Cicada roar will diminish soon!

William H. McCaleb 5/24/24 As if you hadn’t noticed, your days are filled with activities and this year, an added attraction since the first of May has been the emergence of the 13 year cicada Brood XIX. People keep asking me how to stop the noise, how to get rid of them, and when are they ever going to ‘shut-up’. To answer these questions, basically mother nature started it the first of May in different degrees around Halifax County and Brunswick County. Mother nature will stop it following the end of their mating and propagating season which should be around the end of June. Why are we seeing them again? It doesn’t seem like it has been that long since we had the last blast of cicadas especially south of the Danville River into the upper reaches of Person County NC. Scientist have been tracking and predicting the emergence of the broods since 1840 and they predict cicada emergence much better than the meteorologists can predict rain showers. Getting back to how long do the cicadas live? The ones we are hearing now have a 13 years lifecycle though we don’t see them but for a few weeks of their lives. Cicadas have a fascinating life cycle! This brood XIX lifespan is 13 years. Back in late April and early May we started seeing all sorts of holes in our yards and forest where the nymphs emerged After spending all that time underground, cicada nymphs emerged for a brief few weeks above ground.
Look closely at this exoskeleton and you can see where the cicada emerged. Here two adults are balanced on a tree limb. As soon as mating has occurred, the adults will die off and the constant roar will cease. The cicadas emerge, they molt (shedding their exoskeleton), as they mature into adults. They will then mate and the female will find a suitable tree to deposit up to 400 eggs in a slit in the bark. By the way, it is the males that are making all the noise as they are looking and attracting a female to mate with. It is an attraction for them, but to us, it is a lot of background noise. Each male puts out about 100 decibels of sound. As I said, each female can lay up to 400 eggs in branches and twigs of hardwood trees. They don’t seem to care for pine and many of our evergreen trees. Not all eggs survive to become the nymphs that will crawl back into the ground. We have plenty of natural enemies such as lady beetle larvae that will gorge themselves on the eggs and nymphs after they have emerged. Generally, it is six to ten weeks before the young nymphs hatch. From what I have read weather, i.e., rain and temperature have a lot to do with that range of time. They will hatch from their eggs and dig themselves into the ground to suck the liquids of plant roots. You were probably wondering what they ate and what plants they like. Hardwood trees, some of our landscape shrubs are desirable but, in my lifetime, I haven’t seen enough damage done to kill our mighty oaks and other native trees and shrubs. If you planted young trees this year, I would exercise caution and put netting over them until the nymphs have gone back into the ground in July. As the nymphs do feed on the sap of the roots, keep an eye on the health of the young trees this year and the next. While most cicadas are considered generalists, with a broad range of host plants, they have preferences like all living creatures. Preferred plants for egg-laying including apple, hickory, maple, and oaks are on their main menu with birch, dogwood, walnut, willow, linden, and elm further down the buffet menu. I have found exoskeletons on the leaves of roses, fig, forsythia, pear, and lilac as well, but so far no slits or egg masses. Observations and research have shown that cicadas tend not to prefer plants whose sap or gum may prevent egg hatch or keep nymphs from escaping, such as our native conifers, sumac, cherries, peach, plums, and persimmon. Not to say you won’t find exoskeletons hanging on many other trees and shrubs. My plum has had exoskeletons hanging from leaves. Even crepe myrtles have shedded exoskeletons on them. The nymphs feed on the sap in tree and shrub roots until the emergent cycle begins anew. When fully grown, the nymphs emerge from the soil, climb a tree, building, or other upright object, and shed the exoskeleton that protected their body and wings while tunneling up through the soil. Adult cicadas emerge from their exoskeletons and mate. You may even find exoskeletons clinging to farm equipment, mudflaps on a pickup, or any upright structure they can find. As I mentioned above, after mating, the female makes slits in tree branches and lays eggs there. The eggs hatch six to seven weeks later, the nymphs fall to the ground, they dig into the soil, and the cycle begins again. These nymphs will see you in 2036 and the singing will begin anew. Look closely at this exoskeleton and you can see where the cicada emerged. Here two adults are balanced on a tree limb. As soon as mating has occurred, the adults will die off and the constant roar will cease.