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

9 Comments

  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 http://nichigobonsai.com/2011/06/07/winter-preparation-trident-maple/

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  5. Jeremy Erb says:

    Supposedly this year is the major plague of cicadas in Cincinnati. I appreciate this post. It seems like the drench will kill the young once the trees has been infected. Any idea of the plants can be protected before they get those horrible wounds on them?

    I have grow lights in the basement for tropical sand a humidity chamber. Considering putting some smaller higher value plants down there for the two months that the cicadas will be out although the leaf might be very tender if I do that and obviously it’s not going to pump a tree full of energy like the sun would. Should I just wait and see if the bugs go after my trees?

    • crataegus says:

      Hi Jeremy, I’ve only a couple times come across Cicada damage so I don’t have any more thoughts about how to handle the damage or preventative measures, sorry about that. Maybe someone will chime in with a thought or two– As for protecting indoors, I’d be as cautious of that, the weakness might be just as bad an issue. I think they tend to only attack certain species of trees, so maybe do a bit of research there. Also , the bonsai attacked by them that I saw were rather large, so that may well be an issue with something like a Cicada. Small plants they may ignore. But having a backup plan like your basement might be a good idea if you do end up with a problem. Sorry to not be of more help, just not a ton of experience with them!

      • Jeremy Erb says:

        Thanks for your thoughts! I might try to secure some netting for more valuable trees and cross my fingers for the rest!

  6. JudyB says:

    I have thought of doing a screen enclosure on my existing bench area to keep the cicada away from the trees. I don’t know if this is overkill for protection, I hope they utilize my natural trees for their attacks and leave the bonsai alone. Anyone else have any experience with damage on Bonsai in the Ohio area?

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