Press Release

May 21, 2024Science

Media invited behind-the-scenes at 11am on Thursday, May 23, to see the cicada being pinned

Left: The blue-eyed cicada. Photo by Daniel Le, Field Museum. Right: Greta Bailey, Jack Bailey at the Field Museum to donate the blue-eyed cicada. Photo by Danielle Williams, Field Museum.

The cicadas emerging by the billions in Illinois this spring have bright orange-red eyes—all except a precious few. A rare mutation, described by experts as being “one in a million,” causes the cicadas’ normally red eyes to be gray-ish blue. One of these rare cicadas was found by a family in the Chicago suburbs, and they have donated it to the Field Museum.

 This specimen, a female Magicicada cassini, is the first blue-eyed cicada ever added to the Field Museum’s collections of cicadas dating back more than a century. “I have been in Chicago for five periodical Cicada emergences of our BroodXIII, and this is the first blue-eyed cicada I have seen,” says Jim Louderman, a collections assistant at the Field Museum. “I have also seen two emergences of Brood X in Indiana and two emergences of Brood XIX in Central Illinois.”

 Members of the media are invited to the Field Museum at 11am on Thursday, May 23 to see the cicada being pinned so it can be added to the museum’s collection. Please RSVP to The Museum is also hosting a cicada-pinning class on Wednesday, May 29 at 7pm so people can create their own (red-eyed) cicada shadowboxes to take home; tickets are available on the museum’s website.

 A press kit of photos is available on Dropbox.


Who found the cicada?

Jack Bailey, age four, from Wheaton, Illinois, found the cicada in his family’s yard. His older sister Caroline, age fourteen, noticed its blue eyes and showed their mom, Greta Bailey. Not realizing how rare it was, the family released the cicada back into the yard. That evening, Caroline and her twin sister Addison, went outside with flashlights, and Addison was able to find it again.

 “My 4-year-old son, Jack, has been in heaven since they started emerging and has taken to collecting a lot of them. My daughter, Caroline, looked into his collection bucket and saw the blue-eyed one. She brought it inside and showed it to me. I thought it was cool and unique and had not heard that blue-eyed cicadas even existed. I took a few pictures and Caroline let it go. Well, after telling my family about it, we came to find out how rare they are and were kicking ourselves for not keeping it. A couple hours later, Caroline and her twin sister Addison, took flashlights outside to go look for it where Caroline had let it go. Amazingly, they were able to find it again and now we knew to not let it go,” said Greta.

How did it get to the Field Museum?

One of Greta's family members is an old friend of someone who works at the museum, and he helped the Baileys get in touch with the Field’s insect team. Greta and Jack brought the cicada to the Field Museum on Wednesday morning to donate it to the museum’s collections.

 “One of our neighbors told us that the Field Museum is interested in the blue-eyed cicadas so I emailed the research and collections department last night in hopes that they would want it,” said Greta.

Is it still alive?

No, the cicada has since died—they have very short life spans.

What will the Field Museum do with it?

The cicada is being added to the museum’s behind-the-scenes collections of insects that serve as a library of life on earth for scientists from all over the world who want to know about what lived where and when. Since blue-eyed cicadas are very rare, the Field Museum’s scientists will try to sequence its DNA to potentially learn more about the genes responsible for its blue eyes.

Can people come to see it?

Yes! The cicada will be on display at the museum’s Science Hub during cicada-themed Meet a Scientists events happening weekly through the end of June.

What to do if you find a blue-eyed cicada

Blue-eyed cicadas are one in a million but with billions of bugs emerging this spring, that still means a lot of blue-eyed cicadas! We are so grateful to the people who have found blue-eyed cicadas and donated them to the Field Museum’s research collections. At this point, we’ve got plenty of representative blue-eyed specimens from this emergence, and do not require any more. If you find a blue-eyed cicada, you and your cicada pal can still help scientists studying this phenomenon by taking a photograph of it and uploading it to Cicada Safari (for Apple and Google) and iNaturalist. Thank you for being a community scientist and taking the time to admire the magic of Magicicada!

How can people join the Field Museum’s cicada-pinning class?

Tickets are available on the museum’s website for the cicada-pinning class on Wednesday, May 29. Spots are limited, don’t delay!