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The 17-year Periodical Cicadas are making a return this summer in isolated parts of southern Wisconsin. While they are generally harmless to humans and pets, this natural event produces overwhelming numbers of insects – consistently buzzing and calling from mid-May to late June – and often reaching noise levels comparable to a powered vacuum cleaner or a busy street.

Periodical cicadas have a unique reproductive cycle where adults lay eggs in tree branches and in the process, sever twigs and small branches. Although they are associated with more than 70 plant species including oak and maple trees, the damage periodical cicadas inflict is fairly minimal on established trees. However, smaller plants are more susceptible, as a larger portion of their canopy can be affected.

There are ways to manage their impact on smaller trees and the noise level. Here are some tips:

  • Forego any new plantings before the cicada emergence until after adult activity has subsided
  • Prune out any egg-laden twigs for plant protection of small trees and shrubs already in your landscape, especially during the egg-laying period to ensure minimal impact on vegetation
  • Use mesh netting (1/4 inch or smaller) over trees when male cicadas begin singing. Be sure to secure it below the lower branches and remove it following adult cicada activity
  • Postpone outdoor events or relocate them indoors to reduce interference from cicada noise

Waukesha County is not expecting a huge impact from the periodical cicadas, but if you have questions or concerns about them, contact the experts at ATE.