It's not exactly every 17 years!

Looking at a Half-Empty Glass and Pruning

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First of all, a huge thank you to Kita Murdock for being Cicadaphobia’s first contributor! I hope you enjoyed her post about Cecily Cicada and will consider getting her book for your entomophobic child or any child at risk of entomophobia in the areas that will be plagued with the Brood II cicadas this summer. Having suffered from this condition since I was born, I highly recommend you eradicate insect phobia in your children while they are still young and can fall under the charm of a sweet cicada nursery rhyme with cute and colorful illustrations. They will forever thank you (and Kita) when they grow up, I promise!

I also hope that Kita’s guest post will encourage more readers to contribute to the blog. Anything related to cicada phobia or a simple update on the cicada situation in your neck of the woods will be highly appreciated! Don’t be shy and let the voice of entomophobia be heard! You can also post to the Cicadaphobia Facebook page and send us updates through Twitter.

So, May is finally here and this means they are expected to emerge any day now in some parts of the East Coast. Actually, nymphs and even adult insects have already been sighted in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Yikes!

Personally, I’ve only seen holes so far and I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that my county and the city of Washington, DC, where I work, will escape the plague. Encouraging news has appeared this past week according to which the neighboring county that was supposed to be heavily affected will now only see some “spotty” cicada emergence. Please, God, please, may this be true! If they don’t get too close to where I live (especially the wooded park across from my condo) and they are not out at work, I might really be safe!

It’s still too early to celebrate, though. In 2004, they were officially out and about and singing on May 12. This year we’ve had a cooler than usual spring, so maybe they’ll come out in full force even later. I prefer to see my glass half empty and rejoice later if I do, indeed, escape the plague. I can’t set my hopes too high. What if I do get convinced that I’m safe and don’t need to be imprisoned for five weeks, and one morning I wake up to their unmistakable chirping? So, the glass is half empty for now. If I do avoid my looming imprisonment, it will be a wonderful surprise!

Now on to more practical matters. This live chat that took place this afternoon on the Fairfax County Government website has an awesome tip on how to cause cicada extinction in a totally green and eco-friendly manner! Pruning is the answer!

The female cicada lays her eggs in twigs and small tree branches about the diameter of a pencil, where she cuts slits in the stem to oviposit. This does damage the branches because they will brown and wilt. Split and wilted branches (a symptom known as “flagging”) contain thousands of cicada eggs (a single female may lay 400 to 600 eggs). From the eggs emerge tiny larvae that will make their way under the ground to start the 17-year cycle once again. So, if you prune your damaged trees and discard the affected branches before the eggs hatch, this will prevent the next generation of cicadas from reaching the soil and hibernating under the ground to emerge 17 years later! As simple as that!

Now that you know this, if you have a garden or backyard and you do end up with flagged trees, please, pretty please, do society a favor and prune them! Burn the discarded branches and be a hero to millions of cicadaphobes on the East Coast!

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  • kitamurdock

    Thanks for recommending Cecily Cicada 🙂 And good luck with the pruning!