Cicadas as Food: Summer's Low-Fat Snack?

John Roach
for National Geographic News
Updated May 22, 2007

High-protein, low-carb dieters take note: The billions of cicadas emerging from the ground this month in the midwestern U.S. are a healthy alternative to that bacon double-cheeseburger without the bun.

"They're high in protein, low in fat, no carbs," said Gene Kritsky, a biologist and cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio, speaking to National Geographic News during the last major cicada outbreak, in 2004.

"They're quite nutritious, a good set of vitamins."

Billions of periodical cicadas, known as Brood XIII, are beginning to crawl out of the ground and to carpet trees in the midwestern United States. By July, Brood XIII will be gone—not to be heard from again for 17 years.

Cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots. The plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor, especially when eaten raw or boiled, according to Kritsky.

Gross? Not really, says Jenna Jadin, who was an entomology graduate student at the University of Maryland when she spoke with National Geographic News in 2004.

Jadin created a brochure in preparation for the Brood X emergence: "Cicada-Licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicada."

Crayfish, lobsters, crabs, and shrimp are part of the same biological phylum—arthropods—as insects, Jadin notes in the brochure.

"So popping a big juicy beetle, cricket, or cicada into your mouth is only a step away," Jadin writes.

She said the recipe she most wanted to try is chocolate-covered cicada.

"I like chocolate, and chocolate-covered insects are common worldwide," she said. "We'll see how comparable they are to chocolate-covered crickets."

Eating insects for food is common throughout the world and dates back thousands of years, Kritsky, of the College of St. Joseph, said.

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