June 15, 2021

I was forwarded a post on CNN that told of an Ohio restaurant that found an innovative use for the Brood X cicadas emerging in parts of the East and Midwest.  The Pizza Bandit in Dayton, Ohio, tested out a Spicy Thai Cicada Pie.  In a Facebook post showing the new creation, they noted, “We’re not even sure if we legally can sell you locally foraged Cicadas.”  The restaurant did livestream a tasting panel trying out the pizza, which also featured miso hoisin sriracha sauce, mozzarella, provolone, mushrooms, cabbage, green onion, mango, cilantro, and a spicy Thai sauce.  The post said, “Opinions of the pizza range from absolutely delicious to . . .  well . . . uh . . . yeah . . .”.  Cicadas are not toxic, but the US Food and Drug Administration has warned people not to eat them if you are allergic to seafood.  “These insects share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters.”  This gives new meaning to “peal and eat.”

The Washington Post reports that Brood X is made up of three cicada species: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula.  The adult stage of the insect has a black body, long wings, and red eyes.  According to the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web, Magicicada septendecim is the largest of the periodical cicadas and grows up to 1.5 inches (almost 4 cm) in length.  During their years underground, periodical cicada nymphs molt through five growth cycles, known as instars.   Then, when ground temperatures reach 64F (18C) at a soil depth of 8 inches (20 cm), the nymphs emerge together and metamorphose into winged adults.  Adult cicadas are fragile, white, and vulnerable for hours or even a few days until their new exoskeletons harden.

Cicada Broods are neither species nor populations.  They can best be described as “regional, multispecies groupings of periodical cicadas that emerge on a common schedule.”  The different species found in any given brood may also have separate evolutionary histories and may have joined the brood at different times or from different sources.  One hypothesis for brood formation is they are driven by climate shocks and temporary life cycle anomalies.  Brood XIX resides in the southern states and includes Arkansas.  This is a 13-year emerging Brood and is next prepared to emerge in 2024.  I can hardly wait for my pizza.

Thoughts:  I have two clear memories of visiting my great aunt and uncle in western Kansas.  The first was staying overnight and waking up the next morning to the largest plate of bacon I had ever seen.  My great aunt must have fried up five pounds of bacon and it was piled on a large platter at least four or five inches high.  The other was the cicada castings.  When I went outside the exoskeletons of the larva literally covered the trees in their yard.  I had never seen these before and was fascinated by the skins clinging to the trees.  There are times when humans get caught in the same lockstep that drives a Brood.  While we are all the same species, we do represent different languages and cultures.  Across the world the initial response to the virus was that it was a Chinese problem.  Even when it advanced it was not “our” problem.  Hopefully, the lesson learned will be that globalization means exactly that.  Whatever it is (climate, economic insecurity, pandemic), is OUR problem.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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