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The Cicadas Are Coming!

During late May 2024, periodical cicadas are expected to emerge from the ground in Northern Illinois after 17 years. Cicadas are those huge, super noisy bugs with gigantic red eyes that can reach decibels of a lawn mower or passing jet. Certain types of cicadas are present on a yearly basis, but this brood is expected to be the largest that we’ve experienced in almost two decades.

They have a short lifespan of 4-6 weeks, and during that time, they are busy creating the next generation nymphs that will reappear in the year 2038. Fortunately, cicadas don’t bite or sting, but they can have an effect on young trees and shrubs with smaller branches. Female cicadas look for tender branches that are often found on smaller plant material, where they lay eggs within the branches. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and burrow down into the soil for another 17 years.

To prevent/reduce stress on these younger plants, be sure to keep them healthy by proper watering and fertilization. Mature trees, flowering perennials and annuals, as well as vegetables will not be impacted.  Some other measures for managing the periodical cicadas that can help are pruning dead or weak branches that can serve as potential egg laying sites, mulching the base of plants to protect from cicada nymphs, monitoring for damage or stress and applying appropriate cultural practices.

In summary, the imminent emergence of periodical cicadas in Northern Illinois marks a natural phenomenon that occurs once every 17 years. While these insects can create quite a buzz with their loud mating calls, they pose no harm to humans and most mature plants. However, younger trees and shrubs may be susceptible to damage from egg-laying females. By ensuring proper care through watering and fertilization, the impact on these plants can be mitigated. So, as we anticipate the spectacle of nature’s remarkable cycle, let’s embrace the wonder of this event and take proactive measures to nurture and protect our local landscapes.