What To Know About Eating Cicadas As Trillions of Brood X Bugs Set To Emerge in U.S.

Trillions of insects known as cicadas are set to spring to life after 17 years living underground across the U.S. from next month, but the phenomenon won't just be a chance to see a rare sight—it's an opportunity to enjoy a rare snack.

Biologists who have studied cicadas say they are not only safe to eat—but may actually taste quite nice when dipped in chocolate, made into a stir fry, cooked into a pizza, added to some fresh banana bread, or perhaps a rhubarb pie.

It's no April Fools' Day joke. Some of those specific recipes can be found in a cookbook focused on the species released in 2004, known as Cicada-licious.

That year was the last time a tsunami of periodical cicadas, collectively known as Brood X, took flight in the U.S. This year, the brood will surface from the ground between May and June, although the first signs of their appearance could be seen in April.

Considering trying out the delicacy? If so, Jenna Jadin, a Ph.D. evolutionary biologist and author of Cicada-licious, told Newsweek there are key things to know before eating the bugs, and gave some handy tips about the best ways you can cook the insects.

Can you eat the Brood X cicadas?

"Absolutely. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you eat them. Depending on where they lived for the past 17 years, they may have absorbed lots of chemicals.

"If they emerge from your yard and you put fertilizer or pesticide on your yard, or on your trees they may be feeding from, it is entirely possible that they could have absorbed some of these chemicals. If you eat them, you want to ensure they are 'organic.'

"As populations grow, suburbs expand, and as we pave the country over with more roads, stadiums, parking lots, etc, cicada habitat disappears. While they are still very plentiful, one must keep in mind that cicadas... are increasingly threatened."

Are they considered healthy?

"That is hard to say. As far as I know, no one has evaluated the caloric value or protein content of the Magicicada species. Generally, insects are considered healthy because they are low carb, high protein and moderate in fat at best.

"Insects are being promoted across America and Europe as a potential protein source of the future, in the developed and developing worlds.

"This is because per hectare/acre of land used to rear them, they contain more protein than the amount of, say, beef, that could be grown on the same plot of land.

"Insects have long been eaten in the developing world, and now, organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have been promoting them as a way to make nutrient-packed food for children in places with food insecurity. However, I am talking about insects generally—usually crickets, mealworms, and silkworm grubs are most commonly used for such applications. But, it is likely that cicadas—the grubs specifically, females in particular—have a similar nutritional profile to other insects."

How is best to cook the cicadas?

"Dipped in chocolate, or fried, of course! Just like all foods, the best way to cook them is in whatever you find most tasty. Personally, I really enjoyed them fried and placed on top of peanut soup (a chef in Virginia made them for me this way on an episode of Bizarre Foods), and I also really like to candy them like pralines. Also, really, if you dry the grubs on an oven before you eat them they can replace nuts in a lot of recipes."


Michael Raupp, Professor of Entomology and Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland, previously told Newsweek he too had eaten the insects in the past.

"Humans, including me, will eat cicadas, however, if one is allergic to shrimp or prawns, please don't eat cicadas as their cuticle may contain the same allergen as is found in the exoskeleton of shrimp or prawns," the professor said via email in last month.

How do you catch them?

The question of how to get your hands on the insects was previously answered in the Cicada-licious cookbook, which has since been published online in a PDF format and contains a wide variety of recipes based around the periodical species.

It says: "It is best to collect these in the very early hours of the morning, just after they have emerged, but before they have time to climb up out of reach. The best way to do this is to simply go outside with a brown paper bag and starting scooping them in."

Brood X cicadas
A newly emerged adult cicada suns itself on a leaf May 16, 2004 in Reston, Virginia. After 17-years living below ground, billions of cicadas belonging to Brood X will emerge across much of the eastern United States. The cicadas shed their larval skin, spread their wings, and fly out to mate, making a tremendous noise in the process. Richard Ellis/Getty Images