As a first-year student, there were many thoughts and considerations that went into preparing for life at Illinois Tech. Amidst all of my planning, one element that I did not account for were the many residents who would also be living on campus with me: the bugs. From ant hills to cicada proliferation, the large insect population on and around campus are a ubiquitous addition to the Illinois Tech community.
Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, I am no stranger to insects. I vividly remember the last major emergence of cicadas back in 2007; however, I did not know that some species of cicadas actually come out annually, albeit in smaller quantities. For a day or so, I did not even realize that the loud noises coming from the trees were anything more than exceptionally loud crickets. It was not until one of my friends from California asked what the sound was coming from that someone pointed out that the screeching noises were actually cicadas. In fact, several of my friends who are from the west coast said that they had barely ever experienced insects before, let alone on this scale and magnitude. One of them later told me, “If someone had told me that the sounds were actually the trees screaming, I would have believed them.” Cicadas use that “screaming” noise as a mating call.
Ants are another creature that both myself and many others have remarked on their size and quantity here at Illinois Tech. When I saw the first Ant-Man movie back in 2015, I remember thinking that the size of the ants on which Scott Lang rode seemed larger and sturdier than the average few-millimeter-thick ants that I was used to seeing. I shrugged it off, possibly as artistic license or as a misjudgment in the size to which Ant-Man shrank down. Coming to Illinois Tech and taking one look at an ant hill near Perlstein Hall made me realize that ants like the iconic Ant-ony (the primary ant that Ant-Man rides in the first movie) do, in fact, exist. Not only that, they are also quite common around campus. According to an online LiveScience article, ants in the city are larger than their suburban and rural counterparts because the city allows them more opportunities for food and shelter, which subsequently allows for significant expansion of their colonies and population.
It is not only the ants that I have noticed are much larger than to what I am accustomed. Spiders and their webs can be found on tables and chairs throughout the outdoor parts of campus. One day, I was sitting at a table in the MSV courtyard. I thought that a yellow marking on one of the tables was simply paint or a stain, that is, until I saw it move. Another time, I went to scratch my arm and found that the cause of the itch was something fluffy and yellow, which I later found out was a caterpillar after instinctively flinging it off of my arm. Flies, mosquitoes, and other common insects also appear in larger quantities than my previous expectations. Other, traditionally more pleasant, insects have also made several appearances. Butterflies are not an uncommon sight when wandering around campus. One night during Welcome Week of this year, one of my friends saw and caught her first lightning bug. It is the little things (and in this case I mean “little” in a literal sense), like that that truly contribute to the overall essence of the first few weeks of my college experience.
As much as I am looking forward to the disappearance of the cacophony of the cicadas in the coming weeks, that also will signal the approaching change of seasons. Winter in Chicago carries its own challenges, but luckily, the insect population is not one of them. During my second day on campus, I went on the shuttle bus trip to the nearby Target. The first thing I sought out and purchased? Bug spray. When pondering the multitude of insectoid inhabitants who I share a place of residence with, I know I will be putting that bug spray to good use.