I ate cicadas today — or as I like to call them, “sky lobsters”

Guest post by Anna Hess

I easily gathered eight cicadas while going about my morning chores on Thursday, and I popped them all into the freezer so they would perish quickly and then be ready for a lunch taste test.

You can eat cicadas raw, but I needed all the help I could get to overcome the “I’m eating a bug” factor, so I sauteed them in a bit of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper for about ten minutes until the exoskeletons were pretty crunchy. Then I served the wildcrafted treat up, four cicadas per plate.

I couldn’t talk my partner into eating a single one — he said he might try a cicada another time if I removed the wings. And, to be honest, I had to look in the other direction while popping the bits of invertebrate flesh into my mouth, a bit like what I do when I get a shot. If I can’t see it, the scary thing isn’t there and I can focus on my other senses.

So, what do cicadas taste like? Actually, when I could ignore the fact that I was eating an insect, they were delicious. Keep in mind that I taste-tested what’s known in culinary circles as “soft-shelled cicadas” — youngsters who have just popped out of their nymphal skins and haven’t yet hardened up their exoskeletons.

I didn’t detect the almond or pistachio flavor reported on the internet. Instead, the texture (and flavor, actually) was like the flesh from the one lobster tail I’ve tasted, but without that faint hint of fishiness, and with a little crunch when my teeth hit the wings. (I really liked the cicadas wings-on and don’t recommend removing the appendages.) Since there are several species of periodic cicadas, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if each one tastes a little different.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give these sauteed cicadas a 9. In addition to tasting good, the insects also really agreed with me — as I started writing this post, my mouth watered and I snuck one of the cicadas I’m saving into my mouth for a snack. On the other hand, it probably would have taken all day to gather enough cicadas to serve as the protein source for a whole meal, so I’ll just keep snagging the delicacies as I pass them by.

Which is all a long way of saying — I recommend them! If you’ve got cicadas crawling up out of the ground, now’s a perfect time to see if you like them as much as I do.

Comments on I ate cicadas today — or as I like to call them, “sky lobsters”

  1. “Sky Lobsters” = FTW. After all, lobsters are related to insects – Alton Brown repeatedly has referred to them as “sea bugs.” While the visual is a bit scary, it sounds tasty!

    • There’s an Australian variety of lobster known as the Balmain Bug (in Sydney) and the Moreton Bay Bug (in Brisbane).

      My Kiwi flatmate was horrified when I said I’d had bugs for lunch, because she’d never heard of them and assumed I meant insects.

  2. Ok things I need to know-
    – how did you prepare them? More specifically, did you wash them or have to Remove them.
    -are there risks to eating them from the wild because of pesticides?
    – do you think you Will be more likely to try other things now?

  3. Kneejerk reaction I had: NOPE!
    Second reaction: Nope! But maybe interesting? Eating bugs, nope! But if it tastes like lobster, maybe yes?
    I so wouldn’t have survived in a hunter/gatherer society. Major props to you for giving it a go. I may eat a cicada someone prepared for me if I kept my eyes closed when tasting.

  4. I’m a fan of entomophagy myself. I don’t like silkworms though, they remind me too much of lima beans.

    For readers living near the Raleigh Durham, NC area make sure to catch the Bugfest at the natural history museum (Sept 15 this year). They offer a free lunch. . . . if you’re willing to eat it.

  5. Just read this first thing in the morning after breakfast…probably NOT a good idea.
    Ew. Bugs. Ew ew ew ew ew.

    But I’m squeamish. I don’t think I could deal with having to do this.

  6. It is only on this wonderfully supportive and positive group of sites that I could read an article about eating bugs, scroll down to the comments and find a bevvy of awesome and enthusiastic comments.
    Offbeat Empire, I love you and your offbeat, creative and kick-ass ways.

  7. Holy shit, the title of this post made me laugh so hard I choked. This is totally intriguing, though. I’m in NW Oregon, where the cicadas are (apparently) smaller and (according to the internet) harder to find. The latter part is total BS — their constant buzz drives me crazy every summer! After reading this, I’m totally concocting revenge-recipes in my head…I wonder what the kind native to my town would taste like? Thank you for such a fun, informative article!

      • I openly admit to eating the geese my dad’s hunt, and every time a goose hisses at me I tend to hiss back “Be quiet or I’ll eat you!”
        After being chased by a couple on a golf course I was very open to the idea of trying one.

    • I admit that I’m in the middle of an OMFG BUG FREAKOUT at this second — because bugs and I just jebfsdbghbfdsakgahbgdhfds — but the idea of “revenge recipes” is absolutely amazing. I love it.

      • After I got snarled at by a squirrel, I definitely revenge ate them for several years. Thank goodness Grandma knows how to barbecue them!

  8. My thoughts before, during, and after reading this: NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER. SHUDDER.

    HOWEVER, you are brave and I admire you! I just kept thinking I would surley perish during the zombie apocalypse since I’m not sure I will ever be capable of eating insects when the food supply is low. (SHUDDER)

    I watch too much Doomsday Preppers.

  9. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to eat bugs, but I would definitely want a veteran bug-eater to pick, prepare and eat them first. I’m afraid I might accidentally confuse a delicious cicada with something venomous that would make me die a horrible death.

  10. Sadly, our area lacks enough large trees to house a population of cicadas. I’ve heard they taste like asparagus. I eat shrimp and crawfish, so why not cicadas? πŸ™‚

  11. Considering my brother has a legit fear of cicadas (bad childhood incident) these sound like an excellent surprise part of dinner. πŸ˜‰ (Perhaps if I make it look unbuglike he will eat them.) They sound nommy!

  12. Neeat! I had a couple adventurous friends try them a few years back when the massive cicada population was OUT! I thought it was so neat! I didn’t partake but my leopard gecko got a few in that summer.. only recommended if you’ve got a pig of a gecko though, they’re pretty big!

  13. If you are hunting cicadas, I discovered years ago when I was last in an area where they were – the sound of a belt sander attracts them. I was sanding wood on my porch and they all had to come check it out.

  14. It’s impressive that you tried this and even more impressive that you ate them WHOLE. I would have to remove the wings, appendages and head before I could even attempt this.

    Correction : while I close my eyes, somebody else would have to remove those parts, fry it, cut it into small pieces and put one in my mouth. And tell me it’s a piece of chocolate.

    So three cheers to you!!

  15. As much as I want to have the nards to eat bugs, I read this whole thing with one hand clamped over my mouth and my head turned as far to the side as possible.

    I think eating bugs is a sign of the true badass.

    I am not a badass. I… uh… *herk.*

  16. I have to admit, I don’t find the idea of eating bugs at all appealing. Closest I’ve ever come is chocolate covered ants, and I must admit they were very tasty. Good for you for being brave enough to do this, though, and pass along the experience. Nice to know that cicadas, which we have a fuckton of down here, are edible and even nummy. You know, in event of apocalypse and all. My partner ate grubs and who knows what back in the day at Ranger school, so he’d probably be down for cicadas. (I grew up hearing them called Dry Flies). And I really want to convince my bff and her son to go with me to that Bug Fest in Raleigh….

  17. For reasons I can’t possibly explain, the only thing that bothers me more than a live bug is a dead bug. I know, what’s a dead bug going to do? I can’t shake it. So while I’m very curious about all these reportedly delicious bugs, the idea of taking something that really wigs me out and putting it in my mouth isn’t working yet. It’s really not the “omg I’m eating a bug!” thing, as a lot of shellfish are ugly water bugs. It’s just….. bug corpse on my plate and it feels papery and gah! Hopefully some day I can get over that.

  18. Since Cicadas live in Northern climates, they are not likely to die from being in the freezer–more likely they go dormant (just like flies do if you put them in the freezer as a kid so that you can tie a hair to them and “take them on a walk” when they wake up.)

    Sorry, but you probably didn’t really help them by freezing them besides maybe making them unaware. (We can’t really know that…)


    Anyways, I just thought you should know.

    a biology student

  19. People with allergies to shellfish should exercise caution with cicadas. People with total bugphobia like me don’t need to worry, I’d die a slow starvation death before eating bugs!

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