North America is currently experiencing a mass invasion of periodic cicadas in several regions. The males beckon mates by “singing” as loud as possible. The sound registers at over 100 decibels. This certainly makes their arrival hard to ignore and to some difficult to tolerate.
Strength in Numbers
Cicadas larvae have mouth-parts used to suck sap from tree roots. The periodic cicadas develop slowly, spending either 13 or 17 years underground. The now adult cicadas all come out from their subterranean environment within a short period of time, protecting most of them from predators. Cicadas are edible and quite tasty, according to my dogs, who upon hearing them land within their reach, race to see who gets to eat this delectable treat. There is nothing quite so restful as floating in a pool under the stars, listening to a screeching cicada, a mad dash, a growl or two, and then the muffled cry of a cicada in my dog’s mouth, quickly followed by this loud crunch, that sounds much like eating a stalk of celery. Celery has never been known to make noise of it’s own volition, nor be out at night singing for a mate. It may be loud to eat but it’s not nearly as disturbing as interrupting a much deserved social life of a cicada that just came up out of the dirt after 13 years of a bleak, sap-sucking existence. This mass emergence of crunchy delights in a short time makes it impossible for predators to eat more than a small percentage of the cicadas. The rest are left to reproduce. According to early European immigrants to North America, Native Americans would roast and eat cicadas. At least by cooking them they don’t continue to ‘sing’ while in your mouth.
Hunt, Capture, Cook
Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, Missouri is known for their creative ice cream flavors. So when the cicadas loudly heralded their arrival, Spark’s creative juices began to flow. Employees were sent out at night bearing flashlights and a jar, wondering whether the job description, they had merely scanned, had mentioned ‘nocturnal insect hunts’. They were pretty sure it didn’t mention removing insect’s wings, boiling the bodies to perfection, coating them with brown sugar and milk chocolate, then mixing in a brown sugar and butter flavored ice cream base, but dutifully they did just that.
Cicada College Craze
Columbia is a college town and this probably had a lot to do with the rapid sellout. Though, one would think it close to cannibalism, it was the University of Missouri’s Tiger Beetles that ate the lion’s share. Only a small batch had been made and it sold out within hours. Many were crushed not to have a chance to partake of this creamy cicada crunch creation.
Some of the employee’s comments on the flavor of cicadas include; cicadas don’t have much flavor, but they do have a crackly crunch; I think if someone were to try it and not know what it was, they would just imagine it was a nut.”; one said it tasted like a peanut. None said it tasted like chicken and that’s a good thing, considering they were in ice cream.
City of Columbia Ceases Cicada Consumption
The store was going to make another batch for the weekend, but a couple of factors lead to a sign being put on the door telling customers it won’t be back until 2024. The first reason for the wait is that these are 13 year cicadas, so they wouldn’t emerge again until 2024. The second factor involved the the City of Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. They couldn’t find the proper cooking temperature guidelines for cicadas, only listings for beef, chicken, fish and pork. Apparently the North American Native Indians failed to record the internal temperature reading of a properly cooked cicada. As a result the BCDOPHAHS put the cabosh on the hopping sales of this edible insect concoction. “The food code doesn’t directly address cicadas,” environmental health manager Gerry Worley said. “We advised against it. “The first batch of the ice cream was so popular store employees didn’t even have a chance to put the product in a display case before eager customers scooped it up the night before its official on-sale date. Customers hoping for a crunchy taste “bombarded” the store the next morning, only to be disappointed, said employee Christian Losciale, who was involved in the making of this cicada taste sensation. Sparky’s owner Scott Southwick was surprised by the jumping sales, imagine that. “We thought we’d make a small batch, and it would last forever,” he said.
Now I feel bad that I didn’t take the cue from my dogs and be the first to create my own Seasonal Screaming Cicada Sensation. Maybe now I will be able not to be phased by the nocturnal cicada hunt going on in my own backyard, feeling proud that my dogs did it first.