If you’ve seen the screaming headlines warning of an impending swarm of millions of cicadas set to emerge from the ground this spring like some biblical plague, relax.
It’s true, a handful of counties in eastern Illinois will be treated to a cicada storm in 2021. (Sorry, good people of Clark, Crawford, Edgar and Vermilion counties.) But the rest of us will be spared, at least temporarily. The Chicago region’s brood of periodical cicadas isn’t due to make its once-every-17-years appearance until 2024.
Not to be confused with the annual “dog-day” cicadas, the song of which many associate with the impending end of summer, periodical cicadas head below ground shortly after hatching and stay there, feeding, until they all spring forth in a single horde, breed and then die within weeks.
There are 15 broods of periodical cicadas in the U.S., clustered in the country’s mid-section, largely east of the Mississippi River. Brood XIII is the one lying in wait in northern Illinois, while Brood XIX (on a 13-year cycle, also emerging in 2024) is holed up in the southern part of the state. Brood X is the group about to turn up en masse this year.
The last time members of Brood XIII reared their red-eyed heads, they didn’t make much of an impact in Chicago proper, courtesy of all the concrete and general disturbance of land. But suburbanites with long memories will recall the sight of an endless stream of insects surfacing in their yards, pooling around trees and crawling up trunks.
Hold that image, till 2024.