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Cicada Skeletons: One Person's 'Gross!' Is Another's Pinterest Board

By Patty Wetli | September 7, 2017 5:37am | Updated on September 15, 2017 10:48am
 Cicada Shells
Cicada Shells
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LINCOLN SQUARE — It's time to rethink cicada shells, those ghostly exoskeletal remains seen frozen mid-crawl on tree trunks, clinging lifelessly to buildings or haunting the undersides of foliage.

Our instinct has always been to recoil in disgust with a "Gross!" or an "Eek!," but creative types are no such namby-pambys. Where we see the sloughed off skin of an insect that's spent years underground stewing in its own "anal fluids," they see the potential for earrings or sculpture.

Let's hand it to these folks for coming up with clever ways to reuse nature's cast-offs. It's not like the insect world is brimming with second-hand stores where cicadas can drop off their gently used moltings for resale.

We're particularly impressed with the person who took a bunch of hollowed out carcasses (technical term, exuviae) and fashioned them into a reasonable facsimile of Godzilla that's simultaneously ingenious and the stuff of nightmares (see below, if you dare).

Stumped for inspiration of your own? Pinterest has loads of ideas.

Lacking the raw materials? Etsy to the rescue, with shells for sale.

Curious about where the shells come from in the first place? For that we turn to our newfound friends at the Cicada Mania website:

When cicada eggs hatch, the baby bugs burrow underground, where they feed on tree roots until their biological alarm clocks compel them to claw their way to daylight — the subterranean phase can last anywhere from 2 to 17 years.

Nymphs emerge from the soil and begin climbing the nearest solid surface, where they escape their exoskeleton by splitting it down the back. The adult cicadas' wings inflate and skin hardens. Off they go, while their abandoned doppelganger dries in place, a husk of its former self.

Here's where a video's worth 1,000 words.

A cicada shell clinging lifelessly to the underside of a fern frond [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

An adult cicada, after emerging from its exoskeleton. Flickr/Joi Ito]

As if Godzilla weren't scary enough, here's one made from cicada shells. [Screenshot]

Make a fashion statement. [Etsy]

One person's creepy is another's Pinterest board. [Pinterest]