The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Preventing cicada damage to fruit trees

Cicada twig damage in JuneThis has been a tough year for our fruit trees.  The waves of sound from the periodic cicadas made us feel like we were enjoying a spring by the seashore, and the chickens loved the high protein snacks.  But as the insects' reign came to an end, the female cicadas laid eggs in tender twigs of blueberries, apples, pears, and peaches.  Many young limbs simply perished from the onslaught, and everyone was set back.

Although I didn't think it was lucky at the time, we were fortunate to have a late frost that wiped out many of the trees' fruits.  It's possible that if our trees had been weighed down with peaches and pears, they might have been less able to overcome the cicadas' attacks, so the frost may have done us a favor in the long run.  As it was, I suspect we came out about even --- the trees didn't have to expend energy setting fruits, so they were able to take the time to heal.

Healing cicada damage

Periodic cicadaLuckily, periodic cicadas only come around every 13 or 17 years, and since cicadas prefer young trees, we might be out of the woods by the next emergence date.  Experts also suggest marking your calendar with the possible years you may see periodic cicadas, then delaying winter pruning until the cicadas are gone so you can deal with damage without taking away too much young wood.  (You can look up emergence dates for your area here, but the site didn't have information about our local population this year, so take the information with a grain of salt.)

If you're not quite together enough to plan your cicada management 17 years in advance, you can put netting around twigs less than half an inch in diameter as soon as you hear the periodic cicadas beginning to call.  There are also plenty of chemical solutions, but I'd rather lose twigs every decade or so than wipe out my beneficial insects.

What have you done to deal with damage from periodic cicadas on young fruit trees?

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Learn to keep bugs at bayThis post is part of our 2012 Forest Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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