Cicada (Tibicen species) in southern Oregon. Photo by Rhett Butler (July 2011).
Cicadas are insects found worldwide, including the United States. There are more than 2,500 species globally.
Cicadas are best known for their call, which males use to attract females after a long period — up to 17 years for some species in North America — living underground as a nymph. The cicada’s unusual life-cycle helps it avoid predation — a large number of individuals emerging on an infrequent basis swamps predators like birds and mammals, allowing large numbers of cicadas to reproduce successfully.
Cicadas, which feed on the xylem of tree roots as juveniles and suck sap as adults, are seen as pests in many parts of the world. They are commonly eaten — usually fried. Last month an ice cream store in Columbia, Missouri made headlines when authorities banned it from selling cicada-flavored ice cream. Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream only sold one batch — which sold out in a matter of hours — before the health department shut down the ice cream. The City of Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services didn’t have cooking guidelines for cicadas, according to the Associated Press.
More pictures of cicadas.