Most years, Sarah Dwyer’s Gaithersburg chocolate business hits a slower period during the summer months. But the arrival of this year’s Brood X cicadas — leading to an unusual confection — have kept her operation buzzing along.
Last month, Dwyer began selling chocolate-covered cicadas for pickup and shipping from her business, Chouquette chocolates. The cicadas are gathered by hand from Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Potomac before being frozen, boiled, air fried and dipped in chocolate.
Choquette has been selling both dark and milk chocolate-covered cicadas by the dozen for $22. Customers can pick up their orders at the Gaithersburg business, or have them shipped. (Chouquette waits to ship until the temperature is less than 80 degrees.)
Dwyer’s new desserts have garnered national media attention, and a few online trolls, she said in an interview on Monday. But the net outcome has been mostly positive.
“Honestly, we are so thankful. Normally we go to part-time after Mother’s Day and we’re working full-time seven days a week,” she said.
“This gave us another two months of people being employed and working overtime. Chocolatiers [normally] look forward to a little bit of a summer time break.”
Dwyer said about a quarter of the cicada orders have been from local residents picking up the treats. Shipping orders, she said, have come in from as far as Belgium and the Philippines.
In the United States, Dwyer said, she’s gotten multiple orders from the Pacific Northwest, and from other states where the cicadas emerge.
“More orders come from the Brood X states,” she said.
Some people are celebrating special occasions, such as their 17th birthday or their 17th wedding anniversary, Dwyer said. The number 17 refers to Brood X cicadas emerging from the ground every 17 years.
Dwyer said one of the hardest parts of selling chocolate-covered cicadas is dealing with people attacking her on social media. Some attacks, she said, have come from animal rights and environmental activists accusing her of animal cruelty.
On Chouquette’s Facebook page, one commenter posted an opinion piece from Michelle Kretzer of the nonprofit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The column, titled “No, people shouldn’t eat cicadas,” argues that people can get their nutrients from other sources without threatening the cicada population.
Dwyer has been taken aback at some of the hateful messages she’s gotten.
“I’m not sure what I have done. … I mean, most scientists want us to eat insects,” she said.
“I was very surprised that it went viral, and surprised how many people were angry about it. But very happy about how many people are trying our chocolates and thinking differently about what they eat.”
Dwyer said she is next planning to sell 16-piece chocolate jigsaw puzzles, but expects to still be selling cicadas until close to the July 4 holiday weekend.
She hopes to have another chocolate-covered cicada sale during the next Brood X cycle — in 2038.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org