Cicadas are poised to infest whole swaths of street trees in Hangzhou every summer. The city’s gardening and greening development center calls for residents to catch the insects to rescue trees every year.
When the soil warms up enough, cicadas emerge from the ground, where they suck moisture from tree roots for the past 13 or 17 years. They shed their exoskeletons, attach themselves to branches, mate, and lay eggs before dying off in about six weeks.
Staffs from the center says that the insects do damage the willows, sakura trees, maples, and other kinds of street trees as the adult cicadas feed on leaves.
Adult and nymphal cicadas feed on plant sap called xylem fluid, which they suck up through their proboscis. Young trees and unhealthy saplings are the most vulnerable to damages from cicadas, as the female cicadas will dig small slits into thin branches to lay their eggs.
While there are no predators that prey only on cicadas, there are plenty of animals that feast on them, including birds, rodents, snakes, lizards, and fish. However, they seldom live in the city. Therefore, it takes a long time for gardening workers to catch cicadas.
How to deal with these insects after catching them then?
Maybe it is time for cicadas to invade your kitchen. Swarms of the red-eyed bugs, who are reemerging after 17 years under the ground, offer a chance for home cooks to turn the tables and make them into snacks.
Full of protein, gluten-free, low-fat, and low-carb, cicadas were used as a food source and are still eaten by humans in many areas of China. Like other proteins, cicadas take on a rich flavor when cooked. Some chefs describe the taste as buttery or nutty, which is better than you might expect from an insect.
The deep-fried cicada with spiced salt is one of the most popular midnight snacks in some areas of Zhejiang. Gormandizers will choose the cicadas that have just emerged from the ground, as the flesh is tender at that time.
When eating adult cicadas, it is advised to pull the wings and legs off to reduce the crunchiness.