The Property Management Field Guide to Cicadas
This spring the massive “Brood II” batch of 17-year cicadas will emerge from the ground throughout the mid-Atlantic states for a few weeks of noise-making, mating, and egg-laying. Though their time as surface dwellers will be brief, around four to six weeks, they’ll surely make their presence known.
Should property management companies and apartment communities be worried about this impending cicada apocalypse and property damage? Not really. Even at their worst, cicadas are more bothersome than troublesome.
“In my 15 years here in Texas where Cicadas are quite common, I’ve never witnessed anything beyond very minor aesthetic damage to leaves and stems,” said Chris Lee, president of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks. “While they may be noisy and a little annoying, that’s about the extent of the problems they cause.”
Here’s your Property Management Field Guide to everything you wanted to know about cicadas, and a few things you probably didn’t want to know.
What the Heck is a Brood Anyway?
Periodical cicadas appear on a 13- or 17-year cycle. A brood is one group that appears at the same time in a particular region. The cicadas emerging this year belong to Brood II, which are 17-year cicadas that last emerged in 1996.
When are they Coming?
Theeeeeeey’re heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere. These cicadas started appearing in North Carolina late in April, and have begun emerging farther north—as far as Albany, N.Y. Once the nymphs emerge from the ground, they start climbing trees and shedding their skins, eventually turning into flying adults. They’ll then spend the final few weeks of their lives reproducing.
What do they Look Like?
These cicadas (Magicicada if you want to know the fancy term) have black bodies, prominent red eyes, and red or orange wing veins. Here’s an extreme close up of them to help you sleep tonight.
The adults can be larger than a quarter, while the females are a bit bigger than the males. Don’t confuse them with annual cicadas, which are black and green and appear later in the summer, and are rather sensitive about their image.
Will Cicadas Damage Apartment Buildings or Landscaping?
Cicadas will stay clear of buildings in general so you don’t have to worry about them burrowing into the eaves or laying eggs in the siding causing troublesome property damage.
“I would rate the thought of cicadas causing damage to apartment buildings at the bottom of the list of potential concerns,” added Lee.
Adult cicadas rarely eat, if at all, so you don’t have to worry about large groups of cicadas attacking your landscaping like a plague of locusts. However, younger trees and saplings can suffer due to egg-laying females who make tiny slits in the branches to lay their eggs before repeating the process. While a single cicada won’t do much harm, heavy infestations can cause young branches to bend over.
Damage to mature trees is rarely serious so you don’t need to worry about them but you can protect younger trees and saplings with 1/4-inch mosquito netting. Generally, avoid planting new trees during the spring of a known brood emergence.
Generally, female cicadas will target trees that provide the best food for the nymphs, such as fruit trees, birches, oaks, maples, and hickory, and they prefer to lay their eggs in smaller branches. They avoid most other plants such as ornamental shrubs, flowers, herbs, and vegetables, as well as pine and fir trees.
Cicadas Make Great Mulch for Property Landscaping
Once the cicada swarm has passed, you can use the empty shells and dead bodies as mulch for your landscaping. The chitin in their shells will help retain moisture in the soil and fend off weeds. Once the cicadas begin to decay, they make excellent fertilizer.
Can Cicadas Hurt Residents or their Pets?
Cicadas don’t bite or sting, and they’re not poisonous. They’re not known to carry any diseases, either. But dogs and cats seem to enjoy snacking on them. The Humane Society warns against allowing pets, especially dogs, to gorge on a yard full of cicadas. Aside from being a choking hazard, the bugs have hard shells made of chitin, and in large amounts it clogs up digestive systems and causes constipation and vomiting. Cicadas treated with pesticides can also be toxic to pets.
Cicadas Make a Tasty Snack
I really wish I was kidding on this one, but apparently these “shrimp of the land” are quite tasty. They’ve been described as tasting like asparagus, popcorn, and pine cones. Mike Raupp, an entomology professor of the University of Maryland who has penned a cicada cookbook, says: “Boiled they’re going to taste a lot like shrimp.”
Another reason why cicadas are called shrimp of the land is because they are arthropods. We regularly eat the arthropods of the sea such as shrimp, lobsters, and crabs. However, since cicadas are arthropods you need to avoid eating them if you’re allergic to shrimp, lobster, or other similar sea foods. Or at least check with your doctor first.
If you prefer your cicadas in the raw (and who doesn’t?), Isa Betancourt, an entomologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, suggests grabbing the cicadas for a snack in the morning when they first emerge from the ground because “that’s when they’re softest.”
Cicada Snacking Tips: Don’t gorge yourself on cicadas unless you want painful stomach cramps due to the chitin in the shell. Additionally, you should avoid eating them if you think they’ve been around garden chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. Finally, pull the wings off first before snacking. If you get embarrassed when you smile with a piece of spinach in your teeth, just imagine the social faux pas of having cicada wings stuck in your teeth.
It’s Not Worth the Effort to Try and Get Rid of Them
You can’t stop them emerging and they really don’t cause much damage so unless there’s some pressing need to rid your apartment property of cicadas, just leave them be and they’ll disappear on their own.
Are you currently experiencing the cicada apocalypse of 2013? Have you personally or know of somebody who has eaten some shrimp of the land? Share your stories in the comments below.