Squeezing a Buck From Cicada Buzz
The cicada isn't good for all businesses. Catering companies that throw big outdoor events and restaurants with outdoor patios have expressed wariness. But the bugs are fundamentally, as an Agriculture Department entomologist put it to Bloomberg News recently, "a non-economic species."
The media's fascination with cicadas is fueling those profiting from their appearance. Ocean City hotels had a tough spring last year, when it rained for much of May and June. Mathias is hoping the cicada pitch will help right things this year. And in case anyone in greater Washington or Baltimore misses the message, he was driving around yesterday delivering it for television news crews.
"We're on the way to do Channel 8 right now," he said via cell phone yesterday afternoon. "That and Channel 13 and Fox 45 in Baltimore."
Saffer's T-shirt operation has been mentioned in The Washington Post and on local television news programs, a key driver of sales.
"There's a lot of bored reporters out there saying, 'What can we say about these stupid things?'" Saffer said.
Others are profiting without such overt salesmanship, at least when they can keep cicada supplies in stock. Phil Tierney, who manages the Strosniders hardware store in Silver Spring, says he is sold out of nets to protect small trees from the cicadas, but about every 15 minutes someone comes in to ask for one anyway. Some people have tried using a sticky product designed to be painted around the tree's trunk to keep critters off.
"But they can fly," Tierney said. "You'd have to basically coat the whole tree."
It's not just small stores. The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Georgetown is making chocolate disks with the shape of a cicada molded onto them. (No cicadas were harmed in the making of these chocolates, general manager Jennifer Brown assures guests.) It started out as a lark, a pillow treat for out-of-town guests wondering why golf-ball-size insects were all over town.
Instead, after dozens of television appearances (Japanese crews have been particularly interested in the story) and newspaper mentions (this is the third in The Post), so many people want the chocolates that the hotel, which started making 160 a day, is now making 1,000 a day and selling them at $15 for a bag of 10.
"One lady called and ordered 200 for her wedding," Brown said. "A schoolteacher asked for 1,000 of them. The funny thing is, I've only seen one actual cicada so far."
J.W. "Bill" Marriott Jr., chairman of Ritz-Carlton parent company Marriott International Corp., praised the hotel's savvy publicity ploy at an event Monday night. But he told a crowd of reporters that he is mystified by what interests them.
"Just wait for my next publicity stunt," Colleen Evans, director of public relations for Ritz-Carlton hotels in Washington, said yesterday. "It'll involve snakeheads."
© 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)
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