After the late news on Sunday night, they rerun "Star Trek." Typically, I'll watch five minutes, and the kitsch will send me straight for the remote. But we felt as if we were living in an episode as we tried to garden this weekend.
Those awful cicadas were overwhelming. It was like an alien invasion - the swarms of slow-flying insects humming together to create a din that is nothing less than otherworldly.
As my husband mowed, he would see clouds of them rise from our Autumn Applause maple and from the newly planted blue spruces. They love the lilac, the Aristocrat pear, the hollies, the oaks ... they love them all!
My daughter finished the mowing, and she was sure she would have nightmares about those wide-bodied, red-eyed, screaming creatures. As she rode the mower under the lowest branches of the ash tree and disturbed a winged mob, she swore the cicadas were plotting their revenge for her intrusion.
In the past few weeks, we laughed at the people who had carefully placed protective coverings over their trees. "That won't happen to us. How bad can it be?" we asked ourselves. And, on a much more practical note, we really have too many trees to cover. So, our trees are teeming with these nasty egg-layers, and I'm wondering what to do next.
A call to Berry Crutchfield, plant pest biologist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, gave me good news and bad news.
"They don't feed much. The damage is done by the female planting the eggs in the tree, by cutting a small slit into the end of the branch where she deposits her eggs," Crutchfield explained. "The tips of the branches will break, and that's called 'flagging.'"
The good news, according to Crutchfield, is that if it's a large tree, it won't damage the tree. It will look bad, but the tree will survive.
Now for the bad news.
"In small trees, under 8 feet, the damage can be severe, and it can even kill the tree," Crutchfield said. The females are looking for pencil-sized branches, and those are obviously the predominant branch size in the smaller trees.
So now what? Can I rescue my trees?