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Ask 13: What's damaging so many oak trees in our area?

Something is killing the leaves on local trees, and an expert with local cooperative extension service said the damage was likely caused by cicadas. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Something is killing the leaves on local trees, and several viewers are concerned and want answers.

"I have noticed that leaves on the oak trees in the Fletcher area seem to be dying," Catherine Holland wrote Ask 13. "Any idea what is causing the leaves at the end of the branches to die?"

Another viewer said leaves were falling off in clumps. It's true, trees with dying leaves can be found in several locations around Arden.

An expert with local cooperative extension service said the damage was likely caused by cicadas.

"More than likely, it's the result of the egg laying of the female of the periodical cicada," North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent Alison Arnold said. "She'll go in and make a small slit in the wood, lay the eggs and that will weaken the stem and that will kill or cause it to brown. They'll begin to flag and even drop off over time."

Arnold, who specializes in agriculture and consumer horticulture, said, while it may look unsightly, the damage is only superficial and won't harm the tree.

The cicadas have a unique life cycle and appear every 17 years. Once the eggs hatch, they fall to the ground, burrow into the soil and emerge again 17 years later. In this case, they'll emerge in 2034.

If you have a question you would like answered, write Ask13@WLOS.com.

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