Let’s Schmooze!
Like Me, Pretty Please!
Subscribe to the Tribe!

Enter your e-mail address to get Mishegas of Motherhood in your Inbox:


Cicadas: God’s Misunderstood Creatures

If the record heat wave isn’t enough to drive you mad, then the loud and rambunctious cicadas that have invaded St. Louis like the biblical eighth plague of locusts is sure to make you crazy.

Just to clear things up, cicadas are not locusts, which are actually ravenous grasshoppers. So now that we’ve got that straight, what are these strange looking, black-bodied, red-eyed insects that have transparent, well-veined wings and shed their exoskeletons on the sidewalk to give children as well as grownups the heebie-jeebies? They’re periodical cicadas, and this year’s group is called Brood XIX, or the Great Southern Brood, which is the largest and most widespread 13-year cicada to cover 15 states.

Everyone is abuzz about this inch-long bug, and it’s no wonder. Their high pitched screeching, which is the male mating call to the female, has been measured at 100 decibels at 20 yards away. That’s loud enough to drown out a lawnmower or chainsaw and reason enough for me to wear earplugs when I walk my dog. The other day I was at a funeral and the ear-piercing courtship chorus overpowered the Mourner’s Kaddish. Interestingly, cicadas are noisy only during the day. What you hear at night is a combination of katydids, crickets, and tree frogs, according to a master gardener at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Anyway, I recently conducted a scientific study, okay, I asked my friends on Facebook to share their cicada stories. Here’s what they wrote:

Julie: “After grilling dinner outside, I went back in the house and heard a buzzing sound coming from under my clothes. I ripped off my pants right there in the middle of the kitchen in front of my kids, and sure enough a cicada fell out! We all screamed, and my son swept the bug outside with a broom.”

Rochelle: “My daughter and I ran into Uncle Sam’s this weekend as they swarmed around us. It reminded me of the movie “The Birds.” Also one of my friends was in the front yard talking on her cell phone. As we pulled our car into her driveway, we saw her freaking out: one of the cicadas went right into her mouth!!! She spit, screamed and ran. I laughed, screamed and peed!!!”

Cindy: “My friend brought a cicada in for her cats to play with!! Sick, eh? They had 30 minutes of pure kitty heaven!”

Debbie: “My son said they are serving cicada ice-cream at Sparky’s in Columbia Mo. The bugs are cooked and covered in chocolate and brown sugar!”

Lori: “I was power washing the garage today and this cicada kept coming at me! Even the mega power of the water spray wasn’t strong enough to take him down!”

Laura: “Awful driving from Kansas City to St Louis this weekend. The front of our car and windshield were DISGUSTING. We stopped in Columbia…there were HUGE swarms.”

Amy: “They were swimming at the pool with us this afternoon.”

Michelle: “Our car is covered in cicada guts! It is very bad in South County!”

Sari: “Cicadas were flying everywhere at soccer camp. We kept sitting on them and hearing them crunch—gross!”

Yes, cicadas are a nuisance, but if you understand these unique little critters, you might just come to like them. Did you know that many countries consider cicadas a dining delicacy, and the shells are used for traditional Chinese medicine?

“Cicadas are a wonderful instinct. It’s really cool to think about how an insect spends 13 to 17 years underground as larvae and pops out at the same time, laying their eggs, and spending the next 13 years sucking on tree roots and sap before they emerge as adults again. That’s a long life span for an insect,” says Mark Deering, collections manager and interim director at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House located in St. Louis County’s Faust Park.

“Their long life cycle is a great way to confuse predators and the reason they come out in such large numbers, sometimes millions of insects per acre in areas where there are old wood lots with larger trees. These creatures have been doing this for tens of thousands of years without doing any damage to trees,” adds Deering, who predicts the cicadas will stick around until July.

The longer the cicadas stay in St. Louis, the more feasting can be done on this six-legged insect, which is very high in protein and low in fat. The females are prized for being meatier. In fact, Deering offers cooking demonstrations at the Butterfly House and enjoys eating the whole bug (wings and all) deep-fried with a little salt for a “crunchy, nutty taste like popcorn.”

“I also sauté cicadas with butter and spread them on a cracker with cheese and red pepper aioli sauce. Anyone who has a seafood allergy should probably avoid eating insects because they contain the same ingredient, chitin.”

Good to know.

So the next time you’re tempted to kill a cicada, think again. These insects provide a bounty of nutrition for birds, squirrels, fish, snakes, spiders, toads, raccoons, possums, and other wildlife. Even dogs like to munch on them.

Plus, the cicada, which is the Latin word for “tree cricket,” is one of God’s creatures. Jewish people even have a prayer for strange looking things. Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam, m’sha-neh ha-b’ri-yot. Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, who makes the creatures different.

“Cicadas are absolutely harmless to humans. I just tell people to ignore them if they can,” says Morris Kevrick, who has been in the pest control business in St. Louis for 50-plus years. “Cicadas have one sole purpose, and that is to mate. They are also part of the food chain. Their only enemy is the cicada killer wasp that stings and paralyzes them, but the cicadas way outnumber the wasps.”

As I’ve come to appreciate this natural phenomenon known as periodical cicadas, still one thing about them freaks me out. The next time these insects come around in 2024, Sari will be age 25 and Jack will be 29.

Now that’s scary!