Singing Cicada- With scorching temperatures looming over the Pineywoods, it is not unusual to hear the roar of the Dog-Day Cicada, also known as the locust. Lately, cicadas have been serenading East Texans with their loud rattling, buzzing and humming noise. The cicada emerged a bit early this summer due to warm temperatures, and can be heard humming its mating call early in the morning and again in the late afternoon and evening.Why is the cicada commonly referred to as a locust? Early day settlers who witnessed the mass emergences turned to the Bible as an insect guide. They concluded the insects they were witnessing best matched that of the plague of locusts and therefore the name stuck.
There are 166 species of cicadas in the United States and Canada. There are over 40 species of Cicadas in Texas. In 1933, Stanley Bromley wrote that East Central Texas is, “a veritable cicada paradise.”
Cicadas are large insects which lay their eggs in cracks in trees or on tree roots. Nymphs crawl underground and feed on roots, however the cicada does no perceptible damage to plants. They can stay underground for years at a time as their hard shells develop. Eventually the cicada emerges from underground and crack open the hard shells incasing their bodies.
Anyone who has grown up in East Texas has most likely seen the brown exoskeleton left behind by the cicada, and perhaps even used one to play a little joke on a friend. Placing a cicada shell on someone almost always ensures a squeal. Wearing a shell on your nose and planting a kiss on a loved one may even produce a scream!
The cicada is the loudest insect in the world. Unlike crickets and grasshoppers which make sounds by rubbing their wings and legs together, male cicadas produce sound by vibrating special membrane-like structures on their abdomen. The male’s enlarged abdomen is mostly filled with an air sac that functions as a resonance chamber, giving their songs mighty amplification.
In recent weeks the cicada has made headlines across the nation, but not for its loud mating song. It appears that cicada is the key ingredient for a tasty frozen treat that was recently served in Missouri.
Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream parlor added the cicada to their menu. Dead cicadas were collected, boiled, rolled in brown sugar and milk chocolate, then blended into a brown sugar and butter flavored ice cream base and served to anxious customers who bombarded the parlor for the new crunchy ice cream.
Is it safe to eat a cicada? According to biologist and cicada expert Gene Kritsky, as quoted by National Geographic, cicadas are “high in protein, low in fat, with no carbs.” In other countries, the cicada is common cuisine.
Sparky’s has since taken the cicada off the menu due to the local health department’s food code lacking specification regarding the appropriate temperature for cooking cicadas.