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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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June 14, 2024

Cicadas, When will it end??

Understanding and Managing Cicada Damage


Periodic cicada broods 13 and 17 emerged in the St. Louis area in early May, reaching their peak activity in the last week of May. According to current projections, we may see the last of the cicadas by the end of June – first week of July.

Cicada damage is caused by the egg-laying process. When female cicadas lay their eggs, they cut slits into a twig and deposit the eggs within. They continue moving up the twig, creating a zipper-like pattern from the incisions. This weakens the area, causing several symptoms.

Cicada damage looks like:

  • Zipper-like slits along twigs
  • Brown and wilting leaves on branch tips
  • Twigs snapped and hanging like flags (called ‘flagging’)
  • Clumps of leaves falling off

Trees favored by cicadas: Maple, hornbeam, ash, birch, and fruit trees

Small clumps of leaves littler the ground of trees affected by cicada damage.
Small clumps of leaves littler the ground of trees affected by cicada damage.

 

Browning and flagging on a maple, blackgum, and oak.
Browning and flagging on a maple, blackgum, and oak.

This type of damage has a few look-alikes: it may be the result of squirrels or anthracnose. Squirrels will chew on twigs to get insects and critters within; they snip off twigs at a 45-degree angle, dropping clumps of leaves. Anthracnose is a fungal leaf infection that causes individual leaves to brown and drop, looking curled and covered in spots and lesions.

Left: Anthracnose affects individual leaves.Right: Cicada damage can cause tips of the twigs and all its leaves to die back.
Left: Anthracnose affects individual leaves.
Right: Cicada damage can cause tips of the twigs
and all its leaves to die back.

Healthy mature trees can usually tolerate cicada damage, so it is not a major health issue. However, young or newly planted trees and stressed older trees could suffer from potential infection of the wounds and the loss of branches and foliage. For smaller trees and shrubs, you can prune off the unsightly wounded branches. Larger trees will shed dead twigs during rain or strong winds.

We suggest reducing stress by mulching and watering consistently. We also recommend fertilizing your trees in the fall to compensate for the leaf loss. If you are concerned, call an arborist to assess and recommend any appropriate treatments.

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Our goal is to provide you with the best possible service. If you are not satisfied with any treatment or completed job, we will resolve the situation to your satisfaction. We want to do our utmost to ensure your trees and shrubs are always 'green and growing'.

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