Cicadas – Friend or Foe?

The cicada has big red eyes (Photo Credit: Cicadamania.com)

Cicadas. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them for years. Well, I should say a hate-love relationship. It was 1960-something and I was visiting my great aunt at her house in Pennsylvania. She lived on a heavily wooded property with a lovely winding stream through her “backyard.” It was a child’s dream play place! My cousin and I were particularly fond of the salamanders that lived in the stream.

The cicada! (Photo Credit: wikipedia.org)
The cicada! (Photo Credit: wikipedia.org)

My great aunt offered us some chicken salad sandwiches which we ate heartily. After lunch, I went outside to play. Unfortunately, I ran directly into this horrible giant red-eyed monster bug with a wrinkly forehead. Several of its friends joined the crowd that was gathering on my white t-shirt. My mother and great aunt ran outside to find out what I was screaming about. “Get them off me!” I screamed. “What are they?” I shrieked. Calmly, my great aunt said, “They are cicadas, dear, they won’t hurt you.” I was not convinced, as their sharp “claws” helped them cling to my t-shirt. Just something about those creepy creatures bothered me over the years.

Adult cicada emerges (Photo Credit: Cicadamania.com)
Adult cicada emerges (Photo Credit: Cicadamania.com)
An adult cicada emerges from its nymph casing on my patio (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
An adult cicada emerges from its nymph casing on my patio (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

It wasn’t until the last “emergence” of Brood X of the cicadas in Virginia a few years ago that brought me to love them. What a cool looking insect! I know they are thought of as agricultural pests for eating the roots of established trees in the woods, but they are soooo cool. Realtime, I have watched several whitish nymphs emerge from their shells as adults. That was Mother Nature doing some of her greatest work.

Adult Cicada morphing from Nymph (Photo Credit: wikipedia.org)
Adult Cicada morphing from Nymph (Photo Credit: wikipedia.org)

The annual cicada, known for its blue eyes, is a regular visitor to my garden each year. I’m fascinated with the annual ones because I rarely see them. Maybe two or three times during the summer, stunned by being pecked by a bird or flying into a window, a still annual cicada will be seen on the pavement or deck.

The annual cicada has blue eyes (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
The annual cicada has blue eyes (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

The annual cicadas come each year. The periodic cicadas in Brood X are scheduled to appear here in Virginia this Spring. Soon the area will be littered with brown cicada nymph casings.

Cicada casings on an Astilbe plant (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Cicada casings on an Astilbe plant (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Every now and again, while digging in the garden, I will find a cicada nymph living underground. I will tell it how sorry I am to have dug it up, and then put it back into the ground. I’m looking forward to seeing their stately emergence all over again. (Remind me of my glee when I’m sweeping deceased cicada bodies away from my patio!)

The cicadas may land on you, and if not brushed off, may use their long tongue, or probiscus, to taste your skin. It might sting a little, but they are not know to be aggressive or to bite humans on purpose. They have trouble flying and tend to slam into inanimate objects often to their eventual demise. Poor things.

Cicadas Resting on Hostas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Cicadas Resting on Hostas (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Their continual sounds from rubbing their wings can bother human ears, as they are very high-pitched. I got used to it pretty quickly. They tend to collect in tall trees, so if you don’t have a lot of woods in your area, you might not see many cicadas!

Find out more on cicada arrival in your area at Cicadamania.com!

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