After 17 years of hiding in the earth, vast clouds of “Brood II” cicadas are about to swarm on the eastern US from Georgia to New York. There are 15 broods in the US that emerge every 13 or 17 years, so that nearly every year, some place around the country is overrun. Last year, it was a small area around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee that got hit and next year will include two areas in the Midwest and Deep South.
The relatively harmless, but noisy insects (picture on Facebook page) are expected to be everywhere and on everything, buzzing through the air and clinging to sides of buildings. They don’t bite or sting, but there will be hundreds of millions of them and they can cluster in the tens of thousands to over one million on any given acre of land.
The key to their emergence after 17 years of being underground is the soil temperature and 64 degrees is the magical trigger point for their reappearance. Typically, that kind of soil temperature is reached around here in the latter part of May or early part of June. At that point, for the first time since 1996, the cicadas will climb up trees, shed their skin and transform into loud adults looking to procreate. The whole cycle lasts only about 6 weeks and then we won’t see them again until 2030.
A couple other notes…when a female squirts her eggs on twigs and shrubs, they can form thick clusters that strip trees of excess branches. This does little permanent damage to trees and the end result is often the same (positive) result as from pruning. Finally, apparently cicadas don’t taste bad. They are arthropods meaning they’re related to shrimp and lobsters (something to bear in mind if allergic to shellfish). It is best, however, to not let dogs gorge on the bugs as their hard exteriors can present a choking hazard. And for those interested, there is a recipe below for cicada tacos.
CICADA TACOS: INGREDIENTS: TWO TABLESPOONS BUTTER OR PEANUT OIL, ONE AND A HALF POUND OF CICADAS, ONE TEASPOON OF CHILI POWDER, ONE TOMATO, FINELY CHOPPED, ONE ONION, FINELY CHOPPED, ONE AND A HALF TABLE SPOON GROUND PEPPER, ONE AND A HALF TABLE SPOON CUMIN, THREE TABLE SPOON TACO SEASONING MIX, ONE HANDFUL CILANTRO, CHOPPED, TACO SHELLS, SOUR CREAM, SHREDDED CHEDDAR CHEESE, SHREDDED LETTUCE.
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: 1. HEAT THE BUTTER OR OIL IN A FRYING PAN AND FRY THE CICADAS FOR 10 MINUTES, OR UNTIL COOKED THROUGH. 2. REMOVE FROM PAN AND ROUGHLY CHOP INTO 1/4-INCH CUBES/ PLACE BACK IN PAN. 3. ADD THE CHOPPED ONIONS, CHILIES AND TOMATO, SEASON WITH SALT, AND FRY FOR ANOTHER 5 MINUTES ON MEDIUM-LOW HEAT. 4. SPRINKLE WITH GROUND PEPPER, CUMIN AND OREGANO TO TASTE. 5. SERVE IN TACO SHELLS AND GARNISH WITH CILANTRO, SOUR CREAM, LETTUCE AND CHEDDAR CHEESE.