Squeezing a Buck From Cicada Buzz
'Non-Economic Species' Inspires Novelties
By Neil Irwin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page E01
A calm, plain-spoken voice comes on the radio.
"We're here for you, the affected refugee," says Jim Mathias, the mayor of Ocean City, Md. "There is no shame in accepting help from a neighbor."
He is offering refuge from periodical cicadas in the hotels of Ocean City, where he hopes you will plunk down a few bucks on mini-golf. It's a paid advertisement, recorded Monday and soon to be broadcast on local radio stations.
First came the billions of bugs. Now comes the business opportunism.
Coming off years dominated by recession and terrorism and war, the emergence of the cicadas has created a rare opportunity for some local businesses. Now they can profit from a subject that has Washington buzzing, literally and figuratively.
T-shirts about the Washington sniper attacks: offensive. T-shirts about insects that emerge by the billions for a few weeks, only to disappear for another 17 years: a gold mine.
Ask local actor Jason Saffer, who operates a Web site selling "Cicada Couture" T-shirts. He said yesterday that more than a thousand have been sold, at $19.99 each.
Or ask Dennis Ray, managing designer for Rockville-based Nature's Creations Inc. He issued a news release yesterday for "a first in the jewelry world, the Cicada Shell Pin." Ray said he thinks the leftover husks of the insects are oddly beautiful, or "wicked awesome," in his words. He began collecting them off the ground in Georgetown when they started emerging two weeks ago. He dips each in a copper coating, burnishes it to a greenish patina, attaches a pin and charges $36 a pop.
"Each one is different," he said in an interview yesterday. "They're surreal looking. It's a fantastic circle of life phenomenon."
Ray sold the first 20 he made within an hour at an exhibition on the West Coast. Now he's collecting cicada shells as fast as he can; once the emergence ends, so does his supply (200 are now complete).
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Some businesses and entrepreneurs are trying to make money off the periodical cicadas. Products include jewelry, T-shirts and chocolates.
(Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
What's Cooking: washingtonpost.com's Kim O'Donnell talks about her latest cicada delicacy on WTOP.
Fresh Cicadas Served Here: D.C. resident Jacques Tiziou has a taste for cicadas. Watch him as he collects and prepares the young, tender, winged insects for brunch.
Emergence: Watch a cicada emerge from its exoskeleton. This video was taken over a one hour period and speeded up.
Cicada Cam: Want to see the cicadas up close? Take a look at our cam and check them out.
Audio: Cicada Buzz The male cicada vibrates the membranes on the side of its body to attact female cicadas.
Local MP3s: D.C. area artists offer songs inspired by the cicada invasion.
The Day of the Locust: Performed by Anomie Train
Cicadazz: Performed by Peat and Barley.
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Cicadas Are Coming In a few weeks, nymphs will crawl out of the ground. Prepare to welcome Brood X.
Test Your Knowledge Think you know what Brood X is or where the cicadas live? Take our quiz and find out.
Cicada Emergence by the Numbers
Soon, the Deafening Calls To That One in a Gazillion (The Washington Post, May 16, 2004)
Arrival of Vast Bug Brood Lightens Mood in Annapolis (The Washington Post, May 13, 2004)
For Cicadas, Life Is Better in the Burbs (The Washington Post, May 12, 2004)
It's Enough To Drive You Buggy (The Washington Post, May 12, 2004)
CICADA BUZZ (The Washington Post, May 12, 2004)
More on Cicadas