KEMPTON, Ill., (WCIA) — If you enjoy spending your summer nights outside, you’ve probably heard the cicadas. Now, students in Central Illinois are trying to save one type of cicada– the prairie cicada. 

Scott Saffer, the Tri-Point Elementary science teacher, said there used to be 297,000 acres of prairie in Ford County. Now, there are 5-6 acres of prairie. 

Five of his students are working in the space that’s left. It’s behind their school in Kempton. They’ve rescued prairie cicadas from Paxton and Buckley where the insects were close to invasive species and railroad tracks. Those prairie cicadas now live behind Tri-Point. 

“There are very select places where you have to look to get these cicadas at this point,” Matthew Huisman, one of the facilitators, said. “Because they require prairies that have been undisturbed totally and that’s just a few and far between these days.”

The prairie behind the school has been there for nearly 50 years. This is the first time cicadas are being protected there. Prairie cicadas are different than tree cicadas you see more often. 

“They have this nice, beautiful, golden, orange color to their backs with black and white spots. They’re very distinct,” Huisman said. 

Pheobe Davies found one of the female cicadas near Buckley. She knew it was a female because of its body. The females are important to bring back to their site. 

“We brought that one back, put her on a plant here in the enclosure. Immediately started laying eggs,” Saffer said. 

Trace Rogers, one of the students, said he likes the hands-on activity. 

“It’s something that you can do that will last hundreds, if not thousands of years, if someone keeps it up and passes it down the line,” he said. 

The students are eager to keep it going. Mitch Woods said he has learned so much. 

“The males have the two orange-yellowish drums on their stomachs, which are called tymbals. It’s pretty cool because I didn’t know that until I met up with Mr. Saffer,” Woods said. 

Saffer said that was one of his goals. 

“I want those kids to realize in their backyard, there are amazing things here,” Saffer said. 

The students are hoping to publish their groundbreaking research. It will be presented at a conference in the future. They are the co-authors and Saffer said it gives them a great experience with scientific writing.