Living with Cicadas

How are you? Sorry I’ve been away so long. I knew my writing time would be harder to find while I had my grandchildren with me, little did I realize how truly tired I would be by the time I had some alone time each night.

The children are good and our month has been full of all kinds of activities I’ll share with you in the coming weeks. Today I thought I’d share what life was like with the 17  year cicadas.


My son dropped the two children off on June 4th, his first words to me was “What the hell is that?”  I’d been living with the sounds of the cicadas for a couple of weeks so gave him a blank stare as a response.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of living with cicadas here’s a video I took from my deck in the mid-afternoon to give you a sample.  The “music” was moderate this afternoon allowing us to be outside without a headache forming. I now get why people move away while the cicadas are out.

My granddaughter, the tomboy, was initially afraid of the cicadas and wanted to hide indoors. I worried this was going to be a long visit but by the third day she joined her brother in holding them.  They could easily identify male from female, the male is the only one that makes that sound,

holding cicada

My grandson took right to them wanting to know everything he could about this strange, to him, bug.

finding cicadas

Their first night here they asked me to look up cicadas online. I found an interesting video the kids loved which explained their life cycle, how they drink from trees and more. Soon my grandson was bringing cicadas to me to show me the “straw” they drink from.

What we didn’t  learn from the video we quickly learned through observation on my deck.  We quickly determined this is how they mate.

mating cicadas

The cicadas drove most everyone indoors. I haven’t seen my neighbors in six weeks as they are all hiding from the bugs. Sadly, the adults are so afraid of the bugs that their children are just as frightened and haven’t been out either.

While it can be interesting to watch the cicadas they are also annoying.  They will land in your hair, on your face, and are sneaky hitchhikers who come indoors on your clothes.  I had planned to eat most of my meals outdoors during the warm months but after having cicadas land on my plate I gave up and have eaten my meals indoors. The children have braved it and continued to have their breakfast and lunch on the deck.

I’ve managed to survive. The cicadas are dying off but they have left a lot of damage in their wake.  The female cicada will cut a narrow line in tree branches to lay her eggs, the newly hatched cicadas use the fluid in the tree branches. If a tree is young it can be killed, most mature trees I heard will survive but not, it seems, without some sacrifices.

cicada damage

Without warning I had one branch fall from the maple tree into my driveway. The branch appeared just fine but within a couple of hours the green leaves were brown and brittle. I’ve never seen such dramatic changes in leaves before. By the next day the branch was as dry and dead as if it had been cut down a year or more ago.

dying tree

The trees and plants on my property were affected as well.  I’ve got a few branches I need to have removed from the maple trees which isn’t a big deal, they are mostly minor branches from what I can see -nothing that would cause damage when they fall.

On the other hand it appears I’ve lost roughly $150  worth of plants.  They got small branches of my new red raspberry bushes, but I was able to save them.  I can’t be sure if this almond tree will make it or not.

almond tree

Both my honeyberry (haskap) bushes are gone.

honeyberry bush

And one apple tree is completely dead, the second I’m still trying to save.

dead apple tree.jpg

I wanted to be angry, I am upset but at the same time I’m lucky too.  Had my chair not broken down on me last summer I would have had beds ready to plant cranberry bushes, blueberry plants and many more. My losses could have been much higher.

Did you have cicadas where you live? How did your plants fare?



  1. first…hope it is not too late..

    do not dig up, cut off any of those little shrubs which look dead (honeyberry/haskap etc)
    chances are very good, they will slowly come back in one to two yrs. I had some, which honestly after one yr looked like total dead sticks. I snapped one off, and something made me leave the others (four or five). Would you believe two yrs later, I now have nice little shrubs. Guess it sort of looked like leaves grew from the roots. And, I have one (maybe two) which truly looked like dead sticks for at least three yrs. By now I was stubborn and left them(had to stop hubby from snapping them too). Again, last week there are now leaves coming out of the base of the dead sticks.

    Wow…I am so impressed and amazed how you engaged the kids with the bugs. Maybe they will grow up to be etymologists. Myself, never liked bugs. And that recording..YIKES..i would hate it all. You did so well.

    Maybe before next year, you can score a portable screen tent, so you can sit in it outside to eat lunch.

    Looking forward to reports of your grandchildren’s visit..

    take care.


    • I do hope you are right. I have not dug anything up yet. I’ve got my fingers crossed on the haskap bushes but the apple tree is so dry it’s dead from the root up, nothing to be saved. The almond tree is iffy. What amazes me is that the cicadas wanted nothing to do with the peach or apricot tree but went after every thing else fruit bearing.

      I don’t know if the kids will be etymologists, although that would be cool, I just wanted to encourage their natural curiosity. They definitely have stories to tell their friends who have never seen a cicada.

      Like that recording did you? 🙂 That was one of the days the sound was almost soothing rather than sending me for cover to stop a headache.


  2. Eee Gads! So I’m thinking that we must not have cicadas, because I’ve never seen anything that looks like those bugs or that can destroy plants like that! Hope your trees and bushes make some sort of a miraculous comeback!


    • Eee Gads is right they were horrendous to live with. I’m okay with bugs but give my ears a break and quit swarming and flying at people! There were days I took the kids outside to areas without trees hoping for a break from them flying at us and couldn’t find a spot any where that was free of them. It was just like Hitchcock’s The Birds only smaller.


  3. Yes, I found them very annoying. I am not a big fan of bugs and the bigger the bug the less I like them. But they have a function just like everything in nature. I remember reading that they are nature’s pruning tool for large plants. By the time this particular flock swings back around to you (I think the 17 year variety are the most destructive), your plantings will be mature enough to handle it.

    Glad to see you back.


    • Elaine, I normally don’t mind most bugs but dang when they are landing on your face and are as long as a nose it’s a bit too much. I actually had two occasions where one did land on my nose, strange sensation let me tell you. It’s not every day you have to bat away bugs in those numbers and for that I’m very relieved.

      Thinking of them as nature’s pruning tool is a good way of looking at it although these ones have done enough damage to some trees that tree removal companies are booked solid trying to get to them before they topple over.


  4. We had cicadas a couple of years ago, but that outbreak was not nearly as big as the one you’re having now. When I last visited my mother, in some places you couldn’t be outside long without earplugs. And while cicadas are kind of ugly, I think they are fascinating looking with their big red eyes.

    I hope your plants come back.


    • We had cicadas last year and enjoyed them. They rarely came out of the trees I think we only found one live cicada all summer and the sounds was soothing rather than ear splitting. I really had no idea what we were in for this year. They chased me indoors on numerous occasions just to give my ears a break.

      I’m going to hold off on replacing any of the trees until next spring, guess time will tell if any come back.


    • I will definitely have ear plugs on hand if I’m still here in 17 years. One of the things I love about the sounds of nature is how soothing they are to me but this was not soothing.

      I thought they were interesting looking too, the kids found seeing the red eyes change instantly upon death fascinating. 🙂


  5. I know it is heart-breaking to lose plants you have spent time and money on. Sometimes I wonder if it is even worth it but yet I somehow keep coming back for more! It’d interesting how children seem to have a natural fascination with bugs if adults don’t turn them off and adults definitely have the opposite reaction. I’m trying hard to re-find my inner child now that I have moved to the South where the bugs are new and numerous and HUGE! Yesterday morning early I turned on the shower and out of the drain scurried a hairy spider the size of silver dollar! Barefoot, wet, naked, alone, what to do, what to do!
    Glad you had fun with your grand kids despite the cicada invasion!


    • Cynthia, I feel for you. Not only did you move to the south where there are more and much bigger bugs but you are so close to the ocean which I’m sure brings a wide variety of new insects and critters. I think after the armadillo I might have been ready to throw in the towel and try just container gardening.I sure hope you didn’t get hurt running from that spider in your tub. I once found myself, wet, head full of shampoo when I noticed a scorpion in the tub with me. Not an experience I want to repeat….ever! 🙂

      Kids are funny aren’t they? I think their curiosity wins over any sense of gross if they aren’t swayed by the opinions of the adults.

      I had a great time with the grandchildren, still have my granddaughter till the weekend but alone she has her crafty moments when she prefers to be alone when I can sneak in some computer time.


    • I’ll keep plodding forward with my plans. This particular strain won’t be back for another 17 years so any trees and fruit bushes I put in should have a chance to get established before they are back again.

      I give you a lot of credit, I was never squeamish about bugs but when I lived in the south they were too big and definitely strange for me to get adjusted to.

      We did have a good time, in spite of the cicadas. I felt a little bad for them because the neighbor children they befriended the year before were hiding inside but they didn’t seem to mind so much. My granddaughter put it best when she said she came to see family, having friends is nice but not necessary. 🙂


    • Alien is a good analogy. The cicadas are so very interesting, when you aren’t being attacked. They have five eyes, with the two largest being red, like a light. The moment they die the eyes turn black. The kids never tired of seeing that change.


  6. Wow, we have cicadas every summer, but not like the swarms you have had. It makes me wonder though about the odd dead branch around the place. I always blamed the possums. I wouldn’t be happy about them landing on me either. I hope your plants recover.


    • Hi Anne. I think this area has a few cicadas come out every year as I heard them last summer but these ones….I’m glad I have 17 years before I have to see them again.

      I don’t know about your dead branches, I didn’t notice any last summer with the cicadas that came out but you can’t miss the damage this year.

      Most of the plants I thought I lost I did. The apple tree is so dead it feel over right at the base by the roots. There is a chance the honeyberries (haskap) roots have survived but I won’t know until next spring I fear it didn’t as I’ve rarely seen anything looking so dead.


  7. Your grandchildren are getting an education and learning to learn. You are doing a good job with a horrid subject. I hate bugs and have had my own battle with the stink bugs but so far, no cicadas. I know bugs have a job but that doesn’t make me like them. Hope you are finally going to get some rest. Mine is coming too.


    • It’s funny, I saw one stink bug before the cicadas came out, then saw one more after they left but that’s been it so far. It would be nice if we got a break from at least one bug after suffering through the cicadas. 🙂 Speaking of stinkbugs, are yours as bad as last year?

      The children weren’t all that happy with the cicadas at first and my granddaughter never appreciated them landing on her but yes, they made the most of it and tried to learn as much as they could about them. If there’s one thing I love about children it’s their unquenchable thirst to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh man, Lois. I remember the cicadas in Virginia but don’t think they were as bad to where they gave us a headache or couldn’t be outside. I remember the sound came in waves and would stop suddenly, then, start again. We don’t have cicadas at our altitude in Colorado but I miss the sound (though, don’t know if I’d miss it to that degree).

    Happy to hear you’re enjoying the grand kids. It’s the best reason for not writing. I haven’t been able to keep posting either but for things with a little less fun and more stressful. All is good, though, and happy for each day and the little things. 🙂


    • I have a feeling it’s only the 17 year cicadas that get this bad as talking to long time residents none could remember them being this bad. Last year I enjoyed the sound of the small group of cicadas that were out, this year not so much.

      Now that the grandchildren have gone home I will be around visiting and catching up with everyone. I do hope your leg is healing quickly and you aren’t in too much discomfort.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, didn’t know that cicadas had a 17-year cycle that come in this bad. Don’t remember that happening when I lived back there (but, then, that’s been a long time).

        Glad to hear you had some time with the grand kids and it’s time to catch up. Our time puppy sitting is over, too, in having Kimber. She’s doing fine and adjusting along with family in So Carolina.

        Like you, I’m trying to do my best in catching up with everyone on the internet. I have to say, this latest challenge with the leg and ankle can be somewhat cumbersome at times. I don’t feel like I can take a releasing breath and relax. I’ve just switched to something new.

        The universe sure has a sense of humor and is taking me to task when I put intentions out there. It’s keeping me on my toes. It’s all good learning, living and loving through it all. 🙂


        • The universe sure does have a sense of humor. I hope you are taking it easy enough so you have a speedy recovery. I can’t imagine having the puppy and needing crutches at the same time. My oldest son had a golden lab that was suited to being a helper dog so having him and being in a wheelchair was no big deal but the little dog of my younger son is so much harder. She just doesn’t have the personality to work with the chair so I can imagine how dangerous crutches would be.

          We’ve already done the math on how hold each of us will be the next time this cicada comes back, I have a feeling I won’t be living here then but if I am at least my plants will be better established to hopefully survive.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Lois — yeah, it was a bit of a challenge having this ankle accident and the puppy at the same time. But, luckily, it was for only for a couple of more days when they came for her and were on their way to So. Carolina. (They’re doing well and liking it.)

            Oh man, Lois, in doing the math. Kind of puts a lot of things in perspective when you think about it. Who knows where any of us will be in 17 years. 🙂


          • I bet. Good to hear you didn’t take any new falls with the crutches and the puppy. I’m happy to hear your daughter and family are settling in nicely in their new home.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you, Lois. Well, I did take a couple more falls after that and hubby had to get me a walker to be more stable. Guess, I really am getting old.

            Me too, with the kids. I miss them but glad they’re settling in and making it work. 🙂


  9. Wow, I cannot imagine such a destructive pest 😮 Do they do any good in any way? I mean, apart from being a “pruning tool”, seems a bit drastic! Things are pretty tame in Europe compared to America and Oceania, I think!!
    But I do remember reading about the locust plague in the Little House books as a child, so it left an impression.
    The only thing I am fighting at present is the convolvulus, which winds itself around all my other plants and in the cool, damp weather followed by heat, has grown even faster than usual and I haven’t been around much to keep on top of it, so I am struggling to free all my dainty hydrangeas – although they aren’t thorny, it feels a bit like the prince in Sleeping Beauty trying to get through the hedge! 😮
    I hope your little trees survive, anyway, fingers crossed you don’t have to replace too much. How interesting that the cicadas leave some of the trees alone, I wonder why that is.


    • As far as I know there is no benefit to the cicadas other than thinning out the trees. I do know that while they are underground they feed off the root systems of the trees so there might be a symbiotic relationship there I’m not aware of.
      I don’t know why the cicadas left the peach and apricot tree alone as what I found online said they especially love fruit trees, apple being the top of the list. But I have several large maple trees on my property and bordering it that they swarmed so maybe they just didn’t need another fruit tree. They don’t live off the pine trees, which I have one the southeast corner of my property because they don’t like the taste of the sap.

      I too read the Little House books and was affected by the story of the locusts..always thankful I didn’t have to worry about them.

      I feel your pain the weeds are still winning here too. I have some that I can’t uproot or kill so it’s a matter of cutting them back before they get too big. Good luck with yours.


  10. Lois, we get cicadas here too and the noise is amazing, I too get freaked out by them in these seasons. Large flying insects are awful lol, especially ones that cling! One difference here that interests me, we never get damage by them. Maybe there is just so much natural bush here they don’t need to demolish gardens – that would be the pits and am sorry to read you have lost fruit to them.


    • Good to hear you don’t get the damage from the cicadas. I suspect it’s either the type or the size of the population that causes that much damage. We had cicadas here last year but the numbers were so much fewer and I didn’t notice any damage. This year, no one knows the true number only that billions came out. I hope not to see them again.

      Speaking of getting freaked out. I don’t normally have a problem with bugs and for the most part these were just annoying but the one afternoon one landed on the length of my nose and had it’s legs on either side holding on was one of the creepiest feelings I’ve ever had.


  11. Thankfully no we do not get these little critters.. the closest would be grass hoppers I guess to the noises.. Yet not in the abundance or volume you get there..
    So sorry you lost so many of your plants Lois But I am pleased your grandchildren over came their fear of them..
    xxx Hugs Sue xx


    • Sue, I too was so thankful they got over their fears so quickly, it would have been one long month if they hadn’t.

      I’m actually thankful I fell behind and didn’t have the beds ready for the other berry bushes I planned to plant this spring. I had been frustrated that I would have to wait another year, now I’m thrilled I had to wait.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am sure you are.. Happy Growing, and I hope your berry bushes do well Lois, I have raspberries and redcurrents along with strawberries coming out of my ears LOL.. All come at once.. And due to the rain lots of swollen berries.. But if you do not pick them quickly they soon go past their best.. So I have been picking like crazy, Freezing, and giving loads away to neighbours this week. 🙂


        • I’m thrilled for you. I expected more strawberries this year than I got but I have the ever bearing and so we get 4-5 each day, not enough to put up but enough to enjoy the taste. It appears that while the cicadas got to my red raspberry bushes (I got one berry) the roots are intact and new growth is coming from them so they should do fine next year. I hope next summer I’ll be as tired as you are putting up my berry crop. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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