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Published by UGA Extension Food Science and Technology 

Authors: Matthew Livingston, Amrit Pal, Kaitlyn Casulli


Insects are a significant part of traditional diets for at least 2 billion people, with over 1,900 species reported to be consumed as food (van Huis et al., 2013). Cicadas are one such insect. Indigenous peoples from the United States and Canada were known to eat cicadas (Capinera, 2008; Liceaga, 2022). 

Cicadas are fascinating insects that belong to the superfamily Cicadoidea, characterized by their robust bodies, broad heads, transparent wings, and distinct compound eyes. With over 3,000 known species, cicadas are divided primarily into two categories: annual cicadas and periodical cicadas. Annual cicadas typically have a lifespan ranging from two to five years. Their brood life cycles intersect, resulting in cicadas emerging every summer. On the other hand, periodical cicadas are unique and spend most of their lives underground, with life cycles that span either 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. They are divided among 15 brood cycles, with specific broods emerging in different geographic regions (National Geographic, Accessed date 23rd April 2024).

Nutritionally, cicadas are quite valuable. Xie et al. (2023) mentioned that they contain 21.4 g of crude protein per 100 g, which is approximately 1.6% more than that found in pork and eggs. In contrast, the crude fat content is relatively low at 2.6 g per 100 g, which is much less than that of pork and beef. The study also pointed out the presence of various amino acids, including elevated levels of glutamic acid, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. Additionally, Li et al. (2024) discovered a mix of essential and non-essential amino acids in cicadas, indicating their potential as a complete protein source. Furthermore, Raksakantonga et al. (2010) recognized cicadas as a valuable protein source abundant in healthy fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Their findings revealed that protein makes up about 47% of the proximate value in cicadas, with a PUFA content of 213 mg per 100 g.

Cicadas also have a unique life cycle, consisting of the following stages (Moulds, 2009):

  • Egg Stage: Mature female cicadas use their pointed ovipositors to make tiny cuts in tree branches, shrubs, or grass stems to lay their eggs. Each cut usually contains between 10 and 16 eggs, but this can differ depending on the species and individual females. A female may make multiple cuts in various places, depositing a total of 300 eggs or more. Some species deposit eggs on living tissue, while others prefer dead or decaying tissue.
  • Nymph Stage: After an incubation period that can last from a few days to over 3 months, the eggs hatch, releasing young nymphs. These newly hatched nymphs have transparent, delicate skin that restricts their movement. They wiggle out of the egg cuts, helped by a spine at the end of their abdomen. Once on the ground, the nymphs dig into the soil, searching for roots to feed on by sucking xylem sap from plants.
  • Underground Life: Cicadas spend most of their lives underground, advancing through five developmental stages called instars. While some species complete their life cycle in one year, others, like the American periodical cicadas (Magicicada species), have extraordinarily long life cycles of 13 or 17 years. Periodical cicadas are unique for maintaining a consistent cycle length, but most other species may vary their life cycle by a year or two.
  • Adult Stage: The final nymphal skin breaks open, allowing the adult cicada to emerge, usually a few hours after sunset. Adult cicadas typically live for 2 to 4 weeks, although some species that dwell in grass may only survive for 3 to 4 days, while larger species that live in trees can live up to 8 weeks. Adults mate to produce offspring, and the cycle continues with females laying eggs for the next generation.

How to Find Cicadas

Like most other periodical cicada broods, Brood XIX cicadas will be found in any areas with lots of vegetation across the state of Georgia. Since they only emerge every 13 years, these cicadas will likely be in an area of trees and other plants that are at least 13 years old, so it is unlikely to find any around newly developed parks or in built-up areas with lots of construction activity.

When looking for cicadas to cook and eat it is important to find them in an area with very little pollution from pesticides and litter. This means that the best cicadas won’t be found in very urban areas, and instead it is best to choose cicadas from large parks and forests for cooking (Gutierrez, 2022).

The time of day is also a crucial factor for hunting down cicadas. As is the case with most other animals, cicadas are more lethargic in the morning, which is when they are easiest to catch (Greenaway, 2013). Additionally, around and after sunset young cicadas tend to crawl up vertical surfaces like tree trunks, fences, and walls, making them very easy to spot. Dusk is also the most common time for cicada nymphs to molt their shells, revealing a very soft teneral cicada, which are perfect for more delicate uses in cooking where an exoskeleton crunch may not be desirable.

Now that you may have picked out the perfect location and time of day to find your winged friends, what should you look out for? Towards the start of the emergence, only cicada nymphs will be present. These can be found by looking for holes in soft ground nearby trees or under foliage, which are an indication that the cicada nymphs have begun their ascent upwards. In this stage, they can be found on tree trunks or any other vertical surface, like a fence. Once the nymph molts, the teneral cicada will remain near its shell until its wings are fully developed, creating a great chance to snag them up. These teneral cicadas are often considered the best for eating due to their soft body and lack of an outer shell that could be contaminated by the environment around the cicada (Sonde, 2021). Once the teneral cicada hardens its outer shell, it becomes a mature adult, and these will be the most common type of cicada to find. Since they have wings, they can be found nearly anywhere, including on bushes, in the grass, on houses, and especially high up in tree branches. Since the adults are in abundance in areas with lots of plant growth, they are the easiest to find and harvest.

How to Prepare and Store Cicadas

Before you grab your first cicada, there are some important considerations to ensure that you and those you share the cicadas with stay safe while eating and cooking with them. Firstly, as with all things found in the wild, there is a chance for contamination in the form of pollutants, pesticides, pathogens, and a buildup of toxic metals. To best mitigate these risks, only catch cicadas in areas with little to no human interference that would cause them to uptake toxic chemicals. This mainly applies to areas in cities, near farms, or construction sites, where the cicadas can be easily exposed to these undesirable pollutants. Additionally, the fresher the cicadas are, the higher the likelihood that they are safe to eat. Therefore, the nymph stage is usually not the best to eat given that it has been living in dirt for the past 13 years, whereas the teneral cicadas are the best to eat since they will have just molted their dirty outer shell. Adults aren’t always safe from problems as there are some parasitic fungi that will infect adult cicadas and make them dangerous to eat. The fungi can be easily identified, as the cicada abdomen will be missing, and in its place will be a white, chalky mass (Golembiewski, 2024).  Finally, you should not eat cicadas or feed them to anyone with a shellfish or dust mite allergy, as the chitin found within the cicadas’ exoskeletons can trigger these allergies. If you pay attention to these factors, you are ready to start collecting!

Once you have found an area to best hunt down these insects, you can begin to formulate a plan for their long-term storage. You can catch the cicada by firmly grasping it by the abdomen with your fingers, then placing it into a bin on standby. Any size bin will do, as long as it can fit into your freezer and be frozen without cracking. Once you have collected enough cicadas to be content, or until your bin is full, you can just place the bin directly into your freezer. The cold of the freezer will be enough to kill the cicadas painlessly and humanely. These cicadas can then be stored for up to a year in the freezer, but they should be frozen for at least an hour before preparing them (Gutierrez, 2022). When you are ready to eat them, the cicadas can be removed from the freezer, where they must first be de-winged to remove the chitin-rich wings that can cause digestive issues if too many are eaten(“Not a fan,” 2021).  To do this, find the place where the wing meets the cicada’s body, and use your index finger and thumb to remove the wing at this spot, using a twisting motion if it doesn’t cleanly come off. You can also remove the legs too to remove more chitin and reduce the crunchiness of the cicada. After de-winging the cicadas, they must be blanched for a minute in boiling water (salting optional). This step will not only defrost the cicada, but it will also remove any unwanted dirt on their exterior, and kill any harmful pathogens found on and within the cicada (Gutierrez, 2022). After following these steps, you can use the cicadas in any dish you want! Use them as a replacement for a meat source, or as a healthy protein addition to baked goods. Feel free to use the recipes below for inspiration!

Recipes with Cicadas

Cicada and Seafood Boil (7 Servings, Adapted from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/279460/old-bay-seafood-boil/)

  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 medium sweet onion, quartered
  • 2 serrano chiles, split in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds and membranes removed
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with string
  • 1 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay®)
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1.5 pounds medium red potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 (13 ounce) packages smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 ears sweet corn, halved
  • 30 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, deveined, tail on
  • 1 pound cicadas (roughly 200) newly hatched or adults


  1. Fill a very large stockpot fitted with a basket insert with about 4 quarts of water, or about a third full.
  2. Squeeze lemons into the water, tossing the halves in too. Add the onion, chiles, garlic, thyme, seafood seasoning, kosher salt, and bay leaves; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir potatoes into the pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Add the sausage and corn; cook another 5 minutes, making sure everything stays covered with the liquid.
  5. Add the clams and boil until they open, about 8 minutes. Toss in shrimp and shut off the heat. Cover the pot and let shrimp steep in the flavor for 10 minutes, adding the cicadas in the last 5 minutes (press them into the liquid).
  6. Serve as-is in a bowl, or drain and spread the cicadas, shrimp, sausage, clams, corn, potatoes, and onion out on a newspaper-covered table or on three large serving trays.
  7.  Sprinkle with a dusting of Old Bay or provide for individual use.

Cicada Chocolate Chip Cookies (Serves 5 dozen cookies, Adapted from https://www.nestle.com/stories/timeless-discovery-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe)


  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cicada powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1/2 cup roasted cicadas


  1. Preheat oven to 225° F.
  2. To make the cicada powder and roasted cicadas, roast the blanched cicadas on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper for 15-20 minutes, until crispy. Then to make the powder, blend until it creates a powder with the consistency of coarse sand.
  3. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. Combine flour, cicada powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  5. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and roasted cicadas.
  8. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Stir Fried Cicadas (Serves 4, Adapted from (https://health.osu.edu/wellness/exercise-and-nutrition/cooking-cicadas)


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced or minced
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped cauliflower and/or broccoli
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 3/4 cup bean sprouts
  • 3/4 cup snow peas
  • 40 blanched cicadas, newly hatched or adult
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • A pinch of salt, to taste
  • 4 servings of rice (Optional)
  • Sesame seeds, to taste (Optional)


  1. In a wok or other suitable pan, heat the vegetable oil. Add ingredients in the order listed above when those in the most recent addition are partially cooked.
  2. Serve over rice and add sesame seeds, if desired.


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  3. Greenaway, T. “The Best Way to Handle the Coming Cicada Invasion? Heat up the Deep Fryer.” Smithsonian Magazine. April 11, 2013. Accessed 6th May 2024. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-best-way-to-handle-the-coming-cicada-invasion-heat-up-the-deep-fryer-19372006/
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  10. Raksakantong, Pornpimol, Naret Meeso, Jittawan Kubola, and Sirithon Siriamornpun. “Fatty acids and proximate composition of eight Thai edible terricolous insects.” Food Research International 43, no. 1 (2010): 350-355.
  11. Sonde, K. “Can you eat cicadas? Yes, and here’s the best way to catch, cook, and snack on them.” The Washington Post. May 5, 2021. Accessed 6th May 2024. https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/05/05/cicadas-cooking-recipes/
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