Cicada Invasion Vacation

We found terrific coffee within walking distance of our temporary lodgings in Chicago this past week and the first few days greeted us with mid-70s (Fahrenheit) weather, clear skies and low humidity.

Unlike Portland, which is often in the 60s in summer mornings, our Chicago search for coffee and breakfast begs for shorts and sleeveless tops, with temperatures in the low 70s at 7 a.m.

We stay close to Palmer Park in the northern berg of Logan Square, where we walk to daily, often with a 20-month-old toddler in tow, whose current expertise is climbing.

When we return to the park in the afternoon, our skin toasted and brows sweaty, we hear the the strum and buzz of the cicadas.

The sound is penetrating but not super loud, and even…comforting.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, the buzz waxes and wanes, depending on the heat, the wind and the clouds.

The wee insects remind us that—like Dorothy—we are back in the Mid-West.

The bugs inhabit the middle and Eastern United States on a schedule Rip Van Winkle would (literally) welcome—13 or 17-year cycles.

I learned that the critters (called nymphs) burrow into the soil for years until they are called to the surface to mate, lay eggs (females), and then die.

Although we couldn’t make out individual bugs in the trees, we found carcasses on the ground.

Mary Annette Pember notes that Native Americans included cicadas in their diets.

Pember’s Indian Country Today article—Cicadas: The other white meat—recalls settlers and soldiers drove the Onondaga from their homes in the East, and they staved off hunger by eating cicadas.

The Illinois “brood” has coloring that ranges from honey to black, and they fit into the palm of a fifth grader—maybe two-inches long.

We couldn’t see the wing-spread of the carcasses: the ghosts we found had their wings folded around their bodies.

Their wings are delicate yet strong, and I will have to use my imagination to render my next lino-art project: a cicada (Magicicada) in flight. ###

22 August 2021

Today’s blog is dedicated to my family and friends who call Chicago home, and acknowledges the original inhabitants: The Potawatomi, Odawa, Sauk, Ojibwe, Illinois, Kickapoo (Kiikaapoi), Miami (Myaamia), Mascouten, Wea, Delaware, Winnebago, Menominee, and Mesquakie peoples.

Image from the Anderson Design Group Store















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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