Subject: Are You Seeing (or Hearing) 17-Year Cicadas Near You?
Hello friends and monitors of singing insects,
If you live in the western suburbs, you have probably noticed an interesting phenomenon in the last week: an emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas. That’s right, the black ones with the red eyes. And not just a few confused individuals, but enough that the males are singing. You may even be hearing a chorus. Here at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in southwest Cook County, we started seeing Cassini 17-Year Cicadas (aka Dwarf Periodical Cicadas) emerge in sizable numbers last Thursday, and have been hearing small choruses this week.
One of many individuals at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, June 4, 2020. Credit: Negin Almassi
I was talking with one mom who vividly remembers the deafening chorus of 17-year cicadas 13 years ago, when she was pregnant with her daughter. So what is going on? Why are they four years early!?
Dr. Carl Strang provides some great insight in his recent blog posts on the subject and a Sun-Times article. As he writes, “Huge numbers of our two species of periodical cicadas emerge every 17 years. The last major emergence was in the spring of 2007, so the next one will be in 2024. At least as far back as 1969, however, there has been a significant appearance of the cicadas four years early. This has happened every cycle since, in 1986 and in 2003.”
This leaves Strang with the question: are these early emergences independent of each other? Or did a 17-year-population emerge 4 years early at some point, but then continue the 17-year cycle ever since? One way to answer this is to document reproduction and egg-laying (oviposition).
If you are observing a large emergence of periodical cicadas near you, you can help answer these questions.
1. Photograph any behaviors of reproduction or oviposition you are observing (see here for examples of both.)
2. Note the location: town and the nearest intersection of streets (or name of park or preserve if relevant).
3. Sound recordings are also helpful.
Email these 3 items to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your observations on the Insects and Spiders of Illinois Facebook page.
I will be in touch with details about trainings for Singing Insect Monitors for the 2020 season. We will be offering the training online this year, which will include introduction to commonly heard insects, tips in the field based on what we learned last year, and how to submit your data. More information soon! In the meantime, be sure to visit https://singinginsects.net/ to brush up on your insect songs.
On behalf of the Singing Insects Monitoring Program