In search of ponies: Cicadas biblical in numbers, tasty with almost everything

It isn't every day the yard is covered in snacks. Crunchy on the outside, they have a nutty flavor, similar to peanuts or almonds, according to those who partake.

Suspended inside vibrant colored gelatin, they are sure to cause a buzz of conversation at a party.

They also make for good pizza toppers, add a crunch to homemade candy and ice cream, and make for a chewy treat when found fresh and glistening — or so some say.

They can even be roasted and salted for a crispy treat.

In a way it makes sense to explore the potential of a food source, especially when one has to wonder what, exactly, to do when thousands of insects descend like a plague.

And not just any insects — make that rather large, loud, red-eyed, alien looking insects.

This spring the children of Brood II will emerge from the ground where they have been living for the last 17 years.

While it will impact an isolated area, it will be epic nonetheless, occurring up and down the East Coast from Connecticut to Virginia.

Biblical in proportion, Magicada's, a specific species of cicada, can emerge to the tune of more than a million per acre — an overwhelming number that scientists speculate may be a defense mechanism of sorts.

By literally over-satiating predators, probability guarantees a large number of them will succeed in their mission — reproduction.

After spending nearly two decades underground, the emergence of the cicada from the warming spring soil marks the last couple months they will live, long enough to procreate and beget the next brood, thus starting the 17-year clock all over again.

And while cicadas are present around the globe, attracting little attention on their own, the seven species of periodic cicada are impossible to ignore.

Taking to the trees, the males sing for mates, making quite a raucous, punctuated with buzzing and clicking that seems monumentally loud, even when taking into account their size.

Sucking sap from plants, they can destroy crops and damage young shrubs and trees, however, they also serve as exceptional nutrition for animals, and the deaths of those uneaten serve to enrich the soil.

Next year, it will be Brood III in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, then in 2015, Brood IV will emerge in six states from Iowa to Texas, and each year after, a new brood in a new region is expected.

But if New Mexicans have any interest in witnessing a brood emergence, they will have to travel to do it — with regions west of Texas absent from 100 years of data recorded on the 12, 17-year broods tracked in the U.S.

Travel will also be required for those who have interest in trying out the tasty recipes some adventurous East Coasters are preparing in anticipation of Brood II's arrival.

However, while no plagues of large, loud insects are predicted for the Southwest, nature is not likely to neglect the region — if the last cycle was any indication — droves of miller moths will arrive in the next month or so.

And the flies will follow.

While the daring and hardy spirit of the southwestern folks is not debated, rest assured, if miller moths or flies end up in the Jello or on top of pizza, there was no gourmet intent.

Not for lack of creativity, but more for the fact that we spend way too much time fighting to keep them away from the food to give in now.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at:

insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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