later – they dig their way out of the ground, breed with other cicadas they’ve had their eyes on for years, then die almost instantaneously. What’s left after this cycle is millions of dead cicada bodies that you’ll need to rake up and clear out just like your fall leaves. Excellent!
It’s easy to protect your plants
As previously mentioned, cicadas feed on the liquids in plant stems, so you’ll need to take steps to make sure that your precious gardens are safe from the bugs. If you can prevent them from getting onto the plants in the first place, then you’re golden. An easy way to do so is to buy insect exclusion screens or netting and wrap them around your plants – this will keep them protected from pesky cicadas without causing any damage. Another simple – albeit less permanent – solution is to use your hose and spray the cicadas off of your plants. The water blast will make them go away, but may not keep them away.
The good news is, in most cases, cicadas won’t kill most of your plants. They’re more attracted to trees, vines and bushes than flowers and shrubs, so the most damage they’ll do to your flower garden is litter the ground with their bodies at the end of their life cycles.