News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351, 
May 21, 2024

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Animals at Brookfield Zoo Chicago ReceiveTasty Treat--Cicadas

Chicago, Ill. — The Northern Illinois Brood of cicadas have begun to emerge in the Chicagoland area and the animals at Brookfield Zoo Chicago are experiencing the insects for the first time in 17 years. The cicadas coming to the surface in the outdoor habitats may become tasty snacks for some of the animals, including African painted dogs, sloth bears, and brown bears. Animal care staff are also sharing the protein-rich and low-in-fat insects with many of the indoor animals.
At the Zoo’s Tropic World: South America habitat, the cotton-top tamarins and squirrel monkeys seemed to thoroughly enjoy the enriching treat today. Also seeming to like the nutritious arthropods were the Zoo’s roadrunner, meerkats, mongoose, and Gray’s monitor lizard. However, there were some animals not particularly interested in the novel snack, including several species of lizards, the screaming hairy armadillos, and Beaker, a Tawny frogmouth, who just held one with his beak but did not eat it.
“Many of our animals have evolved to eating insects as their primary protein source,” said Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, senior vice president of animal health, welfare, and science at Brookfield Zoo Chicago.  “Like crickets and meal worms, cicadas are a good source of digestible protein for our small mammals, some primates, and many birds and reptiles. Just like with every food item, insects should be consumed as part of a balanced and well-formulated diet. Too much of any good thing can cause an upset stomach, so for our small insectivorous animals, a set amount of insects are offered daily. For many of our larger animals, such as wolves and bears, cicadas emerging in their outdoor habitats can be consumed safely and our animal care staff monitors our animals for any signs that they may have over indulged.”

At one to two inches in length, with beady red eyes and one of the loudest insect sounds in the world, the cicadas can be a bit intimidating. The Zoo’s animals have displayed different ways of approaching the cicadas, ranging from shy and hesitant behavior to boldness. Some eat the cicadas instantly, while others moved or carried the insects around before consuming them.
Cicadas’ closest insect relatives are leaf hoppers and spittle bugs. They pose no threat to humans. They do not bite and are not considered crop-destructive pests. In fact, many cultures complement their normal diet with cicadas.

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Photo Captions (credit: Jim Schulz/Brookfield Zoo Chicago)
3593, 3596, and 3603: One of Brookfield Zoo’s squirrel monkeys enjoying a nutritious treat of cicadas.

3772, 3991, and 3822: Two of Brookfield Zoo Chicago’s monkey species, including the cotton-top tamarin, received cicadas today, May 21, as part of their diet.

3965: Beaker, a Tawny frogmouth at Brookfield Zoo Chicago, didn’t seem at all interested in eating a cicada that his animal care staff gave him. He just held it in his beak for a while.


About Brookfield Zoo Chicago
Celebrating 90 years as a global leader in animal well-being and conservation, Brookfield Zoo Chicago inspires conservation leadership by igniting emotional connections for people with wildlife and nature, locally and globally. The Zoo is a private nonprofit organization that operates on 235 acres of land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County and is home to more than 3,500 animals representing over 500 species, including many of Earth’s most endangered. Brookfield Zoo Chicago was the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and ArbNet. For more information, visit