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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Cicadas play vital role in ecosystem

Letter: Cicadas play vital role in ecosystem

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Editor: For the past year, there have been many ominous whispers of the Brood X cicadas coming. The message of the havoc wreaked on young trees and shrubs, and the month of constant shrill buzzing has sent home an idea of impending doom.

I invite you to reconsider this message.

When cicadas emerge, their sheer numbers give them an advantage when avoiding predators, but they also have-long term soil benefits once they die by providing a boost in organic matter. These extra nutrients can strengthen plants, and therefore the entire ecosystem, from the bottom-up.

When female cicadas lay their eggs underneath the bark of small tree branches, they provide a form of natural pruning and ensure that the tree does not waste future nutrients on a weak branch. The timing of the cicadas’ arrival also gives the trees plenty of time to recover and store energy before winter.


Cicadas are experiencing a disconnected emergence from warming soil temperatures, and it’s important to remember the significance of our actions. Although the ominous message of cicada arrival is likely still in your head – and I can’t argue that cicadas aren’t a nuisance – I ask you to remember that they do have a role in our ecosystem and a purpose on our planet.

Think about how the dead carcasses on the sidewalk will eventually make their way to the grass, the soil and then the trees, and you might have a small amount of appreciation for the complexity of our world.

Isabel Ruff, Arlington

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