Try 1 month for 99¢

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to!” – John Berger

Have you ever heard the phrase “dog days of summer?” If you have, you probably thought of the hottest days between July 3 and Aug. 11. These are traditionally hot, sultry, uncomfortable days. This time period has nothing to do with dogs. Although when I was a kid, I was sure it did since our dogs just laid around in the shade most of the time. It turns out that dog days refer to the Dog Star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. This is also the time of year that we get the music of cicadas, also known as dog day harvest flies or heat bugs.

There are nine varieties of cicadas in our area. Dog days cicadas are green with black markings. Another common one is black with reddish-orange eyes, legs, and wing veins. Cicadas cannot jump or walk well so they fly. Birds, bats, dragonflies, and spiders eat most. In China, humans consume them.

You probably won’t notice cicadas on your trees until your hear the buzzing. They make this sound to attract females. The female will click their wings in return. The female cicada lays her eggs on tender twigs and when the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and feed on underground roots for two or more years. The so-called annual cicadas take two to nine years to hatch while the periodical cicadas take 13 to 17 years to develop, hence the term “17 year locust.” They are really not locusts.

The trees cicadas prefer are oak, but occasionally they can be found on apple, ash, maple, willow, dogwood, and hickory trees. They can even be found on some shrubs.

Annual cicadas rarely need to be controlled since they do not occur in large numbers. You may find some twig die back that can be trimmed off in the spring.

The good news is cicadas do not bite humans unless they are allowed to remain on someone long enough to mistake a part of the body for a part of a plant. If they accidently bite, their bite contains nothing that causes itching or redness. So, enjoy the music of a summer night.

Due to lack of interest, the 2018 Master Gardener training has been cancelled. We will try again another year.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.