Cicada Damage On Bonsai

This may well qualify as the most useless post I offer this year… because it will have relevance only every decade or so. Seventeen years, in some cases… I’m talking about cicadas. Recently I was in the Midwest and saw this cicada damage on a client’s beech. The cicada will lay eggs in the branches of a tree, leaving a strange stitching pattern. The larvae end up in the soil, where they will eat the tree roots. You may kill them with an insecticide drench. Mark your calendars for the cicada boom year in your area, and keep an eye out for this damage:

The healing callus makes stitch pattern. This is a beech.

Another branch with cicada damage from the summer, photographed in the fall


  1. Mark Leija says:

    I’ve heard of insecticide drenches before but luckily have not had to resort to this procedure….yet! Say I had to do this for some reason, what would the actual steps be to do this? In other words how long should the tree be drenched? Should you spray the leaves and branches with a mixture of the “drench” solution? Should we water thoroughly after said drench? Keep out of the sun? Thanks in advance!!
    What a great blog Micheal.

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, thankfully killing cicada larvae is not on our usual agenda! If you were to drench, and there are many insecticides that are used for this purpose, but maybe the most popular and easily available to the hobbyist is Bayer Advanced. Many garden and nursery stores carry it. The drench is accomplished by mixing the suggested dilution rate, and then simply watering it into the soil as if you were watering the bonsai. No need to water the foliage. The roots bring it into all areas of the tree. Drenches with systemics usually have no sun sensitivity. I’ve used systemics with the coarse soils used in Japan—akadama and pumice—with good results. Usually it takes about a week, though, before the insecticide is in the tree and working.

  2. Jeffrey Robson says:

    This was the year for cicada in Missouri and I had thousands in the yard. My dogs were eating them like popcorn. Fortunately looks like only one of my bonsai trees had very minor damage and the rest escaped unscathed. Can’t say the same for the landscape trees though. Heavy damage on the young spring growth.

  3. bonsaijapan says:

    We dont tend to get teh bug flushes of cicada in Australia. I get similar damage on some of my trees every now and then but from the passion hopper. Not sure if you guys get them over your side of the pond. A few pics can be found here

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