Pesticides not needed for cicadas, TSU professor says

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Cicadas will continue to buzz over the next few weeks as the insects mate.

Experts said some East Tennesseans could see (and hear) hundreds of cicadas, while others may see very little to none at all.

For those who are lucky enough to witness the miracle of nature, Dr. Jason Oliver, a entomology professor at Tennessee State University, said they shouldn’t use pesticides to deter the cicadas.

Oliver said cicadas are harmless to humans.

“They don’t bite or sting, um, the main thing is it’s such a large insect and they make a buzzing sound when they fly and they can be scary to people who are afraid of large insects or bees,” Oliver said.

He said they could be somewhat harmful to trees and plants, but more so small branches and young trees.

Oliver said that’s not because they really eat the plants. In fact, he said, cicadas barely eat once they become an adult–which is when they make the loud buzzing.

He said they create the damage when the females are preparing for the next generation.

“Especially the females when they’re ova-positing, they make slits with their ovipositors in the branches to lay eggs and that damages the branch tissue,” Oliver said.

He also said there’s a good chance most pesticides will work against the large insect.

Oliver said because the cicadas are large, it’s harder to poison them.

“Anything that they actually get poisoned with is probably mostly going to be dermal contact, which is not a real effective way to get the insecticide in the insect anyway.” Oliver said.

He said that option could possibly make other animals sick, because so many other animals eat cicadas.

Overall, he said, if someone would like to protect their more expensive landscape trees or young plants, they should use netting to keep the cicadas off.

He doesn’t recommend people use pesticides. He said for those who don’t like big bugs, just wait a few weeks and they will be gone.

“You have to wait another 17 years to see this so you might as well look at it as a spectacle and then enjoy the opportunity to see something that you don’t get to see in nature that frequently,” Oliver said.

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