Monday, April 19, 2004

Cicadas: Few can forget invasion of '87



By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

They'll be here in no time at all: 5 billion 17-year cicadas buzzin' and hummin' all over the place. Look for them to emerge from Cincinnati's underground sometime between May 17 and 21.

Those who were here for their last emergence in 1987 remember. If not, here are a few memories pulled from Enquirer archives . . .

• Early in the 1987 invasion, hardware and fabric stores were reporting runs on cheesecloth. One Hader Hardware reported 24 people cleaned them out of the stuff the morning of May 11, 1987 - before the actual emergence.

• In mid-May, Courtney Vetter threw fiance Philip Helgson a cicada-themed birthday party. Guests wore wings made from pantyhose stretched over wire or cardboard and hats with wire antennae attached. They buzzed around a bathtub full of iced beer.

• ABC News, two cable channels and at least two international film crews, including a BBC crew sent by author David Attenborough, spent several days here documenting the invasion. Attenborough's footage ran in 1990 as part of his Trials of Life series.

• Mayor Charlie Luken (in his first term as mayor) proclaimed June 2, 1987, "Squash 'em Day."

• Although cicadas are harmless, Children's Hospital Medical Center treated several cicada-related injuries - the 13-year-old who swung a bat at one and missed but connected with his friend's face; the 8-year-old who opened his mouth and caught one in the back of the throat; the 9-year-old who tried to squash one under a moving car and didn't get his hand out in time.

• On June 5 the Enquirer published a recipe for Stir-Fry Cicadas: Dump into hot vegetable oil (in this order) and stir-fry: Minced onion until translucent, minced coriander and ginger root until softened, carrot slices, cauliflower florets, snow peas and bean sprouts; blanched teneral cicadas (teneral refers to the newly molted cicadas early in the season). Stir vigorously and serve over rice.

• At least two urban legends sprang up around the last invasion. In one, a cicada bored into a child's arm to lay its eggs. In another, a "weird lady" baked a cicada pie and sent it to school with her child.

• Local singer Tom Walker made a few bucks marketing a royal blue "1987 MidWest Cicada Tour" T-shirt.

• At a much earlier invasion (June 2, 1902) The Enquirer reported on a social event where George Brochat and Paul Atland served a "locust pie feast" to a group of about 20 guests. The story included a recipe for cicadas cooked in a milk stew with butter.

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E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com




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