Brooding Over Cicadas? Just Eat Them. The UN Says So.


“Brood X” Cicadas are making their appearance in a big way this weekend in northern Virginia. They’re a nice, harmless, and (eventually) noisy diversion from our current theater. But just wait – someone will politicize them, too. You know it’s coming.

In a sense, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan already has. He’s declared the months of May and June as “Magicicada Months.” Never missing a chance to promote his state, he notes that the bugs sport the official colors of Maryland.

They’re interesting and pretty harmless, with a tragic lifespan. After munching on tree sap underground for 17 years as slow-growing nymphs, they emerge, molt from their exoskeletons, fly around clumsily, noisily sing in the trees, mate, and die within about 30 or so days. At least the ones that don’t get eaten by birds, dogs, Cicada Killer Wasps, etc. And then their dying carcasses smell up the place.

I remember our first confrontation with them 34 years ago. My wife and I took off on northern Virginia’s Washington and Old Dominion bike trail, made impossible by the hoards of cicadas buzzing from tree to tree across our path and into our faces and hair. We’re ready for their return.

Their strategy for emerging is also interesting. Maryland’s WGMD radio reports:

“Brood X cicadas synchronously emerge in large numbers as part of a predator satiation strategy. By coordinating their emergence, the sheer number of cicadas will allow for many to be eaten by predators while some of the population survives to procreate. Cicada predators include some birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and other insects.”

But the United Nations is promoting that something or someone else become a predator or consumer: You. And it won’t be the first insect you’ve likely consumed. And I’m not talking about the occasional gnats that make their way into your digestive tract on long hot summer bike rides.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization recently published a report on edible insects. National Geographic magazine was downright glowing in its description.

Stinkbugs have an apple flavor, and red agave worms are spicy. A bite of tree worm apparently brings pork rinds to mind.

This information will come in handy for those of us following the latest recommendation from the United Nations: Consume more insects.

report released Monday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reminds us that there are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, hundreds of which are already part of the diet in many countries.

In fact, some two billion people eat a wide variety of insects regularly, both cooked and raw; only in Western countries does the practice retain an “ick” factor among the masses.

Why eat something that we usually swat away or battle with insecticides? For starters, many insects are packed with protein, fiber, good fats, and vital minerals—as much or more than many other food sources.

If you like your stinkbugs, you can eat your stinkbugs and mine while you’re at it.

I’m surprised it isn’t part of The Green New Deal. Some celebrities are promoting insect consumption. There is no shortage of organizations, websites, and posts that promote the benefits of insect consumption. And the world’s wealthiest man not only advertises insect protein powder on his famous website/marketplace, but he also walks the walk.

But the fact is that if you’ve consumed a processed food that is colored red or lists the natural food coloring “carmine” on the ingredient panel, you’ve consumed insects. Carmine derives from crushed cochineal. What is cochineal, you ask? It looks like this.

Yummy little bugger, no? But don’t worry. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved cochineal (Carmine) as a coloring for food, cosmetics (think lipstick), and medical supplies, given the occasional allergic reactions reported from it, many food companies have moved to plant-based alternatives, especially for you vegans. If Carmine in your food freaks you out, check the ingredient statement.

If you’re open to snacking on our new visitors, the Philadelphia Tribune offers some suggestions.

In 2004, Caroline Goon heard that the periodical cicadas that had just swarmed the D.C. area were edible. After considering different advice on how to eat them — with or without wings, headless or head on — the 20-year-old went to a tree near her apartment complex in Wheaton, Md., pulled a few adult cicadas off and gave them a quick fry. The result?

“I remember distinctly that at the time, it tasted like a crispy, salty-ish snack,” she says.

Perhaps you can dip them in chocolate for that “sweet-salty” fix that food makers believe that many of you crave. Sadly, however, cicadas don’t make National Geographic’s list of the top 8 insects you should consume. Beetles top the list; stinkbugs round it out.

I was surprised that crickets didn’t make the list since that seems to be the insect du jour right now, especially for protein powder. Unique, very sanitary cricket farms have emerged that cultivate these noisy insects for food. Raising crickets for food and feed might be a financial opportunity for you.

Need a cookbook for your new cuisine? Don’t worry, Amazon to the rescue. But there’s one new thing we’ve learned anew – that lard, once the bete noire of food byproducts, is off the naughty list. Not for vegans, of course, since lard comes from pigs. Maybe toss those cicadas in the skillet with a bit of lard (lower in saturated fat than butter), a pinch of salt (not too much!), and a little garlic, and presto! Perhaps serve with a bit of pesto, or have some hummus nearby. It might even qualify for the FDA’s forthcoming “healthy” symbol.

Yum. Welcome to your “new normal,” especially for the forthcoming “climate emergency.” But you’ll have to remove your mask to enjoy them.

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  1. kedavis Inactive

    I might think about it once I know the UN is serving them at all their dinner events.

    Well, not really even then.  I’ve always thought I was better than the UN anyway, and that would be final confirmation.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member

    Kelly D Johnston: Never missing a chance to promote his state, he notes that the bugs sport the official colors of Maryland.

    I like it.

    • #2
  3. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Never missing a chance to promote his state, he notes that the bugs sport the official colors of Maryland.

    I like it.

    They resemble him in that they’re loud and irritating.

    • #3
  4. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    If they want to grind crickets into powder and add it to nutrition bars, I don’t care. I’m a guy who ate Lucky Charms into his 30s, so I’m not going to judge. What I find telling is the, ah, insect-forward marketing. It will be a cultural tell if you eat bugs; it will be a cultural tell if you reject the idea out of hand. But muh burgers!

    The proper response: note that the insect-consumers are more comfortable eating bugs because they believe in an aesthetic hierarchy – bugs are lower forms of life because they are not as attractive as mammals, which suggests that they judge others by their external aesthetic attributes. What’s more, this is informed by anthropomorphism and mammal-supremacy. They will not eat animals because they have eyes that remind humans of their own, which colonializes animal truths and recasts them in human terms.  

    If you say it enough times on Twitter and insist that you are exhausted trying to educate people about their speciesism, it will be true. 

    • #4
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    • #5
  6. OkieSailor Member

    Got one that tastes like chicken??

    • #6
  7. Stina Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    I was going to ask. I know some insects are ok, but the vast majority of these options are not, especially as they relate to the decomposition of the dead.

    It’s a crusade against clean foods. Most of the “foods” being promoted are disease vectors.

    • #7
  8. Charlotte Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.


    • #8
  9. Charlotte Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    I’m a guy who ate Lucky Charms into his 30s

    What happened in your 30s that made you stop??

    • #9
  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    From the Illinois Extension,

    The northern Illinois brood, which will emerge in late May 2024, has a reputation for the largest emergence of cicadas known anywhere. This is due to the size of the emergence and the research and subsequent reporting over the years by entomologists Monte Lloyd and Henry Dybas at the Field Museum in Chicago. During the 1956 emergence, they counted an average of 311 nymphal emergence holes per square yard of ground in a forested floodplain near Chicago. This translates to 1½ million cicadas per acre. In upland sites, they recorded 27 emergence holes per square yard, translating to about 133,000 per acre. This number is more typical of emergence numbers but is still a tremendous number of insects. For comparison, a city block contains about 3½ acres. When the cicadas start dying and dropping from the trees later in the spring, there are large numbers on the ground, and the odor from their rotting bodies is noticeable. In 1990, there were reports from people in Chicago having to use snow shovels to clear their sidewalks of the dead cicadas.

    This year’s brood will only emerge in a few downstate counties near the Indiana border.  We had a handful emerge last spring.  I’m not sure why their timing was off.  The best part was watching Great Horned Owls hopping around on the lawn to gobble up a snack.

    Now there is a cicada safari app where you can help keep count.

    Here’s one from last June.

    • #10
  11. Hoyacon Member

    When they start showing up as pizza toppings, I’m done.

    • #11
  12. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    Kelly D Johnston: Not for vegans, of course, since lard comes from pigs.

    Purist vegans won’t eat the insects either. I remember a panic among vegans a few years ago when it became widely known that the food coloring carmine came from the cochineal, as it turned out carmine was commonly used in products advertised as “vegan.” Oops. 

    • #12
  13. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    I recall a public relations push in the 1990s to make insects more acceptable as a primary food source. There were cooking demonstrations at state and county fairs and other venues, and other promotional activities. The marketing pitch was that insects could be an easy to grow protein source for poorer countries of the world where growing edible mammals like pigs, sheep, cattle, or even rabbits, was a challenge because of limitations of space or feed resources. 

    I don’t know if it’s new or not, but eating whole insects is not uncommon today in some parts of the world, including southeast Asia. My daughter ate fried insect on a visit to Thailand in 2009.

    • #13
  14. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm

    After looking at Jeff Bezos chow down on insects, can someone please explain to me why a secret cabal of lizard people ruling the earth is a crackpot conspiracy theory?

    • #14
  15. kedavis Inactive

    Okay, fine.  If nobody else is going to do it, then I will.


    • #15
  16. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Just completely disgusting.  Just the idea makes me cringe.

    • #16
  17. Flicker Coolidge

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    I think that’s why they are doing it.

    • #17
  18. kedavis Inactive

    Flicker (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    I think that’s why they are doing it.

    Is that like when there were emails going around “joking about” how young women should walk around naked because then the muslim terrorists wouldn’t look so we’d know who they were?

    • #18
  19. Flicker Coolidge

    When I her Vegans lining up edibles in order of moral and ethical propriety, I think of their intellectual hubris and, of course, this exchange from Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    Arthur: Green salad, please.

    Ameglian Cow: A green salad.

    Arthur: It there any reason why I shouldn’t have a green salad?!

    Ameglian Cow: I know any vegetables that are very clear on that point, sir. Which is why it was decided to cut through the whole tangled problem by breeding an animal that actually wanted to be eaten. And was capable of saying so, clearly and distinctly. And here I am. Moo-ah.

    Arthur: A glass of water?

    • #19
  20. Flicker Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    I think that’s why they are doing it.

    Is that like when there were emails going around “joking about” how young women should walk around naked because then the muslim terrorists wouldn’t look so we’d know who they were?

    Maybe something a little more anti-Semitic.

    • #20
  21. DrewInTherapy Member

    What is it with leftists and their obsession with getting us to eat bugs?

    • #21
  22. kedavis Inactive

    DrewInTherapy (View Comment):

    What is it with leftists and their obsession with getting us to eat bugs?

    Same old same old, they want everyone to suffer like they do.  (If they really do it themselves, which most often they probably don’t.  It’s like with walls around their homes, but not at the border…)

    • #22
  23. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    Could it taste any worse than lentils? 

    • #23
  24. Kephalithos Member

    Richie, eat your BUGS!”

    • #24
  25. Member

    I’ll only eat bugs the way they were meant to be eaten – unintentionally, at Taco Bell.

    • #25
  26. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    I used to think the worst possible thing in a salad would be kale or cilantro.

    So lets for a moment that we actually eat these things. What if these things are tasty? Maybe even addictive? What do we do next year?

    These things only come out every 17 years…

    (Language warning): NSFW:


    • #26
  27. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Sorry, absolutely forbidden to Jews.

    G-d really does like you more.

    • #27
  28. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Missing Brood X is just another reason to be grateful that I left Arlington in 2020. 

    • #28
  29. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    I dont know whats worse bugs or mice?

    The mouse plague in Australia is doing some real damage to their crops and health.

    • #29
  30. JustmeinAZ Member

    What was wrong with the original title????

    • #30
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