Have you ever considered eating insects as a source of protein? If your answer is no, now may be the time to reconsider. According to a study by the University of Copenhagen, eating insects is more sustainable than eating livestock. The same study shows that there are over 2,000 species of edible insects, though some are rare. Thankfully, some edible insects are easily available in numbers large enough to supplement global protein needs. One of the insects seen as a possible remedy for global protein needs is the cicada. Cicadas are safe to eat and among the most nutritious insects. These insects are rich in protein and can be harvested in large numbers during their breeding seasons.

a cicada perched on a blade of grass

The argument for eating insects

A shift from eating livestock to consuming insects could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.N., the global livestock industry makes up about 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Consuming fewer livestock products can thus help reduce the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment. Further, some edible insects are richer in protein than livestock protein supplies. For instance, crickets are 20 times more efficient as protein sources compared to cattle. As The Balance SMB reports, cricket harvesting produces 80 times less methane than cattle rearing. If we are serious about conserving the environment, now is the time to consider shifting our dietary preferences.

Another reason to consider eating insects is that they thrive on organic matter and require much less food than livestock. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), insects consume just two pounds of food to produce one pound of meat. This contrasts starkly with cattle, which have to consume at least eight pounds of food to produce one pound of meat. While the conversation about eating bugs might not be an easy one, the merits outweigh the discomfort. The U.N. is now calling on meat processing firms to start considering bugs for burgers. Bug meat could easily be used in most processed foods without consumers noticing the difference.

Why cicadas and why now?

Cicada re-emergence has spurred the conversation about eating them. According to an NPR publication, millions of cicadas are expected to emerge from the ground this year. In most parts of the United States, over 1.5 million cicadas per acre are expected to emerge. Regions that can expect a high influx of cicadas include southwestern Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia. The cicadas that will be emerging belong to a special brood that only shows up once every 17 years.

three cicadas on a tree branch

While cicadas are not harmful to humans and do not bite, they present a different challenge. Cicadas chirp — a lot. This presents a noise problem, considering that over 1.5 million of these insects could emerge from an acre of land. According to Eric Day of Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, the biggest concern that the people of Virginia should worry about is managing the noise. Once the insects set in, they will be busy day and night, and they are likely to cause excessive noise.

This year’s cicadas come with more vigor than most annual cicadas. This special brood only appears once every 13 to 17 years. They last appeared in 2003 in parts of the eastern U.S. If you live in regions that are prone to cicadas, you can learn about their mapping by looking at this cicada mapping site.

How to eat cicadas

Considering this influx of cicadas and the issues with livestock, there are many benefits to eating insects. For these reasons, more people are now shifting from mainstream protein sources to sources such as cicadas. If you have never tried eating insects, you might find the suggestion of eating cicadas absurd. However, insect-eating is not something new and is a practice that should be embraced.

a green plate full of cooked cicadas

According to a Live Science publication, over 2 billion people eat bugs regularly across the world. This means that about a quarter of the world already consumes insects. Given that insects are a good source of protein and considerably cheap, they provide nutrition to many people. In fact, many scientists are now looking at insects as the future of nutrition. All this considered, it may be in your best interest to try eating some bugs.

If you are going to eat cicadas, here are a few tips to help you prepare and enjoy your delicious bugs. First, blanch your cicadas. Cicadas are wild insects and may come in contact with harmful microorganisms. Chefs recommend boiling cicadas for five minutes to get rid of impurities from the soil. After boiling your cicadas, dump them in a cold water bath to remove the legs and wings. If you do not mind the legs and wings, skip this step.

a food display with cicadas at the front and various other meats in the background

There are many options for cooking and flavoring cicadas. For cicada scampi, place a cooking pan on medium heat and sautee the cicadas in butter, garlic and basil. Cook your cicadas for about five minutes or until they are crispy. You can also marinate cicadas if you want them juicier. Try an overnight Worcestershire sauce marinade, then sautee them for a tasty meal.

Once you’ve tried cooking your cicadas, you can also prepare them as a sweet dessert. Serving them dipped in chocolate makes a great treat.

The bottom line

For most people who have not tried eating cicadas, this is foreign territory to explore. However, those who have tasted cicadas say they are tasty, with a nutty/earthy flavor. They cook similar to shrimp and can be consumed alongside most dishes that are normally served with white meat.

If consuming cicadas can help the environment, we should all give it a thought. Cicadas are easily available and much healthier than most meat. There is nothing wrong with trying out a bug diet if it’s for the better.

Images via Pixabay, Sharon Hahn Darlin, and istolethetv