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Saturday, June 5, 2021

Brood X cicadas taste terrible, but teach life lessons

A Brood X cicada that emerged early, in 2017
(Flickr by Katja Schulz CC BY 2.0)
If you're like me, the emergence of Brood X cicadas on the mid-Atlantic American seaboard induces more anxiety than is healthy.

I met Brood X face to face only once, when I was a teenager in Baltimore, Md., in 1987.  Every 17 years, the big red-eyed bugs realize that heaven is a place on earth, not under it, and they rise up with a screeching rhythm that's gonna get you.  Unlike locusts, cicadas are clumsy fliers and seem oblivious to humans as a threat.  So simply going outside invites cicadas to crash into your nicest denim jacket.

This time, the cicadas have failed to anticipate a new human threat.  People are popping cicadas onto the grill for purportedly finger-licking-worthy indulgence.  

Fried cicadas in China, 2013
(Flickr by Sharon Hahn Darlin, who didn't eat them, CC BY 2.0)
The appeal escapes me.  Persons of ordinary sensibilities are horrified by cicadas.  CBS News aptly labeled a story on Brood X, "Warning: Graphic images."  Haley Weiss is a normal person.  She wrote for The Atlantic:

Nowhere was that shellfish flavor more evident than in the oven-roasted cicada, though I was quickly distracted from that thought by the realization that the bug had exploded in my mouth like a Gusher. My tongue awash in bug guts, I reconsidered all the choices I’d made in my life that had brought me to that moment.

Oh, heads up, the FDA warns not to eat cicadas if you're allergic to shrimp.  Because that makes sense.

Well, another voice in the inexplicable camp of cicada supporters is my uncle, Tom Peri, a Baltimore biology teacher with a new video series about Brood X.  In four short installments, Buggin' Out with Mr. Peri is now available on Facebook from Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP).  Each short installment teaches us, as Mr. Peri puts it, that cicadas "aren't the monsters you think they're going to be."  In episode 1, Mr. Peri promises us life lessons to be learned from the humble cicada, such as, "you're at your best when you're rising from a low point." 

Give Buggin' Out a try (ep. 1, 2, 3, 4), and especially share it with kids.  Maybe we can condition young minds to think differently from mine.  Then, in 2038, our only anxiety will be over which cicada food truck to choose.

An NDP upper-level science teacher with decades of classroom experience, Tom Peri won a prestigious Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Award from the National Catholic Educational Association in 2018.  He is a former headmaster of St. John’s Prospect Hall and Towson Catholic High School.

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad to be allergic to shrimp! My excuse to avoid tasting these quite ugly bugs! Dagny

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  2. Henry David Thoreau was impressed by the cicadas' noise and thought dogs, cats, and chickens ate the bugs. Quoting from Thoreau's letter to his mother (July 7, 1843): "Pray, have you the Seventeen year locust [cicada] in Concord? The air here [Staten Island] is filled with their din. They come out of the ground at first in an imperfect state, and, crawling up the shrubs and plants, the perfect insect bursts out through the back. ... In a few weeks the eggs will be hatched, and the worms fall to the ground and enter it, and in 1860 make their appearance again. ... Their din is heard by those who sail along the shore, from the distant woods, Phar-r-r-aoh. Phar-r-r-aoh. They are departing now. Dogs, cats and chickens subsist mainly upon them in some places." I think it was Brood 2 that emerged that year.

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