DuPage County Forest Preserve video makes the cicada life cycle easy to understand

What does the life cycle of a cicada look like? What happens during the 17-year period between each emergence? The DuPage County Forest Preserve answers these questions and more in a creative educational video posted Wednesday.

In 2 minutes and 48 seconds, forest preserve employees act out cicada life stages, complete with costumes and big, red, 3D-printed eyes, while Tom Velat, an ecology supervisor, narrates each stage in deadpan fashion.

“Video is one of our most effective ways of reaching a larger audience,” said multimedia content specialist Jonathan Mullen, who directed, filmed and edited the video. “It’s an easy way to digest complex topics and if you do it right, you can make it fun.”

In the video, Velat explains each step the cicadas go through — from emergence, mating and laying eggs to those eggs hatching, burrowing into the ground to feed and growing for the next 17 years.

The actors and costumes in the forest preserve’s video showcase the life cycle of cicadas in what ecology supervisor Tom Velat called an approachable way. Courtesy of Jonathan Mullen/DuPage County Forest Preserve

Velat emphasized the importance of taking care of nature for the next generation — not just of humans, but of cicadas and other wildlife that rely on natural areas. He also urged people to appreciate the rare emergence while it’s happening, since this brood of cicadas won’t be around long and won’t be back for awhile.

According to Mullen, the outpouring of response from the video across social media, including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, has been overwhelmingly positive.

As of Friday afternoon, the video had 162,000 views on Facebook and 171,000 views on TikTok. Mullen said TikTok has been a particularly successful outreach avenue for the forest preserve since January of 2022, when the district established its account, @dupageforest, which now has nearly 340,000 followers.

Mullen said TikTok videos have prompted people from other states to visit DuPage County preserves and have motivated people to volunteer. Employees who regularly are featured in the videos have even been recognized in public.

And, Mullen said, the most important part is the education, and the breaking down of complicated topics into short, easily digestible and understandable videos.

In this video still, forest preserve project designer Rianna Schwartz plays a baby cicada nymph burrowing into the ground after hatching. Courtesy of Jonathan Mullen/DuPage County Forest Preserve

As the cicadas begin to emerge in the next couple of weeks, those interested in getting a better understanding and appreciation for the insects can attend the forest preserve’s “Cicada Adventures,” hosted on May 22, June 1 and June 6. More information can be found on the forest preserve website,

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