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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Periodical Cicadas are Coming!

Posted by Ron Wolford -

The cicadas are coming! The 17-year periodical cicadas will be appearing in the Chicago area in spring 2007. Their last appearance was in 1990.

  • Full-grown cicada nymphs are brown, humpbacked and about three-quarters inch long.
  • They commonly construct soil chimneys that extend from the ground up to three inches high and are about one-half inch in diameter.
  • Within a few days, the nymphs break through the top of the chimneys or soil surface to crawl up trees, shrubs and other upright objects where they molt into adults.
  • Adult periodical cicadas are about one and one-quarter inch long black insects with red eyes and orange-veined, clear wings.
  • Males produce a high-pitched wavering song that sounds like a trill when many are singing together. They sing primarily during the sunny part of the day to attract females to them for mating.
  • The males and the singing die after a couple of weeks, while females remain alive for two to four weeks longer to lay eggs.
  • Eggs are inserted into tree and shrub stems that are up to two inches in diameter. Heavy egg laying will cause twigs to break, resulting in dead leaves at the end of branches.
  • Control is directed at preventing egg-laying damage, as adult feeding is insignificant.
  • Although pyrethroids and carbaryl (Sevin) will kill large numbers of adults, treated plants commonly experience about as much injury as untreated plants in landscapes. Mature trees and shrubs usually experience only minor damage.

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