Q: What is a 17-year cicada?

A: Periodical cicadas, also known as 17-year locusts, are some of the most talked about and most mysterious insects. The appearance of these insects usually occurs in late May or early June, and can cause a lot of commotion, as they are noisy and sometimes so plentiful that they are everywhere. The cicada is a distant relative of the grasshopper and the subspecies have varied life cycles. Some emerge annually (also known as dog day cicadas), others every 13 years (in southern states), or every 17 years (in northern states). Different groups, called “broods,” emerge somewhere in the Eastern United States almost every spring.

Periodical cicadas are large-bodied insects with orange-veined wings. Their eyes are very red and their legs and wings are reddish orange. However, despite their somewhat fearsome appearance, cicadas are harmless to animal life and to all trees except young saplings.

Q: Do you have any suggestions on ways to keep deer out of your garden?

A: Deer are graceful, endearing and destructive. They are browsers that strip leaves and buds from trees, vines and roses. Depending on where you live and the population of deer, keeping them out of your garden may be next to impossible. One method includes covering fruit bushes, vines and young trees with simple nylon netting to discourage browsing.

The netting should be lifted slightly once a week to keep branches and vines from growing through it. Hanging balls made of human hair or soap will often repel deer from individual plants. To protect larger plantings, you can use a homemade or commercial spray of capsaicin, the hot ingredient in peppers. Garlic sprays and fish emulsions also deter deer, but many sprays need to be reapplied after waterings or rains. There is a commercial, natural repellent called Plantskydd (www.plantskydd.com), with a fish emulsion base that only needs to be applied once each season, an important advantage in rainy climates.

Q: What is the Beaufort wind scale?

A: It is a system for estimating the wind speed by observing the state of the sea, using a scale in which successive ranges of wind velocity are assigned code numbers from 0 to 12, corresponding to categories from calm to hurricane.

This system was first devised by British Navy Adm. Francis Beaufort (1774-1857), who observed wind and the effects of wind speed.

Q: I’d like to make fresh, homemade herbal tea. Do you know how I can do this?

A: Fresh or dried herbs can be used for tea (hot or cold). Remember to keep dried herbs in airtight containers. A general method for making teas calls for 1 teaspoon of dried herbs per 6- to 8-ounce teacup of boiling water; or 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh herbs per 6- to 8-ounce teacup (crush the leaves before adding the boiling water).

Place the herbs in the cup first, and then pour in the water. Cover the cup and leave for five minutes before straining out the herbs and drinking.

For iced tea, follow the same method, but after you remove the herbs, cover the container and put it in the refrigerator to cool. To sweeten, add a little honey or sugar.

If you have a question for the Farmers’ Almanac write to Farmers’ Almanac, P.O. Box 1609, Lewiston, ME 04241 or e-mail: [email protected]

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