Woman missed out on cicadas 17 years ago, so she brought 6,000 of them to her yard

Seventeen years ago, Bettina Sailer felt cheated when her yard did not buzz with the sound of 17-year cicadas.

So, the North Aurora resident went to other parts of the state where cicadas were plentiful and brought the insects back to her yard.

This year, Sailer did it again. She now has more than 6,000 cicadas in her front yard.

Sailer created new homes for the cicadas underneath insect netting that she has placed over trees in her front yard. She also put a sign in front of her trees that reads, “Come Back Tour 2024.”

According to experts, cicadas need to feed on trees nearly constantly for most of their lives, so they typically are only found in areas that had trees 17 years ago and have continued to have trees since then. That’s why you will not likely see cicadas in highly developed areas.

Bettina Sailer placed netting over trees in her front yard in North Aurora to keep thousands of cicadas. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network

Sailer’s fascination with cicadas started when she was 24. She is now 58.

“A friend had asked me if I wanted to see these bright red-eyed bugs,” she said. “We all jumped in my car with a box. I was freaked out by it at first — the buzzing sound and everything. But then I got used to it. And I started picking them up and putting them in a box.”

Sailer became interested in cicadas even though she doesn’t like most bugs.

“They didn’t sting, and they didn’t bite, and red is my favorite color, followed by orange,” she said. “So I’m like, ‘These bugs are really kind of cool.’”

Sailer displays her love for cicadas through her tattoos and cicada necklace and earrings. Her shirt proudly asks, “Got Cicadas?”

At least one cicada has resurfaced after being underground in her yard for 17 years.

“One came out of the ground in my yard,” Sailer said. “I was so excited.”

Despite the netting, sparrows are attempting to get at the cicadas.

“What the sparrows are doing is that they are landing on the netting, and they’re pecking at them to eat them,” Sailer said. “And sometimes they rip the netting and get in.”

Sailer said she hopes more cicadas will emerge from her yard 17 years from now. She noted that a few of the cicadas she brought to her yard had been laying eggs.

Batavia resident Sylvia Keppel helped Sailer put up the netting. They know each other through being members of the Batavia Community Band.

But they have not seen if they can play louder than the buzzing cicadas.

“I really like that they have such an odd life cycle, that they go 17 years before emerging,” Keppel said. “It’s very unusual. God makes really strange animals sometimes.”

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