“Brood X, one of the largest of the 15 periodical cicada broods in the U.S., had recently awakened from its 17-year underground slumber…Resembling a scene from the 1979 film “Alien,”… baby bug-like creatures slumbered in vertical pods, the cicadas were burrowing their way out of the soil. These bugs, however, were not evil extraterrestrials; they were simply lunch. It turns out, they are a tasty, high-protein treat for dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, raccoons and sometimes even humans.”M. Annette Pember, ICT, May 2, 2021
Excerpt: Cicadas: ‘The other white meat’ By Mary Annette Pember, ICT, May 2, 2021
“When the soil temperature reaches about 64 degrees in the next few weeks, Brood X cicadas will surface in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and New York. Anticipating this year’s cicada occupation, I began to wonder if our Indigenous ancestors also feasted on this protein bounty. Cicadas are big, more than an inch long, with a wingspan of 3-4 inches and bright red eyes.
Despite their impressive appearance, however, they are harmless. Clumsy and slow, they fling themselves at every available vertical surface, including humans, as they fulfill their life’s mission – to mate, lay eggs and die.
Male cicadas attract their mates through sound, using drum-like tymbals on the sides of their abdomens. Their mating calls, loud whirring sounds, can reach 80 to 100 decibels – the sound of a loud lawnmower or motorcycle.
Females drill holes into tree branches where they lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into nymphs that fall from the trees and burrow underground, living off the sap of tree roots. The whole process of emerging, mating and egg-laying lasts about six weeks. Then they stay underground for 17 years before starting the cycle over again.
And though there are few specific examples of our ancestors eating cicadas, many Indigenous peoples have and continue to include insects in their diets…Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, the founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef, a nonprofit that brings access and awareness to Indigenous education and foods, wants to offer insects on the menu of his next restaurant.
‘We have all sorts of amazing, diverse proteins across North America,’ Sherman said. ‘If you’re looking at food from an Indigenous perspective, you really have to include insects.’
During his research, Sherman found tribes in the Great Plains, Great Basin and the Four Corners region that included insects in their diets.
‘Edible insects such as grasshoppers are still used in Mexico today; the history of colonialism has stripped away our Indigenous foods, depicting them as inferior,’ he said.
‘People should be open to exploring protein options beyond cows, chicken and pigs. It’s a great conversation to have. Insects can taste good if you know how to prepare them.’