People Are Eating Cicadas — And It's Actually Not That Weird

Photo: Liz Albro Photography / Shutterstock 
Cicadas

Brood X cicadas are swarming some Eastern U.S. states after being underground for 17 years, leading some culinary fanatics to make entire meals out of this insect invasion. 

So far, Cicadas have been showing up in Washington, D.C. and several states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, New York and Georgia. Their unusual life cycle means they have just a few weeks to come above ground, mature, find mates, breed and then die. The new eggs will then burrow into the ground and won’t be seen again for over a decade. 

To deal with the sudden inundation of cicadas, some residents in the Eastern states might want to get to work on prepping and eating these insects in the next couple of weeks. 

Is it safe to eat cicadas? 

In the US, eating insects isn’t exactly the most common of snacks. But it’s surprisingly safe to do so, even though most of us would be grossed out at the thought. 

In fact, the only caution the FDA gives to those wanting to eat cicadas is to be aware of their relation to shrimp and lobsters.

Don’t eat these insects if you have a seafood allergy. 

Culturally, insects have been deemed too gross to eat in many Western countries. But, if you think about it, it’s no less bizarre than consuming a cow or its milk. 

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Why are people eating cicadas? 

The sudden interest in cicadas in the US stems from the recent emergence of the insect. However, cicadas and other insects are dietary staples in many other countries. 

Studies show that there are 2,000 known edible insects eaten in around 113 countries. In Latin America, cicadas are commonly consumed. 

Consuming cicadas and other insects is also a tradition closely associated with Native Americans who commonly ate insects until the tradition was eventually denigrated by European settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

However, revived interest in cicadas has been generated as population increases poses an increasing threat to international food supplies. Edible insect offers an attainable, sustainable solution to food scarcity, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Insects provide high levels of protein without taking up too much land for farming or emitting excess carbon emissions during processing and transportation. 

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How do you eat cicadas? 

As a dish, cicadas span cultures and centuries, meaning the preparation options are never-ending. 

Cicadas can be found on tree trunks in the early hours of the morning. After removing any wings or hard outer parts, they can be boiled, blanched, roasted, or fried with added spices to taste. Cicadas can also be refrigerated or frozen prior to cooking. 

On TikTok, users have been getting creative by dousing their cicadas in hot sauce, frying them in tempura batter, or even covering them in chocolate.  

Once you add in enough other flavors it shouldn't be too hard to forget that you’re snacking on something you found on a tree hours ago!

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.