Cicada invasion crafts: 6 ideas from bug soup to jewelry

One food blogger cooked cicadas in a soup.
One food blogger cooked cicadas in a soup.Today

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By Rebecca Fishbein

One food blogger cooked cicadas in a soup.Today

Spring's bringing more than higher temps and cherry blossoms to the East Coast this year, as hordes of 17-year cicadas get set to head above ground from the Carolinas all the way up to New York next month.

But while the bug-phobic might not be too excited about the upcoming invasion of billions of these red-eyed little monsters, creative people have found plenty of ways to celebrate cicadas. Check out some of the crafty ways the bugs have been used:

Mmm, cicada soup!Today

Tamron Hall mentioned cicada soup on TODAY on Thursday, which sounds strange at first but is actually a real delicacy braved by more than a few people. A few years ago, food blogger Andy Ogden tried to make some cicada soup, using dried insects purchased from a Chinese market. He cooked them down in water, added some milk, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and, voila! The result? "A little grainy to be sure, but all in all it was a completely edible — almost enjoyable — bowl of soup," Ogden wrote on his blog. And he's not the only one who's sampled this buggy broth: there are lots of online recipes for cicada soup floating around. Bon appetit!

While we're on the subject of cooking cicadas, it turns out they make a nice frozen summer treat, too. When the insects hit Missouri two summers ago, an ice cream shop in Columbia, MO started selling cicada ice cream, a brown sugar and butter-flavor pepped with boiled cicadas dipped in sugar and chocolate. The shop got the bugs from its own employees' backyards, and the flavor sold out pretty quickly. Unfortunately, a local public health official asked them to drop the flavor, citing health concerns.

Chocolate-covered cicadas.Today

Ice cream's not the only dessert cicadas are good for. Just as chocolate-covered crickets serve as an occasional offbeat delicacy, recipes for cicadas dipped in chocolate are not uncommon. In 1990, when a batch of 17-year cicadas popped up in the Midwest, an Illinois sweet shop owner started selling chocolate-coated cicadas, though she told the Chicago Tribune that while the sweets sold fast, she never actually saw someone sample one.

Cicadas are also apparently low-fat, low-carb and high in protein, so if you're on a diet and looking for the perfect dessert, a chocolatey bug might be just the thing. If you're squeamish, you can also pick up a bug-free version of the treat at The Peanut Shop, a famous candy store in Nashville, Tennessee, which has been selling chocolate-covered cicadas since 2011, but also serves "faux-cicadas" that are really just pecans.

Snack fiends can make use of cicadas even if they don't have a sweet tooth. This recipe for cicada chips promises to provide a crispy little treat for summer barbecues and the like, and they only call for a little salt, pepper, paprika, egg, flour, oil and milk —and 30 to 40 cicadas, of course. Leave the wings and legs on for added crisp.

Don't think cicadas are only fun in food. Back in 2008, Massachusetts teens Katheryn Maloney and Brady Cullinan made a name for themselves selling funky jewelry crafted from dead bugs that had been swarming their Cape Cod hometown. The cicadas were shellacked, spray-painted, molded, colored and gussied up into earrings, necklaces and other decorative pieces, and proved pretty popular. Other jewelers have since followed suit, putting elegant bug creations up for sale.


Would you like this cup and saucer at your tea party? Artist Carrianne Buillard crafted this creepy set, featuring a cup, saucer and spoon, out of cicada wings and legs, and she's got lots of other bug-laden pieces on her Tumblr page. But if you prefer your insect art be made of stone, and not, well, insect, the British Museum is home to a beautiful jade cicada from China. Jade cicadas were often placed on the tongues of dead bodies before they were buried, so they would be protected in the afterlife.