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GODFREY - Jen Papin is a reluctant cicada expert.

The Godfrey resident has had so many cicadas in her yard that an entomologist stopped by her house in 2011 during the last cicada emergence. Now, she’s clearing up a few misconceptions about this year’s cicada brood.

“When we lived through this 13 years ago, it was at least in the top five worst experiences of my life,” Papin said. “I tried very hard to embrace the whole process of this. But once they fly and get caught in my hair, it’s over.”

Southern Illinois is currently experiencing the 13-year emergence of Brood XIX. While there is a dual emergence happening in the U.S. right now, they won’t converge in the Riverbend area.

But there are still quite a few cicadas in our region. Papin explained that cicadas will emerge from the ground and climb a tree, where they can get the most nourishment and enjoy the sunlight. Their shells then fall off, and within six hours, the white nymphs darken into the cicadas we recognize.

The noise we hear is primarily the male cicadas’ mating call. Once they mate, the females will lay their eggs and the eggs will drop back into the ground, from which fully-grown cicadas will emerge in 13 years. The parent cicadas then die.

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There are four species within Brood XIX, and they all make different noises. Papin said the cicadas in Southern Illinois are producing 100 decibels of noise. To put that into perspective, a rock concert produces 120 decibels. Because of the vibrating and clicking noises they make, cicadas are also attracted to the vibrations of lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment.

To top it off, some of the cicadas have developed a “zombie fungus,” Papin said. This fungus grows on their abdomen and eventually detaches the abdomen from the head.

“But what this fungus has, interestingly enough, is the same drug that is in magic mushrooms and basically a form of amphetamines,” Papin explained. “So they are tripping and on speed. It’s like the 70s. And they’re very hypersexual. All they want to do is mate even though they don’t have an abdomen…If they fly while they have this, they’re calling [the cicadas] the saltshakers of death this year because they’re dropping the fungus spores all over the new hatches.”

No one knows what this will mean for the new hatches, but as Papin said, “it will be interesting.” There have also been a few blue-eyed cicadas spotted in Northern Illinois, but Papin said this is rare.

With all of the noise and biomass left behind by the cicadas, a lot of people are looking for ways to get rid of the bugs. Papin personally suggests loading up a wheelbarrow with the dead cicadas and burning them. But she encourages people not to spray pesticides or otherwise dispose of the cicadas before they die. She pointed out that they can have a lot of benefits.

“Actually, all of this is so tremendously good for the environment. Everything about the hatch benefits us in so many ways. It also benefits so many species of wildlife,” she said. “For 13 years, this is their only job in life. They eat for 13 years. They come up. If they’re lucky, they get three weeks, four weeks. They mate. They suck a little bit of sap out of your tree and they die.”

The cicadas might cause a “natural pruning” of trees by dropping small branches, but Papin said this is healthy. She predicts the Brood XIX cicadas will be dead by the Fourth of July.

“And then we’ll have the annuals, the regular cicadas that come up every year and are much, much bigger. But thank goodness we have only a few of those instead of so many. I could not survive it,” she added. “There's ultimately nothing these cicadas can do to hurt us, which is why it’s so embarrassing that I’m terrified.”

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