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Dead Pitches: The Curse Of The Christmas Tree Bugs



Every now and then, we like to pull back the curtain and tell you how the show is made. So here's how it goes. Each Wednesday, we have an editorial meeting when our producers and editors pitch story ideas for the show. The ones we like get turned into the pieces that you hear. And the ones that we don't like, well...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Those just die. But - and there is a but - sometimes the ones that don't make the show are the ones we actually really like because, you know, they're odd or they're amusing or the person who pitched it really, really sold it well. Or they're just so bad that they're good. And that's where we are today. So in our randomly reoccurring series of Dead Pitches, we're joined by our producer Olly Dearden.

Hey, Olly.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell everyone what your pitch was.

DEARDEN: Twelfth Night - so this is the twelfth night of Christmas. Christmas is meant to run over 12 days. So Twelfth Night, 6 of January, Epiphany when supposedly the three wise men, the Magi, went and saw the baby Jesus.


DEARDEN: That's Jesus, not Cheesus (ph). And anyway, so that is what it's meant to mean. But also as part of modern Christmasing (ph) that we do with trees and decorations, it's the night you're meant to get rid of all your Christmas decorations because if you keep them up, it's bad luck.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's bad luck.

DEARDEN: Vegetation will not grow. Your crops will not grow, and you'll have a terrible year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You'll be cursed.

DEARDEN: You'll be cursed essentially.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, this is my first week at WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY. And I heard this pitch, and I was like - why? What was the sort of compelling reason here for this?

DEARDEN: Well, I will tell you why it is unbelievably compelling.


DEARDEN: Because I was cursed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You were cursed?

DEARDEN: Yeah, although it hadn't quite hit the 6 of January, I was right - got to get the tree down, don't want to be cursed. But I noticed my 9-month-old baby daughter Dahlia (ph) playing on the floor with things. And then there was one thing she was playing with that was moving. And I was like, what is that?

And I went down, and it was some kind of disgusting creature that had come out of the tree out of hibernation. And then I look around, and they're all over the walls. They're on the ceiling.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What were they?

DEARDEN: So - right. We had to do some investigation. So I got in touch with an entomologist. His name is Mike Saunders and he is from Penn State. And I sent him a photo.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wait, wait - so you have all these bugs in your house...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...And you think, let me take a picture and send it to an entomologist?

DEARDEN: No. Nobody thinks that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's what...

DEARDEN: I didn't do that. I had to get a picture off the internet because I rang up this entomologist and he goes, oh, do you have a picture? I'm like, of course I don't have a picture. What do you think I was doing?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They're dead now.

DEARDEN: Quick, let's take a picture, love. I'm going to queue that for next year. Couldn't get a picture, so I went on the internet and Googled Christmas tree bugs and found a picture of the thing...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's a thing.

DEARDEN: ...Of the thing that most looked like the thing that came out of my tree. Here it is.


DEARDEN: Horrendous.


DEARDEN: It kind of looks like a spider, I suppose.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's disgusting.

DEARDEN: They were - yeah. And they were about the size of an ant or maybe slightly bigger.


DEARDEN: Just disgusting, everywhere. Anyway, Mike emailed me back when I sent him that picture. And he said, this is clearly a hemipteran, or tree bug. They're related to aphids, and they kind of hibernate in trees. When you brought it inside, it was there, you know, curled up for the winter. Because your house is so warm and you watered the tree - not my idea to water a dead tree, people. That was my wife's.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this is a common thing.

DEARDEN: It happens if you're unlucky. It happens.


DEARDEN: Plastic tree next year for the Deardens already.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And this is why we let the pitch die a natural death.

Olly Dearden, thank you so much.

DEARDEN: My pleasure.


HOWLIN' WOLF: (Singing) Well, I ain't superstitious, black cat just crossed my trail. Well, I ain't superstitious, but a black cat just crossed my trail. Don't sweep me with no broom. I might get put in jail. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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