I am one of President George W. Bush's gardeners. Mr. George likes to talk to me.

Friday, May 28, 2004

17-Year Bugs

This morning I wrapped the lilacs on the north side of the White House with cheesecloth to prevent the cicadas from destroying them. The garden variety cicadas don't do much damage to trees and plants, but this species of cicada that comes out every 17 years is particularly nasty.

I thought the young red maple I planted a couple of years ago was big enough to withstand the cicadas, but I was wrong. Many of the limbs near the top of the tree were broken and saggy and turning brown. As I was standing there looking at the tree trying to decide whether to spray it or wrap it, Mr. George nudged my shoulder.

"Your little tree is dying."

"The cicadas are destroying it."

"Yes," said Mr. George. "They like to eat trees."

"Actually, the female uses her ovipositor to dig a channel in a branch, where she leaves her eggs -- that's what's causing the branches to break off."

"Yep," said Mr. George. "They sure do like to eat trees."


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