Lewisburg, W.Va. (WVVA) - Millions of periodical ciacadas are emerging in
parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina after a 17-year stint underground.
According to Barry Crutchfield, an entomologist and plant pest biologist at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the insects live underground as nymphs and they feed on the roots of trees. After a little under 17 years of being underground the ciacadas emerge, shed their skin and become adult ciacadas with wings.
The adult ciacadas do not eat once emerged. Their goal is to mate and lay eggs. When the females lay their eggs they create slits in the small end branches of trees, and then place their eggs in the slits. The eggs then turn to larva and fall to the ground and bury themselves for the process to start over again. The adults will be above ground for five to six weeks according to Crutchfield.
As far as damage, according to the Virginia Cooperation Extension, periodical ciacadas damage many hardwood trees. Oaks are commonly attacked, but young trees stand to suffer the most. Crutchfield said for older trees most of the damage is cosmetic, but younger trees can die because of the damage. Crutchfield recommends protecting young trees by covering the crown of the tree in mesh.