Cicadas are not locust and cicadas do not eat the foliage of plants. They lay their eggs in smaller branches and twigs, by cutting into the bark and depositing their eggs which will eventually fall to the ground.
Cicada damage is only significant on shrubs and smaller trees where most of the branches are the width of a pencil or smaller.
Small trees or shrubs should be protected during the peak of the season.
Use a Net to Protect Your Plants
To Protect your plant it should be netted, with netting that has openings less than ¼ inch and allows the plant to get sunlight and plenty of air circulation. It is very important to use a net on your plants for the minimum amount of time possible. Your plants will actively be growing during the cicada emergence and the netting impedes the natural growth.
The netting must be closed on the top and the bottom to prevent the cicadas from entering the crown of the plant.
If you are purchasing a smaller tree or shrub this year it is advisable to slide a tube of netting over the container when you plant, so the tube is laying on top of the soil. It can sit there until it is time to pull it up and over the crown of the tree, securing it at the top and bottom so none of the little buggers can get to your tree.
How to Cover a Tree with Netting
If you have an existing small tree or shrub, you should place a net over them. In preparation for using the tube netting, you should first tie up the tree, starting at the bottom and moving upward in a circular motion. Once it is tied up, you can then roll the tube netting up so it’s like a doughnut, and work it down to the base of the tree where it can sit until the cicadas are out and beginning to sing. MAKE SURE that you remove the material you used to tie up the tree as soon as you have successfully gotten the tube over the plant.
For weeping trees like a Weeping Japanese Maple the tube can be carefully pulled over the top of the plant to cover it, unlike most trees that have ascending branches the weepers have descending branches. Plants with ascending branches need to be covered from the base to the top. Plants with descending branches need to be covered from the top to the base. When the cicada numbers begin to dwindle (mid to late June) remove the netting completely. Remember, cicadas are not locust.
By following these steps, you can protect your young trees and shrubs and have a great growing season.