Minor Cicada Presence Expected in Fairfax

April 30, 2013

News Highlights

  • Cicadas will have minor appearance in Fairfax this year.
  • Cicadas pose no threat to people, pets or most plants.
  • Life-cycle is only 4-6 weeks.


While in early to mid-May many east coast states will welcome Brood II, the red-eyed, orange-winged periodic cicadas that fill the air with buzzing music, Fairfax County will be spared a massive appearance of the insects this year.  It is unlikely that the county will see the numbers of cicadas that emerged in the area with Brood X in 2004. 

“Fairfax County is on the border of where this year’s 17 year emergence will occur,” says Joan Martinez Allen, Urban Forester II with the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. “Their presence will be spotty.”

Emerging after years maturing underground, the cicadas, while menacing in appearance, pose no threat to people, pets or most plants.  They are not capable of biting and do not sting.  Their clumsy flying ability often lands them on houses, cars, shoulders or in your hair while they search for the trees above.

Cicadas do not eat trees, flowers and shrubs, but the female can cause damage to branches when she splits a small section of branch to lay eggs.  Affected branch ends will die, eventually dropping to the ground where the newly born nymphs will burrow into the soil. Freshly planted ornamental trees, young shrubs or trees can suffer more damage than large or mature trees.  To protect newly planted or young trees and shrubs, cover them with a fine netting, available at garden supply stores or online. Netting should be three-eighths of an inch or smaller; be sure to tie off the netting at the trunk, so the cicadas can’t climb up into the branches. It is advisable to delay planting new shrubs or trees until the fall, when the cicadas are gone and the weather is optimal for new plant material.  Netting placed around plants and trees should be removed in late June.

While pets enjoy eating the high-protein insects, it is not advisable to allow your pet to eat many cicadas.  Cicada shells can cause stomach problems.  Pet owners should consult a veterinarian if their pets vomit more than twice or appear to be in pain after eating cicadas.

While annoying, the cicada presence will be short-lived.  Adult cicadas only live for 4-6 weeks, they will be gone by mid-June or the beginning of July.

Still have questions on cicadas? Join the Ask Fairfax! Online Chat, “Don’t Go Buggy: Learn About Cicadas,” Thursday, May 2 at 2 p.m. 



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