39
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      Cicadas Hurting Central Virginia's Fruit Crop

      Monroe, VA - Fruit farmers in Central Virginia have more than just the weather to contend with. Farmers in Amherst County say the cicadas have already taken a big toll on their blueberry crops.

      For the owner of Morris Orchard, that familiar chirping is like a battle cry from some unwelcome visitors and the crops he's likely to lose.

      "This year they're everywhere," said Scott Barnes from his farm in Monroe.

      This is the third time cicadas have invaded Morris Orchard.

      Barnes, who grows peaches, apples, raspberries and blueberries, says this year they're much worse.

      Females lay their eggs into small branches or twigs, about the diameter of a pencil, making young fruit trees the most susceptible to damage.

      "The cicadas will bore into the young stems and can actually kill off that part of the tree," explained Billy Hughes, Amherst County's Extension Agent.

      There are repellants that farmers can spray once a day to try and protect their crops.

      So far, Scott Barnes hasn't found them very effective. He estimates cicadas have wiped out half of his blueberry crop this year.

      "I don't think our prices will change much, but I think our quantity is going to drop because of our insects this year," Barnes added.

      On average, fruit production generates $235 million dollars for the state of Virginia. The impact cicadas will have on that number is anyone's guess.

      "Mother nature's boss and we go along with what she says," said Barnes.

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