Cicada Tree Damage and What to Do About it [Professional Insight]

January 6, 2023

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Cicada tree damage is often serious, especially for young fruit trees and other young deciduous trees. A cicada female laying eggs on branches weakens them severely. In turn, they might snap off in the wind. Additionally, this damage can cause leaves and fruit to wither and even die and fall away from the tree.

The good news is that you can treat most cicada tree damage and salvage that tree. You can also keep cicadas from feasting on that tree and using it as a nest! Check out some tips for addressing cicada and other insect damage on your trees. Then, discuss any remaining questions with a tree care service provider near you as needed.

Understanding the periodical cicada life cycle

Cicadas have a unique life cycle that consists of four stages. The first stage is the egg laying process, where female cicadas lay their eggs in slits made in tree branches or trunks (which weakens trees). After the eggs hatch, the young cicadas go through three instar stages, which are a type of larval development. During these stages, they feed on plant sap until they reach adulthood. The fourth and final stage is the adult stage, when the winged cicadas emerge from their nymphal shells and begin to sing to attract mates and reproduce. After mating, the female will begin the cicada egg laying stage, and the cycle starts over again.

cicada tree damages

Is it really cicada tree damage?

Before doing anything else, it’s vital to determine that you’re seeing tree damage on your property. This will ensure you treat those trees properly and reduce the risk of future damage.

First, have you noticed a cicada infestation on your property or these pesky insects swarming around your tree? Second, remember that cicadas are known for their loud buzzing sounds. If you notice these issues along with branch damage, cicadas are probably at fault.

Also, cicadas don’t actually eat leaves or tree parts but lay their eggs along branches and branch tips. To do this, the females cut small incisions into the branches. Additionally, they usually choose small trees with smaller branches, typically the size of a pencil. These smaller branches are easier to cut, so the damage you might see on large branches is probably not from cicadas.

Moreover, cicada cuts usually leave behind small “train track” patterns or indentations on branches. These indentations often appear rotted around their edges. Lastly, this damage usually extends from where the females cut the branches to the tip. Cicadas don’t typically damage an entire branch, a tree trunk, or its leaves.

How to address cicada tree damage

First, note if affected tree branches are dead and ready to snap. If so, cut any that are already bent or ready to fall. Most branches you cut will germinate or grow back along their healthy side. Cutting them yourself speeds up this healing process while keeping your tree manicured.

Also, note that cicada damage is typically minimal, and most trees don’t need more than trimming. However, new or smaller trees and dwarfed fruit trees and bushes are often more susceptible to cicada damage, and the cicadas eat their sap and nutrients. As such, you might want to give an affected tree some added plant food or fertilizer for its species.

Protect young trees

To protect younger or weaker trees from cicada damage, invest in tree netting. You can find this at most home improvement stores or a landscape supply company. However, don’t use bird netting or anything other than material designed to protect trees from insects! Mesh on other materials is often too large to keep out cicadas.

To attach this netting, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Wrap it around the tree’s branches and ensure you close it tightly. Pull it to the ground if you can, to help block cicadas from crawling up the trunk. You can even secure it more tightly with rope or duct tape, to keep out even more bugs!

Potential to impact tree roots

Cicadas can also damage tree roots by burrowing into them and sucking out sap. This can weaken a tree’s root system and potentially lead to death or disease. However, the netting discussed above can prevent cicadas from impacting the root system of young trees or even mature trees. You can also apply a commercial insecticide to the ground surrounding your trees, but look for more natural options when possible.

tree damage causes by cicadas

Can you use insecticides to kill cicadas?

Arborists often discourage property owners from using insecticides on cicadas or affected trees. These chemicals seep into the ground and risk damaging nearby lawns and landscaping features. Also, cicadas are an excellent food source for birds and other wildlife. When they’re underground, they also help aerate the soil.

You might try other protective measures before applying insecticides. Also, consider calling a tree services professional for advice on severe infestations or damage. They can offer other suggestions for salvaging the tree and addressing that damage naturally and safely.

Can trees recover from cicada damage?

The good news is that most trees recover from cicada damage on their own. Cicadas usually only damage smaller twigs, as said, and trees usually have hundreds of these! In turn, they afford to have some twigs damaged without this affecting their condition overall.

Additionally, trimming damaged branches can help protect the tree overall. Removing that damaged part alleviates weight on the tree. It also allows the remaining branch stem to germinate and grow healthy again.

Also, note that cicadas spend most of their lives underground, feeding on tree sap and other nutrients. Some stay underground for two years, while others remain dormant for up to 17 years! In turn, you’re not likely to see cicada damage very often along your property.

cicada on a branch buzzing

If you noticed cicada damage on your plants or fruit trees, call the experts!

Ann Arbor Tree Trimming & Removal Service is happy to provide this information about cicada tree damage to our readers. Hopefully, it’s been helpful for your tree care needs! Speaking of which, don’t hesitate to call our Ann Arbor tree services contractors. We offer a wide range of tree care options, including trimming, disease treatment, and removal. Our crew also handles hedge trimming, stump removal, and full-scale land clearing. To find out more, give us a call today.

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