Jessica Yonker

Jessica Yonker

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cicadas
Cicadas have awoken from their 17-year slumber and emerged along the Eastern United States.

The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming!

Well, actually, they’re already here. Millions of 17-year Brood II cicadas have emerged for their 2013 temporary takeover of the Eastern United States. So far, the heaviest infestations are in New York and just south of Washington, D.C., but Radiolab’s interactive map shows the cicadas have been spotted as far south as Tampa and even dot areas along the West Coast.

You’ll know cicadas are in your area if you just listen. Their signature chirp, a mating call produced by structures called tymbals on male cicadas, can be heard throughout the day during the 4–6 weeks the cicadas “grace” the land.

Many northern states expected to see cicadas are still shaking off an extended winter, pushing back their invasion until it warms up since they require steady soil temperatures of at least 64° F to emerge.

The idea of millions of bugs crawling out of the ground can put even the most diehard insect fans on edge, but don’t worry–cicadas are completely harmless. They can’t bite, aren’t vengeful and are surprisingly clumsy, especially when flying. What may first seem like an attack is essentially a cicada bumping into you, so if you find one has made a crash landing onto your arm or shirt, just brush it off and send it on its way.

The cicadas also won’t do much harm to your garden. The only thing to watch out for is your trees. Cicadas spent the first 17 years of their lives underground, feeding on the juice of tree roots.  Once they emerge young cicadas, known as nymphs, may suck on tree sap, though this typically causes minimal damage to trees.

You should really be watching out for the adults: cicadas are on a quest to mate and the females will lay eggs in small branches and twigs causing flagging, the splitting and dying of the branches. It’s a good idea to cover young trees with netting if you see lots of cicadas hanging around, and you should wait until the fall to plant any new trees.

Otherwise, a cicada invasion will just make your early-summer garden noisy a little messy thanks to the thousands of creatures shedding their exoskeletons on anything and everything they can latch onto. Truth be told, a cicada emergence can help your garden. When they die they return a mass of vital nutrients to the soil, and the tunnels the nymphs make help aerate the soil.

And gardeners rejoice: perhaps the best thing about the cicadas is they make tasty treats for a variety of predators–you can thank the cicadas for keeping those pesky birds away from your strawberries this season!

Have you spotted cicadas in your garden? We want to see your photos! Upload your cicada photos to our site or share with us @hgtvgardens on Instagram or Twitter.

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