All the buzz: Cicadas crash weddings, drive sales during emergence

Not a fan of cicada Brood XIII, which has emerged after 17 years of slumber?

Look at it from the perspective of The Morton Arboretum’s gift shop, where cicada merch is just … flying off the shelves.

While some may view the red-eyed, four-winged chorus as noisy pests, they’re an economic boomlet for some businesses.

A customer looks over a cicada shirt at The Morton Arboretum’s gift shop in Lisle. Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

Initially, “we weren’t sure what people’s reactions would be — if they would come to see them or stay away,” said Jacque Fucilla, manager of The Arboretum Store.

But she stocked up with cicada-themed books, mugs, hats, T-shirts, jewelry plus other items.

Turns out, scores of visitors are traveling to the Lisle institution from multiple countries, including Canada and Germany, and other states like New York and the Carolinas for the emergence, which began in May.

In addition to the 17-year cohort, 13-year cicadas (Brood XIX) also are emerging, for an extremely rare convergence.

“I compare it to the (April 8) solar eclipse. Those things only happen once in a blue moon,” Fucilla said.

  Handcrafted leather coin purses were one of the many variations of cicada merchandise available at The Morton Arboretum gift shop Thursday in Lisle. Brian Hill/

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in sales. We have our display right up front. We ordered what we thought was a lot but we’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the demand.”

As of last week, the shop had sold almost 600 T-shirts, 150 pairs of earrings, 875 stickers and more than 600 books, Fucilla said. “It’s been a lot of merchandise moving through the store.”

Some visitors have even shown up in full cicada costumes. “It’s been a fun blip on our radar this summer,” she added.

Local nurseries also are experiencing ripple effects.

Lurvey Garden Center “sold over 1,000 cicada nettings until our supplier ran out,” Plant Health/Install Manager Paul Hacholski said.

Overall, “the store is up from last years’ numbers in plants — annuals, perennials, ornamental trees, shrubs,” he noted.

Lurvey is “so diverse in what we sell besides plants — furniture, gifts, containers, pavers and stone, hardgoods. Cicadas had no effect on these,” he noted. “Did some customers wait on purchases? I am sure they did, but now we will have more sales this summer.”

Restaurants and venues with outdoor dining might seem to be ones most affected by cicadas, but it depends where the bugs hang out.

In downtown Arlington Heights, business is booming at Cortland’s Garage Tavern & Grill, which has a popular patio, and “cicadas are not a thing,” owner Brian Roginski said.

“We barely see any of them,” likely because a number of older trees had to be cut down due to the emerald ash borer, he said.

Back at The Morton Arboretum, it’s cicada central.

“Overall, weddings at The Morton Arboretum have been going well amid the cicadas,” arboretum Private Event Manager Margaret Martin said.

“The cicadas were very loud and prevalent (June 7), but everything went fine, and our staff used a blower to clear off the patio at the Thornhill Education Center building,” Martin said. “Thus far, our team has received only one wedding request to move indoors. The cicadas seem to be less active at night, which has been great for the wedding events.

“A few cicadas have made their way onto brides’ dresses during ceremonies, but nobody has been upset, and it seems that the cicadas are being viewed as a novelty. Many guests do not have cicadas where they live and guests from the city are also really interested in them,” she explained. “One wedding client provided little cicada figurines on her tables with her centerpieces, and guests really liked them.”

  Linda Kurtz, floor lead at The Morton Arboretum’s gift shop, displays some cicada merchandise Thursday in Lisle. Brian Hill/
  Everything from cicada earrings, (shown), to key chains, T-shirts, books and other merchandise are available at The Morton Arboretum gift shop in Lisle. Brian Hill/
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