Forest ThreatNet

Volume 1, Issue 3 - Spring/Summer 2008

Message from the Director


Danny C. LeeHumorist Garrison Keillor traditionally begins his signature monologue with, "It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town." Few would say the same about Asheville this spring. The 17-year cicadas returned with a vengeance, filling the air with the whirring sounds of millions of male cicadas doing their best to attract willing mates. The din in many areas was loud enough to disrupt conversation, and a walk outside inevitably led to up-close and personal encounters with the large, winged adults erroneously called locusts in many local vernaculars. Friends and acquaintances had one question for me, "When will these dang cicadas leave?" The mating chorus has subsided, but the tell-tale flagging of dead leaves caused by females laying eggs under the bark of small terminal branches is a visible reminder of their sojourn above ground. Soon the eggs will hatch and larvae will burrow into the soil to begin their amazing 17-year life cycle.

The return of the cicadas is a great opportunity to reflect on the wonders of nature and marvel at the cicadas’ unusual and efficient evolutionary strategy. It also reminds us that we are not so removed from the forests and the dynamic forces in play there as we might think. Cicadas generally are not considered serious pests, even though Cicada ovipositingtheir effect on individual trees, especially young saplings, can be dramatic. Lasting effects of their emergence are few, and they pose no harm to humans or pets. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many other insects that survive wherever there are trees, whether in a remote wilderness or our own backyards. We like to think that we have some control over these insects, that our management actions can tip the balance for or against certain species. Other times we just try to endure—and wait for the insects to leave.

For more information about cicadas and links to some of the more interesting Web sites devoted to these and other forest insects, visit our Web site at

Until next time....


Danny C. Lee

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