COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Cicada nymphs can be a tasty source of protein and carbohydrates, but will eating them get you high?
Dr. David Shetlar, aka “BugDoc Dave” with Ohio State University, answered four popular myths about cicadas.
Will eating cicadas make me high?
Not likely, said Shetlar.
In fact, you’d have to eat about 100 of the infected insects to feel any effect from the amphetamine chemical produced by the massospora cicadina fungi, which infects some of the 17-year cicadas in Brood X, the insects emerging by the billions, if not trillions.
“You have to remember that the cicada is a little bit less than a gram in weight and the massospora produces things in micrograms of the toxicant,” Shetlar said. “You probably have to eat about 100 of the infected cicadas for it to have any potential effect on an average human being that might be 140-150 pounds. If you’re bigger, then you’d have to eat even more.”
Will eating them hurt my pup or kitty?
No. Cicadas feed on juices of plant roots for the 16.5 years that they are developing. They don’t carry any known parasites or pathogens. And the massospora cicadina fungi won’t hurt animals either, said Shetlar.
The biggest problem might be that your dog or cat finds them so tasty that they gorge on the insects and throw up chewed cicadas onto the carpet and then go out and eat more of Brood X.
Will I be allergic to cicadas if I’m allergic to shellfish or shrimp?
Shellfish and shrimp are very different species, said Shetlar. If you are allergic to oysters or clams, you rarely have an allergy to shrimp and lobster. However, if you are allergic to shrimp and lobster, which are cousins to the cicada, then there is a chance you might be allergic to a cicada. If you do have allergies, said Shetlar, only try a bite before diving into an entire meal of cicadas.
Are cicadas locusts?
Even though English settlers thought cicadas were locusts — and called them locusts in their writings — they are not. Locusts are grasshoppers, not cicadas.
“When the early British colonists experienced periodical cicada emergences … being good Christians, they thought they were experiencing the Biblical locust swarm, so they called them locusts,” explained Shetlar. “French Canadians wrote that they thought the English were stupid because they didn’t know the difference between a locust and a cicada.”
There are no cicadas in England, so the misidentification would have been an easy mistake to make.
“In western America, there used to be a western locust, but with the ‘taming of the West’ and ploughing up fields, it eliminated the grasslands, so we no longer have the western migratory locust,” Shetlar said.