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Cicada Species in Colorado

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Although the much-maligned periodical cicadas also known as 17-year and 13-year “locusts” primarily exist east of Colorado, the Centennial State is home to a number of cicada species, a couple of which may be considered pests due to their ability to damage plants.

In Colorado, cicadas are heard more often than seen. Of the 26 species of cicada native to Colorado, the Colorado State University Extension says only four are common and most pose little threat to crops or other plant life.

Putnam’s Cicada

The most common species of cicada in the state, Putnam’s cicada (Platypedia putnami) is especially abundant in shrublands where Gambel oak or mountain mahogany is present, as well as in regions with significant pinyon and juniper. Putnam’s cicada has also adapted to irrigated landscapes.

The males of this cicada species make a clicking call that is sometimes described as similar to coins striking together. When they emerge in large numbers, these cicadas can cause damage to trees and shrubs not from feeding, but from inserting their eggs en masse into the plants’ stems.

Dog Day Cicada

Dog day cicadas (Tibicen dorsatus, T. dealbatus) are the largest cicadas found in Colorado and may be upward of 2 inches long. Their common name is derived from the males’ piercing call, which is often heard in the so-called “dog days” of mid-summer.

Dog day cicadas are primarily found in southeastern Colorado. While they prefer forested areas along rivers and streams, they have adapted to landscape plants and may be found in city environments. These cicadas prefer cottonwoods and maples to host their nymphs.

Mountain Cicada

The mountain cicada (Okanagana bella) is a black-and-red species that is predominantly found in mountain regions with aspen and conifers.

Mountain cicadas are common among the more heavily treed portions of the lower slopes of Colorado’s Front Range. These cicadas are associated with little threat to plants, but they make their presence known in the form of a long, shrill call that can last for minutes at a time.

Cactus Dodger Cicada

The cactus dodger (Cacama valvata) is a cicada species associated with the cholla cactus, which is common in southeast Colorado and other dry, desert-like regions of the state.

Male cactus dodgers produce a high, shrill song, and like mountain cicadas they pose little threat to the plants they rely on for food and to host their nymphs. Existing largely in hot, dry climates, cactus dodgers have the interesting ability to extract water from their bloodstream in order to keep cool while active.

Protecting Plants from Cicadas

CSU Extension says no controls for cicadas exist in Colorado and none are likely necessary because damage from the insects is generally minimal.

Insecticides are generally ineffective against cicadas because these seasonal pests are extremely mobile and present for several weeks. If you live in an area where Putnam’s cicadas or dog day cicadas are present in large numbers, the CSU Extension recommends that high-value plants, such as young trees that are still establishing roots, be protected by covering them with close-knit netting to prevent access by adult cicadas.

If you need help coping with a pest problem in the greater Denver or Fort Collins areas, or anywhere along the Front Range, please contact Animal & Pest Control Specialist, Inc. online or call us at 303-987-0842.


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