Cicadas tree damage

Asked October 30, 2019, 12:49 PM EDT

I think the17-year Cicadas are due in two years. My non-profit has initiated a program to plant 1000 trees over the next few months, starting with 100 trees to be planted in 2 weeks. The trees are about 5 feet tall. Is it safe to do this planting now, with the cicadas coming soon and the potential of tree damage? Would like to know your thoughts on this.

Howard County Maryland

4 Responses

The amount of cicada numbers that emerges in a particular vicinity varies greatly from area to area, related to how heavily the area has been disturbed over the years. In a very old neighborhood with 100 year old trees, there be many cicadas successfully surviving in the soil. In any neighborhood built recently, or even in the last few decades, there will be very little cicada emergence. Consequently, those areas will see little damage. Since your county has had so much new construction, it's likely they will prove to be a minimal problem in most cases.


Thank you, Ellen. Now that I understand that cicada activity is related to ground disturbance I have another question. There are many areas of Howard County that have not been disturbed, especially western Howard County. But our group will also be planting in Baltimore County, on public and park land. So my second question is that if the land has not be disturbed in a long while, what is the danger of the cicadas to new trees of 5 foot height being planted now?


There is no way for us to predict how much cicada damage any particular spot or tree is going to get. Cicadas do not generally kill trees. Their egg-laying may kill some tree tips. These trees have evolved along with cicadas for eons, and have manged to get along. Trees can tolerate some tip pruning from cicadas, as they can tolerate some from deer. (MUCH more of a problem, since they eat entire seedlings.)

Here is our web page, with a good photo at the bottom showing typical damage:

Incidentally, most of Howard County was farmland and farmland had no cicadas.



I also thought that trees would easily survive the cicadas. But I am asking because my son-in-law cautioned me about planting trees now. He and my daughter planted young trees of 5 foot height in 2003 in a new development in Howard County, which was probably farmland. After the cicadas came in 2004, many of the new trees did not survive. So I thought I'd ask the Extension Service's advice on planting new trees.