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Tech Professor Preparing For 2024 Cicada Return

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Professor Preparing For 2024 Cicada Return

A Tech Horticulturist is preparing deterents to test on the two-year cicada emergence starting in 2024.

Professor Douglas Airhart provided evaluations and reports for tree damage in the 2008 and 2011 cicada invasions. He said the cicadas damaged millions of dollars in nurseries and crops.

Airhart said that got his interest. He said he maintained this interest with an eye on the 17 year cicada cycle from 2008 and the 13 years cycle from 2011, because those cycles will converge in a two year emergence.

“So in 2024 and 2025 we’re going to have back to back emergences of these periodical cicadas in middle Tennessee,” Airhart said. “And I think that’s going to do more damage because nobody is going to be ready for them.”

Airhart began studies on cicada behavior and preventions both in the United States and as far as New Zealand. Over time Airhart has discovered that cicadas appear to have aversions to certain colors and odors.

“Sweet gum trees they smell, if you break the leaf open they have a pungent odor,” Airhart said. “And most of those trees suffered minor damages. So we got the idea that we might be able to an extract of those leaves and apply those as a water-based repellent.”

Airhart said they learn these things too late in the cycle, so they have to test them on the next emergence. He plans to apply dyes, odors, and netting.

“We’re going to try netting,” Airhart said. “Whether you can just lay it on a tree and be able to get it off the tree without the tree growing into it during that interval or whether you have to make a framework over the orchard and lay netting over the whole thing.”

Airhart said he observed apple, pear, olive and other orchards in New Zealand where they used rolled up netting that they pulled over the trees seasonally to deter birds. He said the holes were small enough to deter cicadas.

Aihart said costs had to be considered against the possible damage when making these decisions.


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