What is usually a quiet time on Apple Hill orchard as the apple, peach, cherry and pear crops develop had an eerie hum to it in June.
Russ Joudrey and his wife, Barbara, were at their orchard the last time the 17-year cicadas made an appearance, so they knew a little bit about what to expect.
“They were quite active the last time they were here,” Joudrey said. “Because of their life cycle we were expecting them to be active again this year and they certainly are.”
Apple Hill orchard sits just off of a heavily wooded area in Lexington, Ohio and as the cicadas worked their way out of the soil in the woods, they were immediately drawn to the closest trees on the farm — the peach trees. They use the fruit tree’s branches to begin the next generation of cicadas, as they cut a small sliver into them to lay eggs. That, in turn, will cause the branch to die off and fall to the ground so when the eggs hatch, the cicada larvae don’t have very far to go to hide out for another 17 years.
Even though Joudrey knew the cicadas were coming around this year, the management of the pests on his orchard was still a challenge.
“There are some insecticides that are relatively effective against cicadas,” Joudrey said. “The question is how much to use, keeping in mind the negative effect of using too much in a given time period.
“The chemical we used did a good job of knocking the cicadas down and slowing them down, but the emergence was so large that the ones that we sprayed were just replaced by more of them.”
To prevent further losses during the cicada infestation, twice in June Joudrey and his employees went through all seven acres of peach trees and trimmed off the affected parts that had been destroyed by the insect.
“We you take into account those trimmings and the damage that the cicadas did after them, I would say conservatively that we lost well over a third of our peach crop this year,” Joudrey said. “If we have enough peaches, we open up the farm to our u-pick customers, but this year I’m not sure that will be a possibility.”
“It is a relatively unusual event, even though you know it’s coming,” Joudrey said. “It is labor intensive and calculating the long-term losses is hard to gauge, but their certainly are some. I will be glad to see them go away for another 17 years, for sure.”