cicada on a fence in Manassas. courtesy of Hillary Smith.
(WUSA9) -- According to Virginia Department of Forestry officials, the latest Brood II cicada outbreak has left widespread damage to oaks and other trees across the Commonwealth.
VDOF forest health specialist Dr. Chris Asaro explained in a statement on Thursday, "After mating, periodical cicada females lay eggs in the thin-barked outer branches of many different trees and shrubs by slicing into the plant tissue with a sharp organ called an ovipositor, which is also used to lay eggs. Within each sliced area, known as an egg nest, they deposit up to 20 eggs."
According to Asaro, one female can create about 30 egg nests, and lay up to 600 eggs. So with millions of female cicadas laying eggs, Asaro says there are "billions of slices in the trees." Those cuts can cause structural damage that kills the terminal, which is known as "flagging" or "twig dieback."
According to VDOF, you can see flagging across the state's Piedmont and Coastal Plain in the form of a few scattered branches to almost every available twig. Officials say, however, "most medium- to large-sized trees will not suffer any serious long-term damage."
Asaro added, "...most trees will shed the damaged twigs and replace the lost foliage, appearing normal within a month or two ... On the other hand, fruit trees and recently planted or nursery-sized trees may suffer significant impacts from cicadas. Smaller trees generally have thin bark across much of their branch surface, so a much larger proportion of the tree is suitable for egg laying and damage by cicadas. In some extreme cases, small trees may experience enough damage that the entire top is killed back, although many hardwood trees have well-developed root systems and can resprout new tops."
Most Virginians won't have to worry about this again for another 17 years, but there are other periodical cicada broods. "For example, Brood X, which is the largest in geographic extent, overlaps northern Virginia and parts of southwest Virginia and is due to come out in 2021. Other broods that impact smaller parts of the state are Brood XIV, due in 2025, and Brood XIX, which is on a 13-year-cycle. Since this brood emerged in parts of eastern VA in 2011, it is due to return in 2024," said Asaro.
To see brood maps and dates for your area, visit www.magicicada.org