Museum Visits

by Carl Strang

Planning for the coming singing insects field season has been one of my major occupations this winter. I am looking forward to visiting many new sites, and hope to find some of the species that historically occurred in the Chicago region but which have eluded me so far. Part of that process has been to visit insect collections, gaining information on those species and taking photographs that will help me recognize them.

While at the Purdue University and Illinois Natural History Survey collections, the two museums I have visited so far, I also photographed specimens of species that I have heard but not yet photographed in the field. This will enhance next year’s edition of the guide.

The northern mole cricket is one of those species. This front-end view shows why that cricket is well named.

A note on one specimen said it was collected while flying around in someone’s garage. I had not been aware that northern mole crickets can fly.

Another plan for the upcoming guide is to add pages for the species that have been documented in the Chicago region, but which I have not yet found. Researching those species is getting me better prepared to find them.

There is a Kankakee County record for the common virtuoso katydid, in or near the Illinois Kankakee Sands preserve. That is one species I will be seeking this year.

Walker’s cicada has been collected in a few locations around the region. I need to be alert for its distinctive song in the coming season.

The coral-winged grasshopper will be one of the earliest species for me to seek this spring. They overwinter as nymphs, and have been found mainly in May in past years. I have several locations to check.

The large spots on the sides of the wings, along with the golden wing edges and brightly colored hind wings, are distinguishing features of coral-winged grasshoppers.

Female delicate meadow katydids have unusually long ovipositors. This example will help me distinguish them from green-faced individuals of the dusky-faced meadow katydid. I have not given up hope for the delicate meadow katydid in the region.

Another species I still hope to find is the slender conehead. This one, collected at Illinois Beach State Park in 1906, shows the main distinguishing features of that wetland species: the front of the cone is all black, and there is a right-angle bend in the contour of the pronotum’s posterior edge.

All of this is getting me fired up, but I still have two months to wait. Maybe another museum visit is in order…



  1. March 26, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Carl–I was just passed a copy of your “Singing Insects of the Chicago Region” and it looks marvelous.

    Interestingly, if you went one more county down, you’d pick up another periodical cicada species, M. tredecassini, which is found in Iroquois County, at Chebanse, just shy of Kankakee. Most people don’t realize how far north the 13-year cicadas come in Illinois.

    The UMMZ “Michigan Cicadas” site is no longer maintained or updated. All the content and new material is now on

    • natureinquiries said,

      May 1, 2017 at 5:53 am

      Thanks, John, the work by you and your group is impressive, and the story of the periodical cicadas continues to grow and amaze.

  2. Kathy Olson said,

    April 26, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    I found a museum at the Benedictine University in Lisle, IL. They had tons of bugs and other preserved animals in the museum from the old days. They even had passenger pigeons and a huge whale skeleton. the museum hard to find as the signs are not really marked but is in the science building. It is amazing to me.

    • natureinquiries said,

      May 1, 2017 at 5:51 am

      I agree, that little museum is a gem and well worth visiting.

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