Blue-eyed crickets, rare and striking, are showing up in the Illinois Arboretum

A select group of crickets have joined the likes of Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra as blue-eyed wonders who have captured America’s attention.

An Illinois arboretum is abuzz after a blue-eyed cicada was photographed there, sparking online excitement about the unusual and visually striking bug.

Blue-eyed crickets are quite unusual and differ from the usual reddish-brown eyes of periodical crickets that swarm parts of the United States. It is not clear how rare the blue-eyed insects are because little research has been done to count the population.

Stephanie Adams, a plant health leader at the Morton Arboretum outside Chicago, told The Washington Post that she has been interviewed about a half-dozen times since a blue-eyed cicada landed on her last week.

“When everyone discovers something is rare, it becomes more intriguing,” she says.

One of their three old blue-eyed bugs was donated by a four-year-old Chicagoland boy who found it in his backyard. “He was very excited,” Adams said – about the boy, not the cicada. (That cicada is now part of the collection of the Field Museum in Chicago.)

After handling the boy’s blue-eyed cicada, Adams walked between two buildings and saw a group of cicadas on a plant. Adams thought she would see if she could find another one. To her surprise, she did.

“I seem to be a cicada magnet,” she said. “It’s job security.”

Adams said blue is certainly the rarest eye color for the insects. They usually range from dark red to almost tomato soup orange to brown.

Part of the public’s fascination, she says, is that the bug is so rare that finding one is extraordinary, but not impossible.

“It’s still pretty cool when you see one, but it’s not – get ready – something that fell out of the sky,” says Dr. Dan Young, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Insect Research Collection.

It’s not clear why some crickets have blue eyes, he said. The explanation may be genetic or hormonal.

Some crickets change their eye color as they move from subterranean and immature to terrestrial adults. One possible explanation is that the blue-eyed crickets got stuck in the transition from white to reddish eyes.

If you live in the Midwest, you’ll likely see red-eyed crickets when two broods emerge together for the first time since 1803 — around the time of the Louisiana Purchase.

Brood XIII crickets – centered in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin – surface every 17 years, while their Brood The stars are aligned this spring.

You would know it if you were in an area with crickets, as they reached about 90 decibels, roughly equal to the volume of a lawn mower or motorcycle.

Periodical cicada nymphs feed on fluid from the roots of plants during their underground years. They then tunnel upward and wait until the ground reaches about 64 degrees, at which point they erupt, molt and desperately look for a mate. The males start making a racket by vibrating a membrane on the sides of their bodies.

As can happen in humans, newly adult males make a lot of noise to attract females. After mating, the females make slits in tree branches and lay eggs, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The eggs hatch six to seven weeks later, after which the nymphs fall to the ground, burrow into the soil and keep the cycle going.

Young said his department is hosting Cicadapalooza, a public event on June 8 at the cicada hotspot in Lake Geneva, where entomologists will provide lectures and activity booths. In classic Wisconsin fashion, there will be beer – “Magicicada Buzz” Nut Brown Ale – brewed especially for the occasion by Topsy Turvy Brewery with dried crickets.

Maybe a blue-eyed cicada will show up at the party.

“We’ll be on our guard now,” Young said.

Cicadas are emerging from the ground in Newberry County, SC, and making themselves heard. (Video: Cheerful Gymnast)

Back To Top