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Central Illinois set for a double dose of cicadas this spring

Brood X cicadas fly and gather on the branch of a Hawthorn tree, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in East Waterford, Pa. Trillions of cicadas are emerging in the U.S. East. Scientists say Brood X is one of the biggest for these bugs which come out only once every 17 years.
Carolyn Kaster
/
AP file
Brood X cicadas fly and gather on the branch of a Hawthorn tree. For the first time in 220 years, the Northern Illinois Brood and Great Southern Brood of cicadas will be co-emerging.

If you live in Central Illinois, you can expect to hear billions of cicadas buzzing beginning in May.

For the first time in 220 years, the Northern Illinois Brood and Great Southern Brood will be co-emerging. Central Illinois is one of few places where both broods will be highly concentrated.

Woman smiling seated next to a table with an open laptop and microphone
Megan Spoerlein
/
WGLT
Kacie Athey is a specialty crops entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Kacie Athey, the specialty crops entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said the two periodical cicadas rarely co-emerge due to their different life cycles.

“They come out, depending on the species, either every 17 years or every 13 years,” Athey said. “They all stay under the ground for that amount of time and they all come out together. What’s really unique about this year is we actually have two broods coming out at once — and that hasn’t happened since 1803.”

Athey said the phenomenon will only last a few weeks. The cicadas will be most present in forests.

“Periodical cicadas are interesting in that they’re really long-lived underground, and when they actually come out, they don’t live very long,” Athey said. “A couple of weeks, maybe a month. We should expect that mid-to-late-May, we’ll start to see them and they’ll be coming out through probably mid-June.”

While the broods will not cause damage or harm to humans, pets or most of the environment, Athey said they can damage smaller trees when the bugs lay eggs.

“When the periodical cicadas come out, they’re coming out to mate and lay eggs,” Athey said. “When they lay eggs, they use this little saw-like egg laying device and they cut into small twigs and lay their eggs in there. If you’re a big, mature tree, no big deal. If it’s a tiny tree, they can damage that tree or at worst, kill it.”

To prevent damage, Athey recommends homeowners tie large mesh bags over any young trees.

The next time the U.S. can expect to see another co-emergence of periodical cicadas is in 2245, she said.

“Try to appreciate it. I know it’s going to be loud, but it is a really cool phenomenon that only happens in this part of the world,” Athey said. “If you can, try to appreciate this upcoming cicada storm.”

Megan Spoerlein is a reporting intern at WGLT. She started in 2023. Megan is also studying journalism at Illinois State University.