Hear something? Some 17-year cicadas are making an early arrival in the suburbs

  • Some 17-year cicadas are emerging early -- four years to be exact -- in northern Illinois, experts say.

      Some 17-year cicadas are emerging early -- four years to be exact -- in northern Illinois, experts say. Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/4/2020 2:06 PM

They're coming. Sort of.

Every 17 years, northern Illinois is inundated by the emergence of periodical cicadas called Brood XIII Cicadas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When that happens, when the 17-year cicadas emerge, there are so many of them and they are so loud that you can be standing next to someone trying to have a conversation but you can't hear a word," said Kim Isaacson, the horticulture program coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension of Lake County in Grayslake. "This year, we'll just get a small, little taste of that."

Maybe you've already gotten that "taste." Some people in the Chicago area are seeing some cicadas in their yards or hanging out around trees four years ahead of the full emergence of the noisy Brood XIII Cicadas, due to hit the area in 2024.

Experts expect the early emergence through about late June.

"It's not uncommon to see some come out early, and right now the conditions are right for them to be emerging," Isaacson said. "We just aren't sure how many will come out early."

In Illinois, there are three types of cicadas: the annual "dog days of summer" cicadas, the 17-year cicada in northern Illinois, and the 13-year cicada in central and southern Illinois.

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Cicadas, while harmless to humans, are considered destructive pests to trees because they cut 2- to 3-inch slits on the branches to lay eggs. These slits damage the trees, create scars and make leafing difficult, if not impossible.

The scars can damage an entire section of a tree and can kill some younger trees.

Cicadas prefer to lay their eggs on smaller branches with diameters of a quarter-inch to 1 inches.

"When the 17-year cicadas are due to come out, there will be people in orchards who will cover every single one of their trees," Isaacson said. "I would say that if you just put in a sapling, you might want to consider covering it with a netting if you see a large amount of cicadas near you. If you see only a small amount, you probably don't need to do anything.

"We aren't expecting this to be any more than a few cicadas compared to what we'll get in 2024."

After eggs hatch, the cicadas will live beneath the ground for 13 to 17 years, sucking fluids from tree roots. Then, they emerge from the soil, climb up a tree while morphing into their adult bodies. They leave their shells behind, move farther up the tree and look for mates.

That's when cicadas are at their loudest.

For questions about cicadas or other lawn and gardening issues, email the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners by emailing uiemg-lake@illinois.edu or by calling (217) 300-9232 and leaving a detailed message or request.

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