Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Eat ’em! (Cicada Recipes)

Most experts agree that cicadas are a rich source of protein with about the same amount per pound as red meat. Cicadas are also said to be full of vitamins and minerals, low in fat, and they have zero carbs. So why aren’t more people eating them? Maybe because the thought of eating a bug makes you dry-heave!? But if you think about it, shrimp and crawfish are pretty much cicadas without wings. In fact, crawfish, lobster, crabs, shrimp, and insects are all part of the same biological phylum of arthropods.

Brave (or crazy folks) say cicadas are crispy and crunchy, with a nutty, almondlike, flavor. Iroquois indians have a long history of eating cicadas and considered them to be a delicacy.

The best time to eat cicadas is just after the nymphs break open their skin and before the exoskeleton turns hard. They are best harvested in the cool of the morning when the insects are more sluggish. Experienced gatherers focus on the adult females, each of which can contain up to 600 nutritious eggs.
Males tend to have hollow abdomens in order to help them make the cicada sound, and are better as a crunchy snack, like popcorn.

Cicadas can be cooked in a large frying pan in a way similar to popcorn. The taste is similar to the "crispy edges of the egg white of a fried egg." A popular way to prepare cicadas is to saute them in butter with crushed garlic and basil. Before you start your cooking you need to remove all the hard parts: wings, legs and head. These parts don’t contain much of the meat either but may be very sharp, so its best to get rid of them.

Cicadas can also be dry-roasted on a stick like a marshmallow over a fire. Other popular cicada recipes include Cicada Stir-Fry and Cicada Dumplings. Deep fried cicadas taste best when eaten with hot mustard or cocktail sauce. (Any sauce used for lobster should also work well to garnish cicadas.) Cicadas can also be roasted, which tends to give them a "nutty", or almondlike, flavor.
Cicada Tacos:

Ingredients: two tablespoons butter or peanut oil, one and a half pound of cicadas, one teaspoon of chili powder, one tomato, finely chopped, one onion, finely chopped, one and a half table spoon ground pepper, one and a half table spoon cumin, three table spoon taco seasoning mix, one handful cilantro, chopped, Taco shells, Sour cream, Shredded cheddar cheese, Shredded lettuce.

Cooking instructions:
1. Heat the butter or oil in a frying pan and fry the cicadas for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
2. Remove from pan and roughly chop into 1/4-inch cubes/ Place back in pan.
3. Add the chopped onions, chilies and tomato, season with salt, and fry for another 5 minutes on medium-low heat.
4. Sprinkle with ground pepper, cumin and oregano to taste.
5. Serve in taco shells and garnish with cilantro, sour cream, lettuce and cheddar cheese. 

Click here for another recipe from

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

FAQs About Cicadas

You may be starting to hear folks talk about the impending cicada invasion. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about periodic cicadas...

Q: How long will the cicadas be here?
A: About 4-6 weeks after they first start emerging. Most individual cicadas live only a few weeks, but since they emerge over a period of two weeks or so the whole event lasts longer. The serious noise will get going about a week and half after you first notice them and will last about two weeks more. (This is about the time when some people pack up and move to another country.) This chart shows the emerging schedule of the last great outbreak in the USA.

Q: Can these cicadas hurt me?
A: No. Cicadas don't bite or sting defensively, and they are not toxic or poisonous. But they can make you do a hilarious freak-out dance if they crawl up your neck.

Q: How loud are periodical cicadas?
A: Some of the louder choruses reach 90+ decibels as perceived while standing under the tree. Individual periodical cicadas are actually not that loud, but get a group together singing one of their favorite songs, and it rivals an AC/DC concert.

Q: Why do I hear cicadas every year?
A: There are 150 or so species of cicada in the U.S. (including species of Okanagana, Diceroprocta, Cicadetta, Neocicada, Cacama, Okanagodes, Magicicada, etc.). Only the seven Magicicada species have synchronized development and periodical emergences (meaning that all individuals in a population are always the same age). The rest of the species (the so-called annual cicadas) have unsynchronized development, so some individuals mature in every year and we hear them every summer. Most of the cicadas in Nashville are very immature, judging by their behavior.

Q: Will cicadas chew up my plants?
A: No, cicadas do not chew -- they have no chewing mouthparts, and they feed (drink, really) more like aphids. Adult and nymphal cicadas feed on plant sap called xylem - the watery part of the plant sap - which they suck up through their proboscis (feeding tube). Feeding by periodical cicadas does not seem to affect trees and shrubs very much because they take only a small fraction of the water passing through. This outbreak, known as the Great Southern Brood has been known to chew tobacco. They prefer Skoal Bandit.

Q: Will cicadas hurt my flowers?
A: Probably not, cicadas have little interest in these plants (except if any are woody). You may see teneral (newly emerged) cicadas sitting on such plants, or emerging on them, but they will soon move up into the trees. When they invade a tree, the females will cut slits into small branches to deposit eggs. These small branches will probably die, but the tree will survive (unless you use a flame thrower to silence the 20,000+ cicadas in each tree.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When Cicadas Invade Your Yard

Some time in late April or early May when the soil temperature reaches 67 degrees, a red-eyed swarm of swarm of cicadas will creep from underground, climb trees, emerge from their shells and begin flying and singing at the top of their lungs in an effort to attract a mate. This happens every 13 years—and when it does, the air over much of Middle Tennessee is filled with their ear-splitting mating calls.    

Often confused with locusts, scientists call them Periodical Cicadas, Brood XIX.  These insects are not poisonous.  They don't transmit disease.  They cannot sting and adult cicadas live for only four to five weeks. The adults do not feed on foliage, but the females can cause damage to young trees.

Tips for Tree and Plant Protection:
The female cicada has a knife-like ovipositor that she uses to slit twigs before she lays eggs inside the slits.  Once hatched the young cicadas fall and burrow underground.  Each female can lay a total of 400 to 600 eggs and the multiple punctures pose a threat to young trees by causing twig tips to wilt and die.  Apple, pear, dogwood, oak and hickory are the favorite hosts, but you can see the puncture marks on many tree species. When feasible, small, valuable shrubs and trees may be covered with a loose woven or spun fabric such as cheesecloth or floating row cover for protection.  This covering should be secured at the trunk to prevent infiltration.  Delay pruning young trees until after cicada emergence so damaged branches can be removed.  If pruning is done before eggs hatch, burn the damaged twigs.


The apocalyptic swarm may be unnerving, but it is nothing to worry about. Most trees and shrubs did just fine back in 1998 during the last outbreak of Brood XIX cicadas. Birds, squirrels, spiders, snakes & family pets find the bugs to be very tasty. The bugs that don’t get eaten create piles of rich compost that nourish plants. It’s one of those circle of life things that you just have to endure once every 13 years!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Very Cool (and Informative!) Cicada Videos

Sir David Attenborough's documentary segment on the 17 year cicada. Though the brood that's hitting the mid-south this year is a 13 year group, the principles are all the same.

Another really cool cicada documentary using time-lapse photography.

This vid clearly illustrates the charming chorus we will be putting up with for about a month.