For some reason, journalists really want you to eat bugs. You’ve probably seen an article like this from the New York Times or this from the New York Times or this from the New York Times or this from the New York Times and, well, you get the point. You can find countless such articles in mainstream publications, all encouraging Americans to eat insects as a way to help the environment. And these articles have only increased in quantity as Brood X has begun to overrun large parts of the eastern United States after 17 years underground. You’d think it was a no-brainer that you should be eschewing grocery stores the next few weeks and just grabbing cicadas off the ground for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For all the articles that advise eating bugs, very few of them are written by journalists who have actually done so. Could it be that these bug-eating advocates aren’t putting their money—or magicicada—where their mouth is? Insects for thee, but not for me? Here at The Dispatch, we’re dedicated to bringing you analysis grounded by reporting—and the question of whether you should eat cicadas is no different from anything else we cover. So, in the spirit of an enterprising journalist and a bored 5-year-old boy, I decided it was time for me to eat some bugs.
Part I: Cicada butt fungus isn’t covered by workman’s comp
To eat cicadas, one must first catch cicadas. That isn’t really much of a problem right now in Washington, D.C., where they’re currently as plentiful as summer interns. (The cicadas, at least, don’t stand on the wrong side of the Metro escalator.) But, complicating matters ever so slightly, you want to make sure you get a cicada when it’s good and ripe; their life cycle involves coming out of the ground and molting, and it’s immediately post-molt that you want your cicadas—if “want” is really the right word—as their new shells have not yet hardened. Complicating matters even more, it’s this life stage at which cicadas look their most disgusting. They’re small and pinkish white and maggoty, entirely unappetizing to the point that seeing them would make you second guess whether or not you actually want to do this.