Cicadas are, indeed, native and a huge food benefit to birds and wildlife. There should be plenty to go around, especially in areas with old trees. No need to delay your pollinator garden. When cicada nymphs first emerge from the soil, they climb up plants, including perennials, but they merely need something to hold onto while they pop out of their exoskeleton as adults. They may suck a tiny bit of fluid, but not enough to damage plants. Then they fly away. (Bad eyesight, though — cicadas bang into things sometimes.) Though later cicada egg-laying can kill twigs, it’s no problem for mature trees. The resulting “tip-pruning” may even be beneficial. However young saplings can’t afford to lose a lot of branch mass. Netting (1/4-1/2″) is the most effective way to protect young trees or larger shrubs. (Not spraying pesticides!) Cicadas tend to ignore low bushy shrubs and evergreens. Net the leaf canopy, not the trunk. Netting can be draped and secured at ground level with weights, such as bricks. For small trees, roll net edges, then staple or lace up to leave no entry. Monitor for break-ins. Mid-May is the time to net, no earlier. Cicadas are active for 4-6 weeks, after which remove netting.
Since bees must be able to pollinate blueberries, use larger gauge 1/2″ netting to let them in. Or keep close watch and don’t overprune this spring, realizing cicadas may “prune” too. Search ‘cicadas’ on our website for many more answers and excellent links.
Meanwhile, enjoy and keep it all in perspective, like Benjamin Banneker, Baltimore County mathematician and astronomer, who observed inof 1749: “I then imagined they came to eat and destroy the fruit of the Earth, and would occasion a famine in the land. I therefore began to kill and destroy them, but soon saw that my labor was in vain...Seventeen years after their first appearance, they made a second...I then...had more sense than to endeavour to destroy them, knowing they were not so pernicious to the fruit of the earth as I had imagined...” On the contrary, Banneker noted, cicadas “like the comets, make but a short stay with us. ...if their lives are short they are merry, they begin to Sing ...from the first they come out of Earth till they die, the hindermost part rots off, and it does not appear to be any pain to them for they still continue on Singing till they die.” (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)