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Surviving Cicada Swarm May Mean Protecting Young Trees


Friday, May 14, 2021   

INDIANAPOLIS - The largest brood of 17-year cicadas, known as the Great Eastern Brood, is on its way - and Hoosiers can expect to see their swarms and hear their deafening mating calls in the next few weeks.

Jerad Oren, a certified arborist and the co-owner of Bluestone Tree services in Bloomington, pointed out that cicadas don't eat trees or their leaves when they come out of the ground - but they mate and lay their eggs in tree branches.

While many trees can withstand the crevices cicadas carve into horizontal branches, Oren said they can damage young trees.

"There's lots of different things that they're dealing with," said Oren, "whether it's drought, too much water, too deep of a root system, or whatever. So, a tree less than five years [old] that we planted, it may be wise to go ahead and protect with netting."

Oren recommended draping white netting less than a quarter-inch thick over the tree's canopy, and brace the smaller or softer branches using a bamboo pole or a stick for support to keep them from breaking.

He said people are much less skilled at planting trees than Mother Nature, but when folks do plant them, they should at least have the best chance of survival.

Oren also noted younger people and anyone who's moved to Indiana in the last 17 years may not be familiar with the sheer size and impact of the cicada brood. It's been that long since the state has seen a major swarm.

"We're talking millions of cicadas that are going to be flying around," said Oren. "They're very slow flyers, and they will be crawling on everything. And it will be extremely loud, and it will be constant. And they will probably creep a lot of people out. But actually, some people may have a lot of fun with this."

He added birds and other animals will feast off the cicadas, as well as some humans - at least, those who are brave enough to try it. He said he's considering baking a few in the oven with some olive oil and seasoning.

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