click to enlarge Make the best of cicadas
PHOTO COURTESY SPRINGFIELD PARK DISTRICT
Henson Robinson Zoo is planning some cicada-themed events including a barbecue on May 31 and a Cicada Shell Hunt on June 7.

They're coming! If the idea of our region's massive cicada emergence gives you the creeps, you aren't alone. I am definitely (ahem) bugged at the thought of so many airborne crawlies, but I am doing my best to put on a brave face. Since the only way out is through, why not turn up the dial on some fun cicada-themed activities in order to make this summer memorable?

Why not infuse some buggy fun into your upcoming end-of-school and graduation parties by incorporating cicada-themed snacks? No, I'm not talking about literally eating cicadas (that is altogether another topic), rather, going back into the recipe archives for some old-fashioned summer treats. Marshmallow-mint grasshopper pie comes to mind, as does nostalgic bug-juice fruit punch. Other faves are ants on a log, and classic chocolate pudding (mud) with crushed Oreo cookies (dirt), completed by the requisite gummy worm topping. Or, even better, top your mud and dirt with a medjool date to resemble a cicada. Broken pretzel pieces can serve as legs. Be sure to add five miniature chocolate chips to represent the cicada's five bulging eyes.

If you have kids at home (or are just a kid at heart), there are all sorts of fun and educational ways to commemorate this summer's once-in-a-lifetime emergence. Before the cicadas start chirping, take to your backyard or a local park to be a cicada detective. You can search the ground for holes beneath trees (cicadas especially like oak trees) and try to predict when the insects will start chorusing. It takes about a week for cicadas to emerge and settle before they start chirping.

National Geographic magazine suggests that once the bugs do begin chorusing, you and your family and friends might see just how loud the bugs are with a sound wave experiment. Tightly stretch plastic wrap atop a bowl and attach it with a rubber band. Then crumple up some pieces of tissue paper on top of the wrap. Take the entire contraption outside and set it on the ground by a cluster of chirping cicadas. The sound waves from the cicadas should cause the tissue paper balls to jump and move.

The greater Springfield community will also be getting in on the fun. It is worth following Visit Springfield on social media if you don't already – more events will be shared there as the cicadas begin their ascent.

At the time of this printing, Lincoln Memorial Garden is hosting Cicada Saturday on Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. Cicada Saturday will feature educational content and a Q&A session with University of Illinois entomologist Dr. Kacie Athey, as well as bug-themed games and crafts. Bring your own snacks and drinks and stay through the evening to enjoy the sounds of the cicadas in community at LMG.

Henson Robinson Zoo is also planning some cicada-themed events, including a barbecue (again, not eating the bugs) on May 31, and a Cicada Shell Hunt on Friday, June 7, from 5-8 p.m. Come to the zoo to hunt for cicada shells and then bring them back to the classrooms on campus to make crafts.

Starting now and all throughout the emergence, Visit Springfield will give away cicada silver bracelet charms to adult visitors and cicada coloring sheets and crayons to youth visitors at the Visitors Center at 1 S. Old State Capitol Plaza.

Happy bug-watching!

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer living in Springfield. She's going to try her best to get a kick out of these cicadas, but you might still find her indoors.

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