It seems like they just got here, but the periodical cicadas that emerged in early June are already laying eggs, a sure sign that their brief adult life above ground is about to end. The female cicadas lay eggs in the small twigs of trees and shrubs. This lengthy and laborious process is the start of the next generation. The eggs remain inside the twigs for 5 to 6 weeks before hatching into tiny nymphs that drop to the ground. There they burrow into the soil, and begin feeding on sap from tree roots. This inconspicuous inception initiates the slow-growth process that will culminate with reappearance of the adults in the year 2014.
The egg-laying activity of the females causes some of the small twigs on the ends of tree and shrub branches to die. This die-back will be quite noticeable as small tufts of dead brown leaves in the areas of large populations. Fortunately, the impact on the trees will be minor. Spraying mature, established trees is not recommended. Treating after the twigs start to die is useless. This is just one more part of the cicada phenomenon to observe and tolerate.
This article originally appeared in the June 27, 1997 issue, p. 102.
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