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Cicada, killer wasps attract attention due to their large size, the burrows that they dig in home lawns, and their buzzing flights over the lawn. These insects occur in all states east of the Rocky Mountains and prefer to dig their burrows in sandy, bare, well drained soil exposed to full sunlight. The wasps feed on flower nectar while the immature or larval stage feeds primarily upon cicadas that are brought to the burrow by the adult.



Cicada In spite of their large size, the wasps usually ignore people but they can give a painful sting if bothered. Mating males are aggressive and more easily disturbed.

Periodical cicadas are insects with reddish-orange eyes and 4 clear wings with orange veins. Adults are black, about 1 ½ to 2 inches long. There are seven species of periodical cicadas three with a 17-year life cycle generally found in the north and 4 species with a 13-year cycle in the south. They don’t bite. They don’t sting. They don’t exactly sing. They just buzz, click, and sort of roar in a chorus. And they get in the way and underfoot – on sidewalks, on grass, on patios and balconies, and inside the house, if windows are open and unscreened. They are clumsy flyers.

Life Cycle: In the common name,13-and 17-year applies to the developmental period required for the nymphs to reach adulthood. Adults start appearing in Virginia in early May with numbers peaking in early June. Numbers decline by late June and most cicadas are gone by July. Periodical cicadas emerge in specific locations once every 17 years in most of Virginia.

In some of the southern counties there are periodical cicadas that emerge once every 13 years. There are seventeen broods of the 17-year cicada and thirteen broods of the 13-year cicada. Every year they will emerge somewhere in the state. Some counties have several broods in different locations. Massive brood emergence is believed to overwhelm predators, which are mostly birds.

Immature periodical cicadas (nymphs) develop underground and feed on sap from plant roots. After 13 or 17 years below ground, mature nymphs construct a mud turret called a cicada hut and emerge from the soil and climb onto nearby vegetation or any vertical surface. They then molt to the winged adult stage. Their shed outer skins or “exoskeletons” are frequently found attached to tree trunks and twigs. The emergence is often tightly synchronized, with most adults appearing within a few nights. Adult cicadas live for only two to four weeks.



During this short time, they feed relatively little and do not cause any severe damage as they feed. Male cicadas sing by vibrating membranes on the sides of the first abdominal segment. Male courtship songs attract females for mating. Females are silent. After mating, females lay their small eggs in twigs 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. The female’s ovipositor slices into the wood and deposits the eggs. One to several dozen eggs can be laid in one branch, with up to 400 eggs being laid by each female in 40 to 50 sites.

Cicada eggs remain in the twigs for six to ten weeks before hatching. The nymphs do not feed on the twigs. The newly hatched, ant-like nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow 6 to 18 inches underground to feed.

Damage:caused by nymphs feeding on plant roots is considered very minor. The adults do not feed on the upper portions of the tree after they emerge, but egg laying by the female cicadas causes significant damage to small twigs. The female places her saw-like egglaying tube, called an ovipositor, into small branches and twigs that are about the diameter of a pencil. Twigs will die because the branch is split when the eggs are placed under the thin bark. This dead twig contrasts with the surrounding green foliage, a condition called “flagging”. Young trees are the most severely damaged by flagging because they have more branches of the preferred size for egg laying by the cicada.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicada Life Cycle

The immature cicadas, called nymphs, do not feed on the twig where they hatch but drop to the ground and burrow to the root system below the tree. Once attached they stay on the root for 13 or 17 years until the next emergence.

Cicadas are not poisonous and do not have a stinger. Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging from the ground often are beset with a substantial noise problem. Half of the population are males “singing” or calling for the females. The annoyance from the singing is tempered by the fact that the periodical cicadas are only out for 4-6 weeks once every 17 years, but they can occur more frequently where broods overlap.

Controls Measures:The periodical cicada female uses her ovipositor to make a slit in small twigs of trees, but will lay eggs in branches up to one-and-one-half inches in diameter. The female then lays her eggs in these slits. The eggs hatch and the nymphs fall to the ground and tunnel down through the soil to feed on sap in a root until they emerge 13 or 17 years later. Although their feeding on the tree’s roots for 13 or 17 years have an impact on the growth of the tree, they do not cause enough damage to justify any control measures.

The egg-laying slit made in the twig may cause the twig to dry and break off. This damage, too, is not harmful enough on an established tree to justify trying to control these insects. However, small transplanted trees, particularly fruit trees, commonly have a trunk diameter small enough that egg slits made in the trunk, may result in the tree snapping off.

Cicada Shell

Cicada Shell

Insecticide applications kill huge numbers of visiting cicadas, but analysis of egg-slit trunk damage shows little difference between treated and untreated research plots. The only way to protect small trees from serious damage in a heavy emergence area is to protect the trunk with screening or other material. This is expensive in materials and labor. It is much better to delay small-tree planting for a year or install larger stock, preferably those with a trunk diameter of at least 2½ inches.

Some thought about periodical cicadas and their needs can also help. Realize that these insects require a steady supply of sap-supplying tree and shrub roots for 17 years. Housing developments that have had all trees and shrubs removed prior to building will have few cicadas because the nymphs died when the trees were removed. Similarly, housing developments in areas that were originally farm fields or prairie will have few cicadas due to the original lack of trees. The practice of bulldozing all trees off of a housing development site has been common only since the 1960s, so older housing developments tend to have large numbers of cicadas.

If you ever have any bug related questions feel free to call us either at Beyond Pest Control. Once again, and I can’t stress this enough we are on call twenty four hours a day seven days a week to kill those bugs, we aren’t kidding whether you call us at 9 am or midnight we will be available to take your call and either get rid of the bug infestation, or answer any questions you may have concerning the bug issue. I can honestly guarantee that there will be someone to answer that call. We make it our business to make you bug free!

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