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Emergence of two broods of cicadas begins in the Jacksonville area

The emergence of two broods of cicadas has begun in the Jacksonville area, and the coming weeks will likely only bring more and more.

While some prepare for the bugs, others are baffled.

A cicada climbs a tree.  Periodical cicadas spend most of their time living underground, feeding on tree roots.  Now that the ground in the Jacksonville area has warmed sufficiently, the insects have begun to emerge in west-central Illinois and will continue to do so over the next few weeks.  Adult cicadas spend most of their time breeding above ground, according to the University of Illinois.

A cicada climbs a tree. Periodical cicadas spend most of their time living underground, feeding on tree roots. Now that the ground in the Jacksonville area has warmed sufficiently, the insects have begun to emerge in west-central Illinois and will continue to do so over the next few weeks. Adult cicadas spend most of their time breeding above ground, according to the University of Illinois.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Ken Johnson, a horticulture educator at the University of Illinois, said Friday that he has already spotted between 100 and 200 cicadas in a two-block area in Jacksonville. By Monday morning, it had become common in most of the city.

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They will stay for three to four weeks before they start to die, he said.

Cicadas do not bite humans or other animals, feeding only on plant fluids. They only lay their eggs in pencil-sized branches of trees and shrubs, Johnson said.

“Grass, any herbaceous plant, hostas, vegetables and everything else, they won’t do any harm to them,” he said.

Reader Sherry Hinds captured this scene of cicadas emerging on Sandusky Street in Jacksonville.

Reader Sherry Hinds captured this scene of cicadas emerging on Sandusky Street in Jacksonville.

Sherry Hinds/Reader

However, the egg-laying process could cause those tree branches to die, Johnson said. While larger, mature plants should be fine, cicadas could harm smaller, more recently planted greenery and kill trees with sufficiently small trunks, he said.

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The best way to protect plants from cicadas is to use netting so they can’t reach them, Johnson said. He warned against the use of insecticides, which are less effective than nets and could pose a problem for other animals.

“In addition to not being as effective, you run the risk of other organisms coming into contact with the insecticide,” Johnson said. “Other insects or other animals will eat the cicadas, which then ingest them as well.”

There’s not much people can do once they start dying en masse. Although many people collect them in bags to get rid of their noxious odor, they could serve as fertilizer for plants if left where they are, Johnson said.

A cicada hole is visible at the foot of a tree.  Cicadas preemptively tunnel to the surface before they are ready to emerge.

A cicada hole is visible at the foot of a tree. Cicadas preemptively tunnel to the surface before they are ready to emerge.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Outdoor events could be disrupted by the noise of cicadas, which can reach levels of up to 90 to 100 decibels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about as loud as a subway train at 200 feet or a motorcycle engine, although the National Hearing Conservation Association notes that a loud rock concert is about 115 decibels.

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Cicadas can also pose a problem for motorists.

“Although cicadas are harmless, they can cause a lot of external and internal damage to vehicles,” said Chris Storms, district manager of AAA Car Care. “Drivers are urged to take proactive steps to protect their vehicles when cicadas are in the area.”

Cicadas can damage paint, so AAA recommends thorough washing if the insects splatter your vehicle, including windows and mirrors. It’s best to wash them before the insect residue dries.

According to AAA, cicadas can also clog radiator screens, causing the engine to overheat. They suggest getting a grille, screen or netting to cover the front of the vehicle.

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Additionally, cabin and air filters “can become a playground for cicadas because these insects like to hide in the air filter or cabin filter housing,” AAA warns. They suggest drivers listen for any unusual noises and have their car inspected if they hear anything.

Entomologist Michael Raupp sifts through a shovel of soil to spot cicada nymphs in a garden.

Entomologist Michael Raupp sifts through a shovel of soil to spot cicada nymphs in a garden.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Despite the risk of disruption, some external events in the region are expected to go ahead as planned.

Central Park Market and the Downtown Jacksonville Main Street Concert Series have dates in late May or early June at the downtown Jacksonville square.

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Julie Rowe, owner of Home Girls Boutique, said she and Jessica Lynn, owner of The Peachy Nest, weren’t thinking about cicadas when they chose the dates last year for this year’s Central Park Market, which will hold its next event on June 5. will be less present around the square because the trees around the area are 20 years old or younger, but she expects they will be there nonetheless, she said.

“It’s just one of those ‘play it by ear’ situations,” Rowe said.

Jacksonville Main Street Executive Director Judy Tighe said much the same thing as Rowe. Cicadas were not considered when planning the 2024 Downtown Concert Series, which is scheduled to begin May 31. She doesn’t expect the bugs to be a problem for the concerts, noting that the first downtown concert series also took place during a cicada emergence.

Cicadas gather on the leaves of a tree.

Cicadas gather on the leaves of a tree.

George Walker IV/AP

“I mean, they’re loud, but the band will be louder,” she said.

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Organizers of other events are more cautious. The Governor Duncan Association Barbecue, scheduled for June 8, is normally held in the courtyard of the Governor Duncan Mansion at 4 Duncan Park. This year’s event has been moved indoors to Twisted Tree Music Hall, 1061 E. Morton Ave.

Governor Duncan Association Secretary Sandy Sanders said cicadas were not initially a concern when planning the 2024 barbecue, but the issue was raised in November. The mansion grounds will be 200 years old in 2033, she said, giving insects plenty of old plants to eat.

“One of our board members, her husband, is totally passionate about cicada season,” Sanders said, “and she was the one who warned us that maybe we shouldn’t have any on the grounds of Governor Duncan’s mansion.”

Sanders, however, said there wasn’t much disappointment in moving the barbecue joint to another location. Twisted Tree is more accessible than the mansion and an indoor event is in some ways cheaper than renting all the equipment needed for an outdoor event, she said. The only things that will be missed this year are the tours of the mansion normally given at the barbecue, she said.

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As for Rowe and Tighe, neither said they were too concerned about cicadas interfering with their respective events, because the insects don’t attack people or animals.

“It’s not like they’re going to invade your head,” Tighe said.

Rowe said she will start selling a specialized spray to keep cicadas away. The next Central Park market to be held indoors is within the realm of possibility, but it would be “every man for himself” if the bugs end up being as bad as some sources have predicted, she said .

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“If the bugs bother you, they’re pretty gross,” Rowe said, “and I’m not looking forward to having to deal with them.”