The Cicadas Are Here, Now What?

They're here.

After months of anticipation, Brood XIII periodical cicadas, which have been hanging out underground since 2007, have busted out in massive numbers across northern Illinois.

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Here's what to expect in the coming weeks:

— Juvenile cicadas are popping out of their holes and shedding their exoskeletons. Those are the spent shells people are seeing on blades of grass, buildings, plant stems — basically any surface the cicadas could cling to during the molting process. 

— The new adults need a minute to figure out life top-side. Once their bodies have hardened and their wings are fully developed, they'll be heading into the trees, as high as they can to get away from dangers on the ground. As people may have noticed, they're kind of clumsy fliers but speedy climbers.

— It takes four or five days for males to start their singing, ie, mating call. So it's kind quiet right now. But it won't stay that way. In a week or two, the fellas will be at full-throated power.  

Here's what's not happening:

— Cicadas won't be everywhere. Heavily developed areas — whether urban or agricultural — don't support periodical cicadas. The insects evolved with forests — no trees, no cicadas. Folks who want to avoid the insects will find safe spaces in plenty of Chicago neighborhoods.  

Video: Cicadas explore their surroundings after a 17-year wait in the Chicago area on May 19, 2024. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

— For cicada tourists: The "double emergence" doesn't mean double the cicadas. Yes, two different broods are emerging at the same time in Illinois, but they're popping up in different parts of the state and don't really overlap. The narrow band — around Springfield — where the two broods might come into contact isn't going to look noticeably different than any other part of the state.

A couple of additional tips from the experts:

— Dogs are going to want to chow on the cicadas. Don't let them, advised John Cooley, who's been researching periodical cicadas since the 1990s. The exoskeleton isn't digestible and dogs will get "severely constipated," he said. "They won’t feel good and you as the pet owner are not going to have fun as a result."

— For those who want to examine cicadas up close, maybe to get a look at their tymbal or abdomen stripes, curiosity is natural. Just handle them with care, said Mark Hurley, of Lake County Forest Preserves. "They are pretty resilient as long as their wings are not damaged," Hurley said. "They will be fine if they are plucked off of a tree. ... They will resume their climb upwards if you place them back on the tree."

Be sure to check out our complete guide to all things cicada

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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