Garden Care Nature Uncategorized

The Cicadas are Coming!

What do I do?

Sit back and enjoy the cacophony of cicada love. They have waited 17 years for this raucous cicada party. Once adults have mated and females have laid eggs, they will die. They will be gone by the end of June.

What good are cicadas?

This will be a banner year for baby birds fledging with bellies full of cicadas. Small mammals, foxes, dogs, box turtles and others feed on these clumsy fliers until they are full. Chickens love cicadas. Cicadas nymphs aerate your soil and the expired adult bodies, provide a terrific source of nitrogen for your trees and gardens as they decay.

Should I apply pesticides?

No, absolutely not. Pesticides are not effective against cicadas and may harm other beneficial insects nearby. Netting is your best bet for young or recently transplanted trees.

How do I cover my small trees with netting?

Cicada Netting is currently being sold at local Nurseries and Box Stores.

Watch this terrific video on How to Install Netting put out by the Cicada Crew at the University of Maryland

Will MowCow come out and wrap my trees with netting?

We are not offering this service at this time.

How can I remove them from my trees and shrubs when I am terrified of bugs?

We encourage you to reach out to neighborhood youth. Invite them to pluck cicadas for you and move them to trees in a nearby wooded area. Offer cicadas to teachers who may want to host a Cicada Olympics event at their school or in the neighborhood.

Also – cicada researchers want to see your images so they can track this big Brood. Report them on the Cicada Safari app.

What is The Cicada Olympics event?

In 2004, Dr. Cindy Smith, wife of MowCow owner Richard Linsday, hosted the most fantastic learning event for the whole second grade at Nokesville Elementary School. Exactly 17 years later, she has compiled all the activities into an e-book available on Amazon. As a George Mason University Environmental Science and Policy professor, as well as a bug, botany and science education enthusiast, Cindy feels authentic learning is by far, the best way to experience and retain science and nature content knowledge. Please share this ebook link with neighbors and teacher friends and turn this cicada emergence into an incredible cicada learning experience.

Visit Dr. Cindy Smith’s website!

Into what types of trees will the female cicadas lay their eggs?

Females prefer the softer wood along branch tips.

What will tree the damage will look like:

You will see branch tips flagging in July. That is a sign that female cicadas scraped a groove in the branch tip and laid their eggs. Most mature trees will recover with no problems at all.

Here’s a great resource about the damage cicadas can do to your plants:

Lawn Care Nature

What’s this fern-like Weed?

The excessive spring rain in Northern Virginia has lead to dramatic weed growth.

Queen Anne's Lace weed just pulled from landscape bed
A freshly pulled Queen Anne’s Lace weed

This spring, we’ve hit the jackpot on steady soaking rains. Our reward is lush green growth, and unwelcomed weeds in the lawn and landscape beds. A roadside weed that we’re seeing quite often is Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota.

The fern-like foliage of Queen Anne’s lace has unexpectedly sprouted in many of our client’s landscape beds. Our Technicians repeatedly hear clients share, “What is this? I’ve never seen this tall weed here before.”

Queen Anne’s Lace seeds can lay dormant in the soil for up to five years, waiting for good sprouting conditions. Steady rain, on multiple days, like we’ve just experienced, percolates down deep into the soil, triggering germination in the buried seeds.


How did Queen Anne’s Lace end up in my garden?

Prolific white flowers, which are produced in the plant’s second year, put out hundreds of tiny seeds. Queen Anne’s Lace has a sweet bloom, similar to the cow parsnip, but much smaller. This plant can become invasive and extremely hard to eradicate due to the strong, deep taproot and the velcro seeds. These hitchhikers move to new locations on pet fur, pant legs, birds and even car tires.

Queen Anne's Lace Flower Head with central red flower
The “beautiful white lace” Queen Anne was tatting has a telltale central “drop of blood” from a single prick of the finger

 Queen Anne’s lace roots smell just like ‘real’ carrots.

Queen Anne's Lace weed, (left) compared to a stubby orange carrot (right)
Queen Anne’s Lace, (left) a stubby orange garden carrot (right).

In fact, this plant is the direct ancestor to the commercially grown carrots we eat in our salads.  As this fast growing plant gets taller, its leaves shade out smaller plants growing nearby and underneath.  The best (and most time consuming) way to remove Queen Anne’s Lace is to carefully pull out each plant, making sure to get the deep taproot.


While it may not look nice in your landscape beds, caterpillars of the large eastern black swallowtail butterflies, think the weed looks and tastes just fine.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Queen Annesl ace weed
Black swallowtail caterpillars munching Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. Photo credit: Edith Smith




Will deer eat liriope grass?

We wish our answer could be “NO, deer NEVER eat liriope!”


liriope-2Typically, this clump forming groundcover, also known as lily tuft, ranks low on our Deer Yum Yum list, especially if tender tasty tidbits are growing nearby.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension categorizes liriope as seldom severely damaged, but our clients living along the Occoquan River would STRONGLY disagree!


liriope-1Unfortunately, in their yard, the deer eat absolutely everything (except oregano). Even during this record setting wet summer, with loads of lush vegetation bursting forth, the deer are choosing to repeatedly snack on their new tender liriope shoots.

In the picture below you can see the crisply cropped tufts encircling the tree. At this point in the summer, liriope should be much taller and wider, pushing up flower stalks. A few clumps were ripped out by feeding fawns, whose tiny footprints are peppered throughout this mulch bed.

One bright spot for this deer decimated landscape is that our clients don’t have to trim their lily turf back in the spring, because the deer neatly groom it for them.


Some yellow fireworks in late summer.

Flowers by CindyYe-owza! Sunny shocks of roadside blooms are striking!

These late summer-blooming sunflowers, commonly called Beggarticks, because seeds ‘stick like ticks’ to socks, fur and pant legs, are showing their splendor. Pollinators like tiger swallowtail butterflies, flock to the showy blossoms, lapping up nectar.

Can you have these in your
Yes…but, these native annuals, which flourish in drainage ditches, perform infinitely better if you start them from seeds.

Enjoy the show. It lasts only a few short weeks. After the lemony petals have dropped from the flowers, remember to walk through this patch. Pluck the seeds from your socks and toss them towards the edge of your woodline to expand the sunny spectacle for next September.