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Time running out to net and protect young plants from cicada-related damage

Spencer Campbell, plant clinic manager at the Morton Arboretum, answers questions about cicadas in front of a netted tree. Campbell emphasized it is important to choose proper material when netting trees vulnerable to cicadas.
Capitol News Illinois photo by Dilpreet Raju
Spencer Campbell, plant clinic manager at the Morton Arboretum, answers questions about cicadas in front of a netted tree. Campbell emphasized it is important to choose proper material when netting trees vulnerable to cicadas.

While Illinois’ dual emergence of periodical cicada broods is harmless to people and animals, young trees may sustain serious damage if not protected by mid-June, experts at The Morton Arboretum said.

This is the first co-emergence of these two broods since 1803, researcher Katie Dana from the Illinois Natural History Survey told Capitol News Illinois, making it a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. Although each brood will appear in 2037 and 2041, respectively, the 221-year-long cycle means the next time both broods emerge at the same time will happen in 2245.

“I've heard reports of billions, I've heard reports of trillions and honestly, I think it's somewhere in between those two,” she said of the number of cicadas that will emerge. “But that's also a huge range.”

That’s why researchers from the INHS are seeking the public’s help to photograph and record the 13- and 17-year-old cicadas they see with ecology apps such as iNaturalist or Cicada Safari.

Dana said she is “trying to engage with citizen scientists” to help track the broods.

Preserved cicadas are arranged in a box. The Morton Arboretum will be studying how cicadas impact local ecosystems.
Capitol News Illinois photo by Dilpreet Raju
Preserved cicadas are arranged in a box. The Morton Arboretum will be studying how cicadas impact local ecosystems.

“If you look back at like 2011 or 2007, when these broods last emerged, there (are) a lot of gaps in the mapping,” she said. “Because it is really hard to get on the ground across the huge range that these broods are going to be out.”

To see a video from The Morton Arboretum instructing how to net young trees using tulle, a breathable fabric, click here.

For more information from The Morton Arboretum on periodical cicadas emerging, click here.

Capitol News Illinoisis a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.