17-year cicada swarm to begin in Illinois, Indiana in a couple of weeks

Get ready for one of the most amazing and bizarre shows in nature, although you will have to drive a little ways to see it.

The 17-year cicadas are returning by the trillions to a large portion of the Midwest, including some Illinois counties south of Chicago.

"You’re going to see them everywhere. They’re going to be screaming at you," said Allen Lawrance, Associate Curator of Entomology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.


In about two weeks, trillions of Brood X 17-year periodical cicadas will begin crawling out of the ground throughout the Midwest. The red beady-eyed bugs with orange wings will fill the air with an ear-splitting noise.

"Brood 10 is slated to emerge this year. It’s the largest brood in the country," said Lawrance. "Trillions of cicadas will be emerging, (in) upwards of 15 states."

The brood will be most intense in Indiana and Ohio, but will also emerge in a handful of downstate Illinois counties on the Indiana border about 60 miles from Chicago.

"It can seem biblically like a plague," said Lawrance. "However, they’re not really causing damage. They are providing food sources for birds and other wildlife, recycling nutrients into the soil. So it’s actually a grand natural phenomenon we get to experience."

The cicadas will only live above ground for about a month, flying, chirping and mating. Then, they will drop eggs on the ground for the next brood in 2038.  

And if you miss this summer’s show, another huge brood of 17-year cicadas is set to emerge throughout the Chicago area in 2024.

"Chicago should be overloaded with cicadas in 2024," said Lawrance.

The 17-year periodical cicadas are actually a little smaller and quieter than the annual cicadas that will emerge throughout Chicago later this summer.

And if you are hungry, yes, both species are edible.