June 23 – Nature Nugget

If you’re like me, your life has been plagued by the Brood. Brood X to be exact. Now I’m sure everybody is sick of hearing (literally) about cicadas but I wanted to use my first Wednesday Nature Nugget to talk about the aftereffects of those pesky bugs.

Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

So luckily in my area of Maryland, we’re finally past the peak of cicada activity and now are mostly dealing with the carcasses littering every spot of sidewalk. Although the sound was unbelievably loud, personally I didn’t find the cicada too bothersome. Except for that morning when I woke up the buzz of ELEVEN on my window. However, I have been wondering about their effect on the trees that just a few weeks ago ago were being swarmed by them.

Just on walks around my neighborhood, I’ve been noticing a lot of brown spots in the trees, mostly at the ends of branches. There’s been a lot of leaf dropping, some days making me wonder if it’s October, not June. Some quick research finds that this is a phenomenon called “flagging” and, you guessed it, Brood X is the culprit. When the females lay their eggs, they use their ovipositer (literally egg- placer) to gouge a slit in a branch and lay their eggs. If there are too many slits in a single branch, it may hang down from the tree and eventually break But never fear! Think of this as natural pruning. Pruning encourages new growth, so while things may look a little rough this year, flagging is helpful for the tree in the long run! However, extensive flagging on young trees can be harmful.

This newly planted tree could be more susceptible to cicada damage

Other fun facts about cicadas:

  • They aren’t picky about their trees! Cicadas are known to lay eggs on over 200 types of trees. They don’t seem to like evergreens though.
  • During their seventeen years underground, baby cicadas (nymphs) feed on tree roots and undergo 4 molts!
  • large groups of buzzing cicadas can reach 100 decibels

I dunno about you, but I think I can wait another 17 years to see these guys again! I hope you liked this Wednesday Nature Nugget. Let me know if there’s any other topic you’d like to learn!

Happy Wednesday!

https://extension.umd.edu/resource/cicadas https://www.udel.edu/udaily/2021/june/cicadas-17-years-noise-northern-delaware-molting-shells-mating/