WASHINGTON — Brood X cicadas, billions strong, will soon fill our skies and trees and sidewalks and parks and streets... But on the bright side, you might be able to get a quick snack out of it.
WUSA9 Meteorologist Topper Shutt (who has been open about having eaten bugs in the past) asked Dr. Amy Fauth from Falls Road Veterinary Hospital in Potomac, Maryland and Smithsonian entomologist Dr. Floyd Shockley about whether humans and animals can eat cicadas.
"You can roast them up," Dr. Shockley tells WUSA9. "You can actually use them almost interchangeably with shrimp."
Because of their flavor similarities to shrimp, some social media posts claim that if you have a shellfish allergy, you should stay away from eating these critters. We took those claims to the experts.
If you have a shellfish allergy, should you avoid eating cicadas?
- Dr. Zoe Getman-Pickering, a Postdoctoral Scientist with The George Washington University
- Dr. Floyd Shockley, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Institution
- Kristin Jayd, Entomologist and Master's Student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland
This is TRUE. Cicadas and other insects are biologically similar to crustaceans like shrimp, and people with shellfish allergies can have allergic reactions to them.
WHAT WE FOUND
"Tree Shrimp," as cicadas are sometimes called, are closely related to sea animals like shellfish. In the interest of fairness, we can also refer to shrimp as "Sea-cadas."
"Because they are relatively closely related to crustacea," Shockley explains, "if you have shellfish allergies, you can have an allergic reaction to the cicadas."
Dr. Zoe Getman-Pickering agreed, adding that people with shellfish allergies should avoid eating any insects, not just cicadas.
"Shellfish and insects are closely related, and have similar chemical compositions," she says. "Not all people with shellfish allergies will react badly to insects, but it's better not to risk it."
I know what you're thinking. Most of us are not clamoring for the opportunity to eat a very loud and weird bug. But Kristen Jayd points out that an allergy might be your perfect alibi:
"If you do have a seafood allergy, particularly to prawns or shrimp, then eating cicadas might not be for you. Or, that can be a convenient excuse if you're just grossed out."
So we can verify if you have a seafood and/or shellfish allergy, steer clear of a cicada snack. Or, don't eat them at all. No one would judge you for abstaining.