Saturday, May 29, 2004

17 uses for a dead cicada

As the sound and the flurry fade, we're left with dead bugs. Here are 17 things to do with them

By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

So you're up to your eyebrows in loud, proud, partying cicadas. Give it a few weeks and you'll be up to your eyebrows in cicada carcasses, which can last a surprisingly long time. Cicada guru Dr. Gene Kritsky has seen them last a year or two, especially those buried or sheltered from the elements.

Emily Stoker 7, of Anderson Township, poses wearing a necklace she made using cicada exoskeletons from her friend Emily Edgington's back yard in Anderson Township.
(Illustration by Brandi Stafford/
The Cincinnati Enquirer)
To celebrate Brood X's eventual demise, here are 17 uses (one for each year until they come back) for a dead cicada:

1) Bait. They're free. They're plentiful. They freeze well. But we're begging you: Label the container in BIG letters.

2) Replacements for the missing markers in the Monopoly game.

3) Mulch. The hard shells, made of a material called chitin, can help block weed growth and hold in moisture. When the cicadas start to decay, they can be used as fertilizer - just like all organic material.

4) Countless crafts projects: A little hot glue, some glitter, some paint, and you've got folk art. We expect a primer from Martha Stewart any day.

5) Unique earrings. Attach to ready-made dangle earring findings, or use a needle and thread to string them into necklaces and belts, too.

6) Cat toys. Just be sure to vacuum under the furniture when playtime ends.

7) Math manipulatives. Help the kids learn counting skills.For instance, if I have 12 cicadas and the cat bats one under the sofa, how many are left?

8) Marking the baselines at Great American Ball Park. (It could shake up the Cubs next time.)

9) Make money. Type in "cicada" or "Brood X" on eBay and you'll find plenty of would-be entrepreneurs selling the bugs. One seller, from Corydon, Ind., sold four dried, unmounted specimens for $21.50. Don't laugh - there were nine bidders. (Note: Make sure the bugs are dead: to ship live bugs, you need a permit from the U.S. Agriculture Department or you're violating the Plant Pest Act of 1957.)

10) Cheap stuffing for cornhole bags. Stuff them in, stitch them up, and start tossing. Just make sure they're dead before you stuff: a bag sneaking off the board could give a player an unfair advantage.

11) Slightly stiff cicadas make excellent replacement birdies for a rousing game of badminton. And if an overzealous player shoots one onto the roof, the game goes on; there are plenty more to take its place.

12) Macrame beads. Work them into your next planter for an earthy touch.

13) Plastic alternative. The aforementioned chitin, the material that makes up the hard outer shell of cicadas, lobsters, cockroaches and other critters, is a structural polysaccharide and could be used as a biodegradable material to make containers that need to last only temporarily, Kritsky says. Sounds like another money-maker to us.

14) Collect some floral foam and branches and make a summer centerpiece for your table. Glue cicadas to plastic picks and pop them in. Watch your dinner guests jump in surprise when they spot them during the appetizer course.

15) Similarly, glue them together to make a wreath for the front door.

16) Decorate your cheap flip-flops by attaching cicadas with hot glue for a customized pair of summer 2004 sandals.

17) Silence. Blessed, lovely, wonderful silence. Multiply the silence generated by one big, dead bug, and you've got pre-cicada Cincinnati.


17 uses for a dead cicada
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