Would You Eat a Chocolate-Covered Cicada?

Would you eat a chocolate-covered cicada?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Entomophagy is no problem for scientists at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. They know where the office snacks are kept.

The items include…drum roll…chocolate-covered cicadas.

Chocolate, did someone say chocolate? Ooh, chocolate! Let me at ‘em!  

During a break, Bohart scientists recently sampled/snacked on the delicacy.     

Roll call:

  • Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

  • Brennen Dyer, UC Davis graduate in entomology and Bohart Museum lab assistant

  • Iris Bright,  Bohart associate, future professor and a researcher in the nearby lab of Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

  • Maxwell Arnold,  4th year UC Davis undergraduate in entomology and a member of the forensic lab of Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

  • Amberly Hackmann, 3rd year UC Davis undergraduate in entomology and a student lab assistant at the Bohart Museum

So, let's eat! And then let's talk!

How did you like the chocolate-covered cicada treats?

Kimsey: "Not much."

Dyer: "They're an interesting snack, for sure. But I'm not a big fan of them, honestly."

Bright: "I like them, maybe not my go-to chocolate treat, but not bad!"

Arnold: "I've eaten worse things. "

Hackmann: "It was a fun and tasty chocolate!"

What did they taste like? Description?

Kimsey: "Tasted like chocolate-covered paper." (The jars had previously been opened)

Dyer: "I mostly tasted the chocolate and flavorings since cicadas have quite hollow bodies, but I would say they have a light nutty flavor. Much more pleasant than crickets, which have a strange aftertaste in my experience."

Bright: "The spices in the chocolate were really nice and then the cicada itself just added a fun crunch but not much flavor, similar to a malt ball!"

Arnold: "Tasted like stale chocolate, the cicada only contributed by getting stuck in my teeth."

Hackmann: (Tasted) "Like chocolate with crunchy, flavorless fibers."

Would you eat them again?

Kimsey: "Only if need be!"

Dyer: "I wouldn't eat them again, to be honest. I believe the wings were still attached, which don't have a nice texture. I'd be happy to try cicadas again but in another form. Perhaps a savory meal instead, like stir fry or fried rice."

Bright: "Definitely! That was actually my third one!"

Arnold: "If they were fresher, why not?"

Hackmann: "Yes, it's a good snack for when I didn't bring enough food to work. "

Have you eaten (or enjoyed) other insects?

Kimsey: "Mealworms are good, crickets not so much."

Dyer: "I've tried a few different insect foods, including gummy worms (the real deal), various mealworm snacks, chapul bars (cricket flour-based energy bars), and flavored crickets. I haven't had the chance to try full-on prepared meals that incorporate insects, though."

Bright: "I've eaten crickets, mealworms, and termites that tasted like cilantro (in Belize)! I've also accidentally eaten a Hemiptera that was hiding on a blackberry, which was not so pleasant."

Arnold: "I enjoy mealworms with butter and salt (tastes just like popcorn)"

Hackmann: "Yes, I've eaten mealworms, ants, and crickets as well."

Opinions differed at the Bohart tasting, but patrons at a chocolate shop in Bethesda, Md., loved them  during the Brood X Periodical Circada explosion.

A Reuters news story related that chocolate-covered cicadas were literally flying off the shelves last June at a chocolate shop in Bethesda, Md. Owner Sarah Dwyer of Chouquette Chocolates pointed out a 10-day backlog of orders.

She froze, boiled, cleaned, crisped (in air fryer) and then fried them. She sprinkled some with cinnamon and others with Old Bay Spice, and then dipped them in chocolate.

“I did go to pastry school in Paris to learn my dipping technique," Dwyer told Reuters. "I'm pretty sure no one thought I would be using it on cicadas."

Bohart Open House on Entomophagy in 2019

The Bohart Museum, currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions,  hosted an open house in  September of 2019 to give the public a taste of entomophagy. The theme: "Gobble, Gobble, Munch, Munch, Crunch: Entomophagy." Visitors ate crickets, earthworms and mealworms and received a button proclaiming "I Ate a Bug at the Bohart."

A display, titled "Bug Buffet," drew widespread interest: "Have you ever eaten ant pancakes or scorpion scaloppini? Well, eating bugs (entomophagy) is a lot more common than you might think. All round the world, people eat delicious and nutritious insect delicacies."

The dishes mentioned on the display:

  • Locust Biscuits, featuring the brown locust, Locustana pardalina
  • Mexican Caviar, starring the giant water bug, Abedus herberti
  • Termite a la Carte, featuring termites, order Isoptera 
  • Maguey Worm Tacos, with Maguey worms, family Megathymidae
  • Raw Cossid Moths, starring the larvae of the cossid moth, Xyleutes leucomochia 
  • Fried Pupae, presenting the pupae of the silkworm moth, Bombix mori

The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is home to the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It also maintains a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas; a year-around gift shop (now online),  stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu.