Cicada jewelry

Two high-school crafters on Cape Cod, Katheryn Maloney and Brady Cullinan, are making jewelry out of the ubiquitous remains of the local 17-year cicadas, who did their thing this year:

Yesterday, amid the tents of baked goods and vegetables at the Sandwich Farmers Market at Oakcrest Cove Field off Quaker Meetinghouse Road, their table featured earrings and necklaces made with colored beads, sea glass and dead bugs.

The business partners, both 17, residents of Sandwich and seniors at Sandwich High School, crafted the dainty pieces from the bodies of the insects that have covered areas of the Cape this summer for the first time in 17 years.

(Thanks, Andrew!)

(Image ganked from Cape Cod Times/Merrily Lunsford -- original here)


  1. Nope, no thinks. I think cicadas are fascinating but I don’t want them hanging from my ear lobes, thanks.

  2. Ok I searched but found nothing…. 20 years ago or so (damn I’m getting old) in los mercados in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico they sold cockroaches — still alive — with little chains glued to them, with a pin at the other end of the chain. It was jewelry for women to wear. I was a kid at the time. I’ll have to ask my mom more about this — it wasn’t just a single vendor, it was a slew of them — all competing for sales in the live cockroach jewelry market. My guess is it stems from some Mayan practice.

  3. I was a teenager in the DC area during Brood X’s reign in the mid-eighties. (The birds ate REALLY well that summer, as did the spiders.) I went into that summer being a bugphobe. The cicada invasion cured me by forcible immersion.

    Still, however pretty their wings are, I couldn’t bring myself to wear these. It would freak me out.

  4. I’m all in favor of cool and quirky but I’m gonna have to go with ICK on this one.
    I dunno about cockroaches on chains but I’ve heard of beetles on chains – ones with pretty green or blue shells. Maybe in Brazil?

  5. And in Genoa, ’tis now the fashion to pin a live frog to the shoulder-braid, stand on a bucket, and go ‘Bibble’ at passers-by.

  6. #5/#6: Wow, Jimbuck. That’s an awesome story. Made me shudder a little though. It’s truly amazing what humans are able to think up.

  7. The little girls in my neighborhood all collected cicada wings for me (not because I wanted them but because they thought the wings would go well in my artwork.) Now I have a teacup full of cicada wings.

  8. I live on Cape Cod, in Sandwich, and actually ON Quaker Meetinghouse Rd. Keep in mind that Otis AFB is right next door, where there’s thousands of acres of woodland and free-grown meadow. Cicadas are not something to be embraced!

    … Or worn on the ears.

  9. Hey Zyklon – I just moved from Sandwich to Plymouth… I lived just off of Quaker Meetinghouse Road, too (on Samoset). For the past few weeks when I’ve driven back onto the Cape, the cicadas have been zooming all over the highway, smashing into radiators and windshields. I think they’re neat creatures, but bloody loud as hell. They have little red beady eyes!

  10. Cicadas were a popular design motif for jewelry back in the 1920’s. Those pins, however, were made of other materials like silver or celluloid, not actual insects.

    I don’t find the wings icky at all, but perhaps a bit fragile. I’ll bet most of the posters who feel skeeved out by these earrings, think nothing of drizzling honey on their toast, and what is honey but evaporated bee vomit? (Well, okay, not exactly, but close enough in this context.)

    Many different caddisfly nymphs of make handsome cases out of twigs or leaves or mineral material depending on the taxa. The cases are gorgeous. If you photographed them and enlarged them and hung them on the wall of an art gallery, folks would be convinced they were the work of a human artist.

    Some human artists have collaborated with the nymphs by raising them aquaria and offering them fragments of semi precious and even precious stones for their cases. The resulting cases are striking and pretty sturdy, but are often sealed before being made into jewelry.

    As caddisfly nymphs make a different case to pupate, they don’t suffer the fate of silkworms. The cases can be harvested after the nymphs have finished with them.

    Here’s what a quick Google turned up for me:

    And this one I rather covet, it sports a little silver nymph emerging from the case:

    Ain’t insects cool?

  11. I’m surprised nobody has made any comment about the cicada’s themselves, also known as Magicicadas. or 17 year cicadas.

    This is a creature which has a mating cycle that takes over 17 years to complete. It spends almost its entire lifespan dormant and underground, before having one crazy summer of passion, laying its eggs, and expiring by the hundreds within a few weeks.

    It has featured in one or two television programs as well, particularly on Animal Planet.

    I have to hand it to these students. Novelties don’t come much more novel than this.

  12. OK, I think they’re icky, but I’m struck with admiration of these young entrepreneurs (did I spell that right?). I bet they sell a lot of them to their fellow 17-year-olds. It’s an age badge!

    I am torn between finding dead bugs icky and simultaneously thinking the idea is really, really cool.

  13. what would work to solidify the wings enough to make a “scale mail” gown? Cyano glue? clear epoxy?

  14. These girls are getting HATE MAIL from some old bat!
    I live on the Cape and read this in the Cape Cod Times today at lunch!

    Making jewelry of bugs is not to be celebrated
    July 11, 2008

    I was appalled to read about the two young people in Sandwich who are selling jewelry designed using dead cicadas (“Wing bling,” July 9). Why don’t you feature articles where young people are doing something constructive to save our precious environment, like cleaning the beaches, or just plain leaving all the insects and shellfish alone?

    Penny Scott

    West Barnstable

    Here’s the Link, yo:

  15. That old bat on the cape needs some educatin’. Adult cicadas have no mouths (and yet they scream). They reproduce, then die.

    Or is she frettin’ about desecratin’ their little dead bodies?

    And she hates shell collectors too? Poo on her!

  16. Joanna,

    Those are lovely and the ones I had remembered, but failed to turn up when I googled.

    Honestly the natural ones made of quartz and garnet sand are as lovely as anything.

    And I goofed. They aren’t nymphs. Immature mayflies and dragonflies are nymphs. They don’t do the all-at -once metamorphosis thing, they transition to adulthood gradually, over a series of moults, or “instars”. But caddisflies do pupate, hence they are not nymphs when immature, but larval beasties.

  17. Cicadas are noisy. We live right up against a forest. I hope they appreciate only having them once every 17 years, rather than every damn summer. Although, it was always fun watching our cat and dog catching the noisy, dopey things. I guess they make a nice snack, except for the wings, which I sometimes found vomited-up.

  18. There are many fiction writers here right? What would human society be like if we lived like cicadas? Live 30 years. Mate. Die. All in sync. It’ll be kind of difficult to build a society when each generation has no physical contact with the previous one. What if civilization was already preexisting, and this pattern appears later?

  19. There are different species of cicada. Not all are on the 17 year cycle.

    Insects that take more than one year to complete their lifecycle are called semivoltine (one year = univoltine, those that can complete more than one lifecycle per year are multivoltine, etc…).

    Cicadas aren’t the only semvoltine insects, though they are the most spectacular example in temperate climates, not simply because some have mass emergences, but also because they are so noisy you can’t ignore them.

    There are arctic caterpillars that take a dozen-plus years to get around to becoming moths. As a rule, the animals living in colder climates are more likely to need a longer period to reach maturity than those in warmer climates. Tropical insects are more likely to be multivoltine.

    Even with the semivoltine species that take many years to reach maturity, it is not a matter of there being none around on a given year. There are overlapping broods or cohorts.

    But shortly after the nymphs emerge as adults, they will die. Like I said before, they have no mouths, they cannot eat. Theirs is but to mate, oviposit and die.

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