They're Baaaackkkkkk! FM is Ready for the Cicada Invasion. Are You?


Art of many cicadasIn the finest heroic tradition, a small but well-trained band will stand against millions, protecting the University of Maryland campus treasures from the ravaging hordes. A Hollywood blockbuster? No, it’s the staff of the UMD Arboretum and Botanical Gardens protecting vulnerable trees from the onslaught of millions of cicadas.

Every seventeen years like clockwork (or a bad zombie movie), the periodical cicadas of what is known as Brood X rise up from their underground hideaways to “treat” us to a spectacle. The males sing to attract females for mating and the females then lay their eggs. This group last appeared in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2004, so this year will be their time in the spotlight – or sunlight as the case may be.

Protecting a tree from cicadas
Netting a vulnerable tree

Meg Smolinski, Outreach Coordinator for the UMD Arboretum, says the insects generally don’t harm humans beyond the unpleasant surprise of having one fly into your face (good thing we’ll all have our  COVID masks on). There is nothing to fear – unless you are a young tree. The females lay their eggs in tree branches which causes damage to the branch. A mature tree can shrug it off but younger trees can suffer injuries severe enough to kill them.

That’s why Facilities Management’s Arboretum and Botanical Garden staff swing into action. There are about 70 members of the Landscape Maintenance team and all of them are keeping an eye out for the arrival of Brood X. While cicadas were expected to arrive in early May, some were already spotted on campus as early as the first week of April. Campus arborist Richard Jones said the staff will continue to monitor for cicadas, and when greater numbers begin to arrive, the tender young trees will be netted. Why not net the trees sooner? It is best to keep the trees netted for as short a time as possible to allow beneficial insects access.

Informational sign about cicada nettingThe FM Sign Shop contributed to this effort, producing signs that explain to those wandering the campus just why a tree is netted.

Smolinski has written an article with everything you need to know about this brood of cicadas. The D.C. area is one of the epicenters for this particular appearance and, like it or not, you have a front row seat.

To learn more about UMD’s Arboretum & Botanical Garden, visit  Additionally, you can stay up to date on Arboretum news and events by following the Arboretum on facebook and Instagram.