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Don’t Go Buggy: Learn About Cicadas Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Don’t Go Buggy: Learn About Cicadas

While Fairfax County will only see a spotty appearance of cicadas this year, cicadas will be returning to the east coast between early to mid-May. On Thursday, May 2 at 2 p.m. join staff from the county’s Urban Forestry Division of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services to discuss this year’s cicada arrival, learn interesting cicada facts and ask your questions about these often misunderstood red-eyed insects.

Joan Allen : Welcome everyone to today's Ask Fairfax Chat. I'm Joan Martinez Allen, Urban Forester II with Urban Forest Management Division of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, here to answer your questions regarding the 17 Year Cicada.

Douglas Zahn : When will the cicadas be gone?

Joan Allen : The adult 17 Year Cicadas will emerge sometime around mid-May. They should be around for 4 - 6 weeks.

Tabassum Qamar : What can be done to keep cicadas away from a house front yard?

Joan Allen : It is very difficult to physically keep cicadas from your property. The best defense from cicadas is to install a fine netting over newly planted trees to prevent cicada damage from injurying your trees. Also, pruning cicada damaged branches can also prevent future generations of cicadas from emerging in your property.

Izzy Fernberger : How do I protect large trees? I can't cover them with netting like the small trees.

Joan Allen : Larger trees are well adapted to cicada damage. Protection for mature trees is not necessary.

Vonn : After the cicadas leave the area, should I cut off the branches they have damaged?

Joan Allen : Pruning cicada damaged branches is an excellent way to prevent future generations of cicadas from emerging on your property. Generally, pruning any damaged tree branches is good tree maintenance.

Anonymous User : The article says that there won't be as many cicadas as in 2004 but doesn't explain why. Why?

Joan Allen : This year's 17 year Cicada (Brood II) will mostly be noticed through southern and central Virginia. Fairfax County is in the border of the range. The 17 year Cicada that emerged in 2004 (Brood X) in Fairfax County was well within its range.

Skip : Will cicadas hurt my vegetable garden ?

Joan Allen : Cicadas primarily damage trees.

Cicada Unfriendly : If cicadas nest in the ground, is there a way to prevent them from emerging after their hibernation period? For example, somehow turning the soil over or something to reduce the number of cicadas from coming back? Are cicadas originally from this area? Do they exist in any other part of the country or the world?

Joan Allen : Cicadas nymphs nest 6 -18 inches below the ground. Disturbing the soil would not be a very effective method of suppressing their population. The most effective method to reduce the impact of cicadas is to cover newly planted trees with fine netting.

The 17 year Cicada are native to this area. Other species of cicada can be found in other countries.

mclean, VA : How "bad" is it going to be in terms of how many cicadas are going to emerge? I heard it won't be as many as in 2004... Are there things we can do to keep them out of the house, too?

Joan Allen : This year's 17 year Cicada is anticipated emergence in Fairfax County will be spotty. It is difficult to prevent cicadas from being on your property.

Anonymous User : When are they expected to appear and for how long? Thank you very much.

Joan Allen : The adult 17 year Cicada are expected to emerge sometime around mid-May. The adults will be around for 4 - 6 weeks.

Anonymous User : We plan on having an outdoor graduation party on June 15--will the cicadas be out in full force then?

Joan Allen : The 17 Year Cicada may be seen in mid-June.

Dagmar : Can backyard foggers kill the cicadas either before they hatch or when they hatch?

Joan Allen : There are pesticides that are registered for use on adult cicadas. Fairfax County does not recommend their use because they may kill beneficial insects like pollinators for example butterflies and honey bees.

LR : Good afternoon: Why is it predicted that Fairfax county will only experience spotty cicada emergence?

Joan Allen : Based on historical records of cicada emergences, Fairfax County is in the periphery of this year's 17 year Cicada emergence.

Anonymous User : When you say a spotty appearance in Fairfax County, does that mean certain areas may see none or certain areas may see more depending where one is in the County? Like more in the western part?

Joan Allen : It is difficult to predict where the 17 year Cicada will emerge until after the fact.

Anonymous User : Is there a way to repel them from ourselves/home?

Joan Allen : The best way to keep cicadas from entering your home is to close your windows and doors. Thankfully, cicadas do not bite, sting, and are not poisonous.  

Gene W : Are Cicadas harmful to pets (i.e. if our dogs happen to munch on a few)?

Joan Allen : Pets are known to snack on the occasional cicada. Pet owners should be vigilant of how many they eat. Some pets may have a hard time digesting the shell. Call your veterinarian for signs and symptoms your pet may display if they have digestive difficulties.

Supervisor John Cook : Are there any plants that are particularly sensitive to cicada damage? Any that are particularly resistant? Will we even notice any difference?

Joan Allen : Newly planted ornamental trees, young shrubs, and fruit trees may see more cicada damage. It is advised to delay planting these trees until the fall, after the emergence of the 17 year Cicada.

Anonymous User : How many different Broods of cicadas do we have in our area? When is the next year we will have cicadas back?

Joan Allen : There are 6 different broods of the 17 year Cicada in Virginia. The next time we will see the 17 year Cicada in Fairfax County will be in 2021.

bug spray? : Will using bug spray keep cicadas from flying near you?

Joan Allen : Cicadas are not attracted to humans but they may accidentally bump into people. Thankfully, cicadas do not bite, sting and are not poisonous.

Joan Allen : Thank you for all the great questions. I'm sorry I could not answer all of them but we are out of time.

If you have other questions regarding cicadas please call 703-324-1770 or email