By David Hennessey, MSDC President
June 2021 Letter
For the last several days, I have heard the low hum of cicadas when out walking the dog. Before today I had not actually seen any -- only heard them. But today there was one on my driveway. Smaller than I remember, but those big red eyes are just creepy. I understand they won’t bite me or eat up the plants in the yard, but they are still just creepy. I know it is going to be getting much worse soon. At this point I’ve only seen the one, but millions of this guy’s buddies will be showing up soon. I actually think it won’t be too bad right where I live. My home is less than 17 years old and I’m hoping that the building of homes and roads in my neighborhood 15 years ago may have knocked out a lot of individuals in their infancy.
My most vivid memory of cicadas 17 years ago is actually from the mineral show held at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. The Goucher College campus has a lot of beautiful old trees and the show itself was held mostly outside in large open courtyard which also had a number of trees. Dealers, who were mostly just other collectors, paid a small fee for table space around the interior perimeter of the courtyard. It was great: you set up, checked out what others had to offer, and de-accessed things from your own collection, all the while praying that it would not rain since we were out in the open. It didn’t rain that year, but with all the old growth trees, the place was absolutely teeming with cicadas who were on the move, flying about, and looking for romance.
Besides the cicadas, I remember that year getting a really nice wire gold specimen from the Olinghouse Mine in Washoe County, Nevada. The dealer who sold it to me was fascinated with the cicadas. He indicated they are edible and full of fiber and protein. He said he would eat one if anyone would give him five dollars. Yuck. I am glad to report that nobody took him up on the offer. Shoot, when I was a kid, you could get another kid to eat a bug for just 25 cents. Inflation, I guess.
Cicadas have been around for at least 44 million years, as the photo to the left can attest. By my calculations, 44 million divided by 17, that's 2,588,235 generations ago. The date on the fossil description reminds me of the old joke about the museum docent telling a visitor the fossil they were looking at was 25 million and 2 years old. The visitor asked "how can you date it so precisely" and the docent explained that a professional paleontologist had examined and said it was 25 million years old, and that was 2 years ago.
The June meeting is our last meeting until September. I hope everyone has a happy summer of mineral collecting and my fingers are crossed that we can get actually get back to meeting at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in September. In the meantime, look out for the cicadas and if you decide to eat one, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.
In keeping with our presentation this month, please review your collections for native coppers and other associated minerals from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, also known as Copper Country. No coppers, no problem. We would also enjoy seeing any other minerals you wish to share with the group. If you find it interesting, we will enjoy seeing and hearing about it at our meeting on June 2nd.