Cicadas will surface in community

John Goddard, University of Tennessee Extension agent, talks about the cicada killer wasp and cicadas that residents could soon hear and see in the area.

Residents soon will likely hear the buzzing sounds of cicadas as Brood X surfaces for the first time since 2004.

Periodical cicadas should emerge around mid-May, depending on soil temperature.

John Goddard, University of Tennessee Extension agent, said the bugs will be triggered when soil temperature reaches 64 degrees at a depth of 8 inches or 67 degrees at a depth of 4 inches. He anticipates cicadas to be prevalent until “late June.”

“It’s going to be extremely noticeable. I’ve got tinnitus ringing in the ears, everybody’s going to have it when this happens,” Goddard said with a laugh. “Anywhere there’s trees, like right here (near the county office building), you’re going to be hearing them. Deciduous trees — you won’t be hearing them where there’s pine forest or cedars, but your oaks and your sassafras and even people who have orchards, anything where they lose their leaves that’s where they’re going to congregate.”

Despite their noticeability, Goddard said cicadas are harmless.

According to the report from the University of Tennessee Extension Service, cicada populations will be heaviest from Loudon County to Johnson County. The last brood to emerge locally was Brood XIX in 2011.

“They do not bite. They do not sting,” Goddard said. “But if you’re riding a motorcycle or something and you don’t have goggles on, yeah, that could wear you out. … The first call I get on these someone will ask me, ‘What can I spray on them to kill it?’ That’s the call I’ll get. And I’ll get that call and I’ll get that and I’ll get that call, just one right after the other. I’ll answer them and I’ll say, ‘Just leave them alone and let them run their course. In a month’s time they’re going to be gone. They’ll have done their benefit for us and everything will be fine.’

“But do not run out and go to the local hardware store and buy pesticides because you’re going to kill other beneficial insects that we need,” he added.

Cicada killer wasps may also be noticeable. Goddard said they are not aggressive.

The bugs could affect plant life, he said.

“Right now is not a good time to plant trees of any kind,” Goddard said. “… Probably waiting until end of June would be a better idea or wait until next year. Another thing they do to fruit trees it’s a benefit, if it’s a large fruit tree they’re going to get out where that limb is the size of about a pencil, so they’re going to be out there on the end, and she takes her mouth and makes a little slit and then she lays her eggs and that slit and that tree protects, makes a little trough for her eggs. All fruit trees need to be thinned out anyway so they actually are beneficial to big fruit trees.”

Goddard believes the noise makers will impact outdoor activities, including weddings, concerts and graduations.

“If I was having an outdoor wedding, I would move it. I wouldn’t take the chance on it,” he said. “Unless you were out somewhere, I mean we’ve got trees all over Loudon County. It’s hard to find an area where there’s not deciduous trees. There’s going to be an issue for them, and as loud as these things are you can hear them a long way away. They’ll be disturbing. And, of course, if it’s a church wedding, they can go inside the church and won’t be near as bad there.”

Businesses appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach on how to adapt.

Haley Hall, The Reserve at Bluebird Hill manager and head trainer, said the Lenoir City event venue will remain flexible.

“Cicadas help provide nutrients for plants and trees to grow by eating and decomposing other organic life in the soil before they emerge,” Hall said in an email correspondence. “Then they provide a high protein food source for many animals once emerged. And then in their end stages their decomposition returns nutrients back to our soils helping all of our plants grow. … And honestly after the pandemic a bunch of cicadas should be a walk in the park.”

Chris Sykes, Tellico Village golf director, doesn’t know what to expect. He oversees the three golf courses in Tellico Village, and he remembers when Brood XIX surfaced several years ago.

“I remember you were out there you heard them,” Sykes said. “They were loud but it wasn’t deafening or anything. It was a little annoying but I think that’s just Mother Nature being Mother Nature. I’m not sure really if there’s anything we could do, and if you did it probably wouldn’t be all that environmentally responsible to begin with. … We do throw in a low-grade, inexpensive insecticide with one of our initial growth regulator apps, which knocks back our grub worms to where we don’t have varmint damage, so I don’t know if that’s going to have an effect on cicadas or not.”

The insecticide could be used in May, he said.

For more information, contact the UT Extension office at 865-458-5612.