U-M expert: Protect young trees, get ready for ‘continuous droning’ as Brood X


ANN ARBOR – Brood X periodical cicadas are about to emerge for the first time in nearly two decades in areas of Southeast Michigan.

The insects, which develop underground for 17 years, crawl out of the ground in May and June and feed from plants and trees and lay eggs in twigs. Harmless to humans, cicadas do not bite, but can do damage to shrubs and young trees.

According to the city of Ann Arbor, those concerned about small or vulnerable trees should cover them with netting or mesh to repel the cicadas. The city also said insecticides should not be used against the bugs.

University of Michigan entomologist Thomas Moore said despite cosmetic damage the bugs can cause, they may be good for forests, which sometimes experience growth spurts in the year following an emergence.

Moore, a professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and at the Museum of Zoology, said that the holes created by a cicada emergence allow air, sunlight, water and other nutrients to penetrate the soil more rapidly. He added that the very presence of the bugs is an indicator that a forest is robust.

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Tom O’Dell is a natural areas and collections specialist at U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. He was in Ann Arbor in May 2004, the last time the 17-year cicadas emerged, and has some advice for homeowners concerned about potential damage to their gardens and yards.

The university released this Q&A with O’Dell:

What was it like in the U-M botanical gardens the last time the Brood X cicadas emerged?

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