February 2024 Treecologist Tribune

The Great Cicada Emergence!

It would seem that the growing season is upon us! NCSU Climate Office reports soil temperatures around 49°F at their Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab. As a general rule, 50°F is the soil temperature that roughly correlates to significant seasonal changes, buds growing, leaves falling, insects emerging, birds migrating, and many others. When the soil temperature heats to 50°F on average, this marks the approximate beginning of the growing season. When it cools back to 50°F on average, this marks the approximate beginning of the dormant season.

Whereas rainfall had been relatively abundant in December and early January, we have received very little rain since the last time I wrote. WRAL has recorded a total of 2.5” since January 23, most of which fell during one rain event. In addition, temperatures have been mild. None of this is good as far as our local trees are concerned.

Speaking of tree-related concerns, cicadas are NOT an issue. We have been receiving a lot of calls this past month from people who are worried about the forthcoming cicada emergence. Let me assure you, there is nothing to worry about. Cicadas will not cause concerning damage to your trees! We had similar hoopla and hype from local media sources back in 2021 – you can check out my interview with ABC on this matter from January of 2021. My feedback is still the same:

  • The damage they cause to small twigs when laying their eggs is insignificant.
  • There is evidence to suggest that trees improve in health after cicada emergence.
  • Cicadas provide essential food to many different birds, bats, moles, wasps, and more – they are part of a healthy ecosystem. Any minor harms they may cause are far outweighed by the benefits they provide.

If you are still concerned, there is one thing you can do: ensure your tree is in the best health possible by maximizing soil health. Ensure the soil around your trees is fluffy and covered in deep layers of rotting leaves, arborist wood chips, and compost.

I am very much looking forward to these cicadas. Few things bring more joy than listening to the humming of cicadas during summer. Their calls remind me to stop and take a moment to appreciate life and summer. Otherwise, it all zips by too fast.

Since the growing season is on deck, now is a great time to reply to Matthew’s question.

He writes, “Mosquito sprays. I know it is a contentious issue. I know it causes strong feelings to go up against very effective marketing about “protecting your family” or “enjoying the outdoors” or “letting the kids play.” I know this because I hear it from my neighbors. Thoughts?”

Great question, Matt! For this, I will highlight another excerpt from my book, From Wasteland to Wonder - Easy Ways We Can Help Heal Earth in the Sub/Urban Landscape. This excerpt from Chapter 15, “More Easy Ways to Promote Outrageous Diversity!”


Excerpt of "From Wasteland to Wonder"

Traditional mosquito control is devastating to all life, including humans. Most of these sprays contain pyrethrin or pyrethroids (the synthetic version of pyrethrin). Both are nerve agents that disrupt our nervous system and brain function. Ditto for all life affected by the spray. Some mosquito spray companies advertise their products as being all-natural. Indeed, pyrethrin is all-natural. But so is asbestos. Being “all natural” does not necessarily make a product safe.

As if all this was not enough, mosquito sprays are downright ineffective. Think about it—the mosquitoes can still fly in from neighboring properties. We would have to spray all the neighboring properties, and perhaps the entire city, to keep them out of our property. Even then, this assumes the spray actually kills all of the mosquitoes on site. It will kill many, but some will survive. Those that survive have fewer predators to eat them, since many of these predators were killed or harmed by the spray. With fewer predators, the mosquito population rebounds more quickly.

Because mosquitos reproduce so quickly, they can develop resistance to chemicals. As we speak, this is happening—mosquitos are becoming resistant to many of the usual chemical approaches, such as pyrethrin.

What are our alternative options for controlling mosquitoes? We can do the following:

  • Create habitat so predators like bats and lizards take up residence in our landscape. They love eating mosquitos.
  • Mosquitos breed in water and puddles. We should reduce standing water by ensuring none collects in buckets, gutters, downspouts, pots, hollows, etc.
  • For standing water we can’t dump or drain, buy BTI mosquito dunks. These contain a substrain of the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria we learned about earlier that eat baby mosquitos.
  • Remove English ivy: This stuff holds water and creates the perfect breeding ground for Asian tiger mosquitos. It is also invasive in the United States.
  • Garlic spray can serve as an alternative to traditional mosquito sprays. It is approximately as effective as traditional sprays (i.e., not very effective), but without the damaging consequences.
  • Use fans. Mosquitos are bad at flying. Strong fans blowing across a patio or porch will rid it of these blood sucking fiends.
  • My preferred approach: we can apply nontoxic balms and sprays on our bodies. By protecting ourselves at the point of contact, we can generate the most effective defense against mosquitoes.

Here is additional help on this topic for those who want more.

Because we are now deep in this topic, let me touch on one other ineffective approach: bug zappers. These devices use ultraviolet (UV) light to draw in mosquitoes, where they then contact an electrical grid that kills them. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are not attracted to UV light. They are attracted to CO2 that we and other life exhale. The insects that do get zapped include beneficial solitary wasps as well as moths, whose caterpillars support our bird populations. Skip the bug zappers.

Before I leave this topic, I want to note that all life has value, even mosquitoes. At a minimum, they provide a huge amount of food for other insects, birds, and bats.


I’m OVER THE MOON EXCITED about the forthcoming release of my book! Its release will be the topic of our next newsletter in early March, which is also when pre-orders begin. Until then, enjoy what could be our few remaining weeks of chilly mornings!

And PS, keep sending me your questions and ideas for topics! Your input is my favorite source of inspiration when I write these newsletters. Thanks in advance!

Start your next project with us!

Get a free quote for tree and shrub care, compost tea, planting, pruning, Piedmont Prairies, Pocket Forests, and more!

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

Video | Drop That Rake: Save Time and Money by Leaving Your Leaves
June 2024 Treecologist Tribune
How to Perform Structural Pruning
May 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Video | How to Perform Structural Pruning
Video | How to Perform the 3-Cut Pruning Method
How to Properly Prune Using the 3-Cut Method and The Reduction Cut
April 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Learn How to Save Time and Help Heal Earth in Our New Book
March 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Setting the Stage—A Conversation About Why Change is Necessary
February 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Tree Root Structure
January 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Point of View: 2023 Year in Review at Leaf & Limb
November 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Bats are the Best (and, Unfortunately, They're Endangered)
October 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | The Story of A Seed
September 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Meadows, Thickets, and Pocket Forests: Going Beyond the Traditional Landscaping Model
Strength in Numbers: The Basics of a Pocket Forest
Wondering How to Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
August 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | From Seeds to Serenity: The Piedmont Prairie Process
10 Native Flowers and Grasses to Plant in a Central North Carolina Piedmont Prairie
July 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Tree Roots Don't Break Pipes
Do Roots Cause Damage? Debunking 3 Common Myths About Tree Roots
Stop Blaming Tree Roots: 5 Ways to Proactively Prevent Property Damage
June 2023 Treecologist Tribune
10 Native Shrubs to Plant in Central North Carolina
Video | How to Manage Invasive Plants
Managing Invasive Plants
May 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Earth Day is Every Day
Plants Make the Planet Go Round
Spring Scavenger Hunt
March Treecologist Tribune
We Are Safe At All Times: Our Approach to Tree-Climbing Safety
Video | Climbing with Archie: How to Climb a Tree Like an Arborist
Video | Day in the Life
February Treecologist Tribune
Why I Recommend Herbicide for Some Ecological Restoration Projects
Point of View: Behind the Scenes at Leaf & Limb
Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!
Checklist: Tools and Supplies for Hand Pruning Your Shrubs
Still Using Hedge Trimmers? Hand Pruning is Better for Your Shrubs
January 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Sapling Stories: Bald Cypress
October 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Friend or Foe? Snakes (Yes, Even Copperheads) Are Important to Our Ecosystem.
Project Pando Needs Your Help! How to Collect Native Tree Seeds
Project Pando: Community Seed Collection
Video | Piedmont Prairies: An Alternative to Grass and Lawns Where Beauty and Life Thrive!
August 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Planting a Piedmont Prairie Helped Change the Way I See the World
Piedmont Prairies: The Process & What to Expect
Video | How to Structurally Prune a Tree for Strength
[Case Study] Before and After: Structural Pruning on an Oak Tree
Video | How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | Bigger is Not Always Better! Planting Small Can Lead to Big Benefits.
Bigger is Not Better! 3 Reasons Why You Should Plant Trees When They are Smaller
Video | How Invasives Harm Our Local Ecosystem (And the ONE Thing You Can Do to Help)
How Invasive Trees and Shrubs Harm Our Local Ecosystem and One Way You Can Reverse That Damage
10 Invasive Plants to Watch Out for in Central North Carolina
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Fascinators and Flagella: How to Host a Tea Party for Soil Microbes
Compost Tea Makes Soil Healthy and Trees Happy
Video | Tea for Your Trees
Video | Mulch Volcanoes: Deceptively Deadly
Are Mulch Volcanoes Threatening The Trees in Your Neighborhood?
Sapling Stories: Beryl's Beauties
Video | Sheep, Seeds, and Swales: An Update from Project Pando
6 Reasons Why Planting A Native Tree Benefits the Environment and Our Local Ecosystem
Video | Drop That Rake: Save Time and Money by Leaving Your Leaves
Project Pando: Native Seed Drive 2021
Video | How to Plant a Tree: The Definitive Guide to Proper Planting
10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Planted Tree or Shrub
Video | 3 Ways City Life Stresses Trees (And What You Can Do to Help)
Why is Tree Care Important? Outside of the Forest, Trees Face Unique Challenges.
Emerald Ash Borers are Killing Trees. A Simple Treatment Can Stop Them.
Business Conservationist of the Year
Video | Did you Know? The Secret to Fertilizing your Trees and Shrubs Without Using Chemicals.
Chemical Fertilizers: 3 Surprising Myths and Why You Should Choose Organic Matter Instead
4 Options for Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs the Cheap, Easy, and Healthy Way
Video | 4 Fundamentals of Tree Care
Not Sure How to Care for your Trees? 4 Simple Steps to Happy, Healthy Trees
[Parody] Video | Introducing Timber: the Only Dating App for Trees
Video | Introducing Archie the Arborist: 5 Amazing Tree Facts
We Show That We Care: The History of Project Pando
How to Spot a Pine Borer Infestation
Video | How to Plant a Tree: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up a Shovel
Drop that shovel! 5 Questions to Ask Before Planting
10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina
Holiday Gift Guide for That Special Tree in Your Life
Measure What Matters - We are B Corp Certified!
Video | Wood Chips: The Secret Ingredient to Healthy Trees
Top 10 Reasons to Choose Wood Chips Over Other Types of Mulch
Healthy Eating Plate for Trees
Video | Welcome to Project Pando
Video | Structure is Strength - How to Make your Trees More Safe Using Pruning.
Are Your Trees Safe? Prune to Make Them Stronger.
How to Select a Safe Branch for a Tree Swing
Your Dirt is Hungry
Video | Soil is Alive
Recipe: Savory Soil Casserole
How Trees Can Heal Earth & What We Can Do to Help
Earth Day Bingo
Video | How Trees Can Save the Earth
Spring Tree Care Checklist
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Don't Make a Deadly Mistake: Top 10 Questions to Consider Before Pruning
Video | Planning to Prune? Use this simple framework and avoid deadly mistakes.
Video | Rooted by Our Purpose: A New Direction at Leaf & Limb
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want More Birds in your Backyard? Plant These Native Trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Trees' Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb Send an Intercom Message