July 6th, 2020- A sure sign of summer, cicadas are emerging throughout Illinois after hibernating underground for years.
There are three types of cicadas in Illinois: Annual cicadas and periodic cicadas, which emerge in 13-year and 17-year cycles. Seventeen-year cicadas are the longest living insect known to man. No one knows why, but Illinois has the largest brood of cicadas in the world.
Ted Burgess, an entomologist at Northern Illinois University, said Illinoisans are fortunate to witness such a special event.
“This is something that is very unique to the Midwest that not everybody in the world can experience and we get to experience the biggest occurrence of it anywhere in the world,” he said.
The cicadas unique life cycle comes as a means of predator avoidance. The theory is cicadas spend a prime number of years underground, 13 or 17 depending on the species, to avoid synching up with predators. Then by descending in unison, the millions of defenseless cicadas can overwhelm predators and stand a chance at survival.
Burgess said this summer will be steady with cicadas emerging, but the main invasion will be in 2024.
As for the rumor that cicadas are tasty?
“Periodical cicadas specifically are thought to taste like almonds,” Burgess said. “I don’t recommend people go in their backyards to try to catch them and eat them, but they are certainly edible under certain conditions.”