Periodical Cicadas — Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois

My first experience with the 17-year cicadas was in 1973, when I was 15. I recall them being around, and I remember going to a forest preserve in Des Plaines with my parents to hear them. When they came back in 1990, I never got around to looking for them and only saw a few around the neighborhood.

Periodical Cicada

I determined this year that I'd get the full experience. I walked around Lake Geneva in Wisconsin on the day after they emerged, and there were nymphs and new adults all over the place. In places, the ground looked like Swiss cheese from all the holes they made.


When we got to the Botanic Gardens today, the sound was loud enough to hear inside the car over the radio and air conditioning. As we walked the gardens, we saw many adults buzzing about and hanging on trees and bushes. The noise was always in the background. At the end of our visit, we wandered into the path along the woods. That was the complete experience.

The Cicadas were everywhere, on trees, flying, on the ground. Empty nymph shells were hanging on tree trunks and the undersides of branches. There are (or so I've heard) three species, all identical in looks and all on the same 17-year cycle. They can only be told apart by their sound. We could easily detect two of them, and I think I heard the third a couple of times. We saw thousands of cicadas, and even gathered a few shells to bring home. We were sated with the experience, but it was hard for me to tear myself away — after all, I won't have another chance to see them until I'm 66!

Cicada and me

Worth Seeing? The noise, the holes, the dry shells, the low-flying adults. It's fascinating.

Worth Going To See? Very much so. And you only have four or five chances in a lifetime.

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3 Responses to Periodical Cicadas — Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois

  1. Jonathan says:

    Where’s a can of Raid when you need one?

  2. beth says:

    that’s really gross.

  3. Veery says:

    I am from Rockford Illinois and as the cicada buzz dies down a bit, I just want to argue that they aren’t gross at all. And Raid and pesticides don’t work well on them either. They are quite cool and I am glad you wrote about them. We love that the birds chow on them.

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