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Cicadas cause little damage

July 02, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

The return of the 17-year cicada is coming to an end, and experts say there have been few reports of damage in the Tri-State area.

"There was more hoopla before they got here than from while they were here," said Robert Kessler, director of the Cooperative Extension for Franklin County, Pa.

Washington County began receiving reports of cicada sightings in early May, the first time periodical cicadas touched county soil since 1987.

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The periodical cicada appears every 17 years to shed its nymph skin and mate. It has a life span of two to six weeks.

Tri-State residents were concerned about the insect's reappearance because of the male's characteristic mating sound, Kessler said.

"It's pretty annoying," said Craig Yohn, an extension agent in Jefferson County, W.Va.

Landowners were concerned for their trees, although damage in the area appeared to be relatively light, Yohn said.

Female cicadas cut slits into limbs of trees for their eggs, and that can lead to damage to the limbs and leaves.

Cicadas caused only minor damage at Greenbrier State Park east of Hagerstown, park ranger Brenda Rohrback said.

The insects were "a little bit of a nuisance," but "we dealt with it," she said.

Helen Flanagan, who owns Flanagan Orchards Inc. in Thurmont, Md., said "damage to trees was relatively insignificant."

Roy Byers, a worker at Linden Hall Orchard south of Md. 632 said the trees did not suffer damage from cicadas.

The Mid-Atlantic Cicada Database Project received no reports of cicadas from Frederick County, Md., agent John Zyla said.

The low number of complaints across the mid-Atlantic area was curious, said Zyla, who said he plans to do a systematic survey of the area to find out "exactly where they were occurring."

Colleen Cashell, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Washington County, said she received no complaints about cicadas.

Lisa Weller of Lewis' Orchards and Farm Market in Cavetown said she didn't see many cicadas around the Smithsburg area but heard a lot when driving toward Keedysville.

Yohn said the insect's reappearance was "spotty" in Jefferson County and damage was less than expected.

New buildings and housing developments might have led to fewer cicadas appearing in urban areas, Yohn said. Yohn said he did receive reports of damage from cicadas in Summit Point, W.Va. and Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Cicadas typically emerge from soil that has not been disturbed in 17 years, said Jeff Semler, an extension educator for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

Areas dense with trees, such as the mountains, are common sites for cicada concentration, Yohn said.

Zyla said Monday that "cicadas are starting to decline in numbers and noise levels."

Henry Allenberg, who owns Allenberg Orchards off Md. 491, had prepared for the reappearance by covering his trees with netting. He had experienced tree damage from the past two visits from periodical cicadas and said he didn't want to risk damage again.

"I have absolutely no idea," he said, when asked why he only saw a "few" this time. "I'm not complaining."

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