Rare cicada emergence to affect Illinois this spring

Two broods to sync up at the same time

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By KEVIN BESSLER

The Center Square

SPRINGFIELD – A loud chorus of cicadas is coming to Illinois this spring.

Illinois will be in the bullseye of a rare cicada emergence that hasn’t happened since Thomas Jefferson was president.

Two different broods of cicadas have synced up for the first time since 1803 and are expected to appear beginning in May. 

The Northern Illinois brood comes from underground every 17 years and the Great Southern brood every 13 years. The ground will first have to reach the perfect temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit at a depth of 12 to 18 inches in the ground before the insects will emerge.

Ellie Taylor, a graduate teaching assistant in the Biological Sciences department at Northern Illinois University, said you not only will be able to see the cicadas, but you will be able to hear them as well.

“The amount of cicadas that will pop up will be so loud that it could actually reach upwards of 100 decibels,” said Taylor. That's the equivalent of a power lawn mower or even a subway train.

Sixteen states are expected to experience the emergence of around one trillion cicadas.

Cicadas are not poisonous or harmful to humans or pets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1990, a large emergence of cicadas prompted Illinoisans to use snow shovels to clear their sidewalks of the dead cicadas, and that could happen this year.

Taylor said many animals will be feasting on the critters once they emerge, but back in the day, Native Americans used to toast cicadas over an open fire for a snack.

“These are insects that literally sit there and suck up the sap from trees, so I could see where they would be pretty tasty,” said Taylor.