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ECU biologist talks cicadas

(June 9, 2004)   —   The rhythmic buzzing of the cicada is well underway in eastern North Carolina, but the hum is not that of the 17-year insect, which is raking in media attention across the East Coast.

"It's real unfortunate. They will be right up just north of here," said Hal Daniel, an anthropologist and professor of biology at East Carolina University.

Periodical cicadas emerge fully-grown after spending years underground. Broods emerge in 17-year or 13-year cycles, he said. In Greenville and other areas in or near the coastal plains, the 17-year cicadas — or the Magicicada Brood X — are not present because of a lack of the hardwood trees the insect prefers, Daniel said.

"There are no huge forests of deciduous trees," he said. "And they like oak."

Daniel refers to the 17-year cycle as a predator trick.

"The cats eat them. The birds eat them. Only the strongest survive. That's what's happening now all over the east coast," he said.

The cicada invasion is waning as the early summer begins and the spawn of the Brood Xers go underground for another 17 years.

But in late May and early June the cicadas are in their peak in Virginia and Maryland. They'll go as far as Indiana and west to Tennessee, but eastern North Carolina won't get a visit. It's to the relief of many who need not worry about their thick-bodied, green and black bodies flying into cars, houses and hair.

But for some, like Daniel, the absence of the cicada in the east is a shame both for his intellectual curiosity and his culinary tastes. In addition to studying the insect's mating behavior, he is also an avid proponent of cicada consumption.

Packed with protein and nutrients, cicadas and other insects are regularly consumed in many cultures throughout the world. Entomophagy, Daniel said, is one way to help feed the populations.

"It's a reasonable, sustainable thing to do," he says. "They've got more protein than a rock fish."

Contact: Hal Daniel at 252-328-6895

Hal's Cicada Stir Fry

* 2 dozen medium to large cicadas, wings removed
* 2 tablespoons sesame oil
* 1 garlic clove, chopped
* 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
* 1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
* 1/2 tablespoon chili oil (optional)
* 1 tablespoon sweet sherry
* Assorted fresh chopped vegetables (snow peas, broccoli, bok choy, spring onions, carrots, water chestnuts, etc.)

Heat sesame oil in very hot wok, add garlic, ginger and then veggies. Cook over high heat for a few minutes. Add the cicadas and remaining ingredients. Cook a few more minutes, gently stirring. Serve on brown rice.


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481