Cicadas quieting down after weeks of deafening calls

It’s finally getting to the end of cicada season.

One month, once every 17 years, Brood X comes out of the ground to molt, mate and lay their eggs in trees before dying. Most experts said the cicadas will be gone by the beginning of July, which is next week, after they emerged in May.

“Females are actively laying eggs and males are dying quickly now,” said Don Cipollini, a biology professor at Wright State University. ”Females, too, but they will last a little longer. It will probably be mostly quiet within a week.”

The hordes of cicadas have moved from the treetops to the sidewalks, where they’ve died.

ExplorePeak cicada season: What you need to know about the myths, dangers and when they’ll be gone

If you’re smelling something rotten when cicadas are around, that’s not the insects themselves, which don’t have a smell. It’s the smell of decaying cicadas. If you don’t like the smell, spread them over the grass as fertilizer, Cipollini suggested, mix them into a compost pile with grass clippings and leaf litter.

Cipollini said there is a documented effect of cicadas fertilizing the ground after their emergence. He plans to research how large the fertilization effect is.

Some areas might see dead branches or patches of brown leaves in healthy trees. That’s because periodical cicadas lay their eggs in trees before they die. Once the eggs hatch, the nymphs will fall out the branches and into the soil, where they feed on the roots of the tree.

Explore‘They are all over my yard’: Brood X cicadas start to emerge in the region

Joe Boggs, an entomologist at Ohio State University, said the small dead branches that people might see are called “flagging.”

“They do use this big ovipositor, this big egg laying device, they jab eggs into the trees,” he said. “On a big tree, the flagging will be just like a natural pruning.”

While that generally doesn’t hurt older trees, younger trees and trees that bear fruit can be hurt by the egg-laying process. Boggs said it can take a while for younger trees to recover from the damage, so if you’re worried, you can wrap your tree in garden store mesh with small enough holes that cicadas can’t get through.

About the Author