Kids' Cicada Hunt!

Hunting for Periodical Cicadas:

In 2003, Periodical Cicadas Came Four Years Early!

Every summer we find hundreds of annual cicadas in our town.  During late spring of 2003, we found something even more special near our town:   Periodical cicadas, 
also known as "seventeen year locusts."   Periodical cicadas are special because 
you usually find them in your town only one year out of 17.  
The periodical cicadas we found in 2003 were extra special because they arrived 
four years before they were expected!
   On this page, we tell the story of our very 
first hunt for periodical cicadas.


Periodical Cicada Home 

Cicada Hunt 2007 Photo Stories 

Things to Do This Spring 

Kids afraid of bugs?

Cicada Citizen Science

Cicada Hunt 2003 Photo Story 

Local Cicada Exhibits 

Local Cicada

Cicadas in the News 

Cicada Books

Cicadas on the Web 

Tracking Use of Cicada Websites 


On June 9, 2003, Ethan, Aaron, and I found the first shed cicada skins of the year at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago.   We found at least a dozen shed skins.  These skins were much smaller than the ones we usually find -- and we found them almost a month earlier than we usually find our annual cicadas.  
We wondered what these small cicadas were.  We got our answer when we visited the Cicada Mania weblog:
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It turned out that small numbers of periodical cicadas were emerging in many parts of the Chicago area, even though they weren't expected here until 2007.  

We decided we wanted to learn more, so on the last day of school we went hunting for periodical cicadas.

Periodical cicada skins are on the left in this photo.  They are much smaller than the annual cicada skins we usually find starting in July (shown on the right).
We found what we were looking for in La Grange, Illinois -- the shed skins and orange-trimmed wings of periodical cicadas.


Some skins were on tree trunks, some were on tree leaves, and some had fallen to the ground.






We collected piles of shed skins and lots of wings (some with legs attached).  The wings may have been all that was left after birds had eaten adult cicadas.

We heard adult cicadas singing in the trees, but we never saw them.

Overnight, the nymph shed its skin and grew wings!
We found one live cicada nymph crawling in the dirt.  We took it home with us and put it in a terrarium on our front porch.   


The next day, we let it go.
About a week after our cicada hunt, we found two periodical cicada skins near our home in Oak Park, Illinois.  We even heard a few periodical cicadas singing in trees near our home. 

We still have lots of questions about our early arrival of periodical cicadas.  One article we read said it's been happening in our area since at least the 1960s, but they didn't say why some cicadas started coming early.  

But then, when you think about it, there are lots of mysteries about periodical cicadas:  How do they keep count of the years?  Why do they stay underground for 17 years up north and only 13 years in the south?  Maybe Ethan and Aaron will grow up to become scientists and answer those questions.




Click here to return to our main Periodical Cicada page

The following links take you to pages about Annual Cicadas:

        Copyright 2004-2007 Eric D. Gyllenhaal                                                                                       Search this Site

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          This page was created on August 30, 2000, and it was last updated on May 9, 2007.