Don’t bug out: 2021 will see emergence of ‘trillions of cicadas’

FILE – In this May 18, 2004 file photo, a swarm of cicadas take over a bush near Trenton, Ohio. (Pat Auckerman/The Journal via AP, File)

With warmer weather finally arriving along the mid-Atlantic region this weekend, it won’t be long before bugs of all shapes and sizes will be popping out of the ground.

Some will be creepy and crawly. Some will be flying and buzzing around us.

That includes cicadas. This year’s batch is considered “Brood 9,” and it’s likely to menace and pester people, plants and trees in southwest Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Some cicadas might be seen making their way into the West Virginia panhandle and other parts of the Interstate 81 corridor, but generally, Brood 9 is not expected to have an impact on the WTOP listening area.

If you do see some cicadas, though, odds are they’re going to be what are called “stragglers” from Brood 10, which is set to pop off next year.

“Don’t be surprised if in the next couple of weeks,” you start to see some, said Mike Raupp, an entomologist known as “The Bug Guy” at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“I’ve already seen in my garden a couple of these what we call ‘stragglers’ — they emerge offcycle about one year early, one to four years early,” he said.

But Brood 10 is what D.C.-area residents have to worry about, especially if they’re planting any trees or shrubs this year or next.

“We’re going to be the epicenter of emergence that ranges from Georgia to New England, and there will simply be trillions of cicadas emerging,” Raupp said.

That’s why he is advising against planting any new trees before next fall, especially fruit trees.

“Don’t plant this spring, don’t plant this fall, don’t plant next spring, because these trees are going to simply get hammered next year when those cicadas show up,” Raupp said.

Instead, he added, wait until the fall of 2021.

Though that advice comes a little late for some people, there is a backup plan.

“The thing to do is next year — next spring, by the middle or end of April — you’re going to purchase netting,” Raupp said. “Or fine netting with net sizes about maybe a centimeter or less, and cover those trees entirely. This will protect those trees.”

He said netting works far better than pesticides.

“If you’re going to put small trees and shrubs in the ground this year, make sure by next April that we go ahead and get those things covered up, because when those cicadas emerge, they’re going to be looking for wooden stems about the size of my pinkie to lay their eggs in,” Raupp said.

He also said aphids have been able to thrive in the weather so far this spring. If you see them, Raupp said, just crush them with your fingers to help save your plants.

But, if they look brown and funny-looking instead of green and big, he said that means they’ve already been attacked by tiny parasitic wasps.

“This is part of Mother Nature’s hit squad that’s going to reduce those populations,” Raupp said.

Lastly, Raupp warns that prepping your yard for mosquitoes should start soon, which means simply making sure standing water is emptied out of buckets and other yard items.

He also recommends emptying and refilling the water from birdbaths about twice a week to keep mosquito populations down.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up