Getting High on Cicadas and Eating Other Insects

Cicada Tacos (image via Indy Star)

With cicada broods emerging across America, the inevitable question has been posed: Can you get high eating them?

Dr. David Shetler, a professor of entomology at Ohio State University (he studies bugs), thinks it's possible.

“The cicada is basically a gram in weight and the Massospora cicadina fungi produces micrograms of toxicant," he explains. "You probably have to eat 100 infected cicadas... to feel any effect from the amphetamine chemical produced by the fungi which infects some of the 17-year cicadas in Brood X."

Dr. Mary Clifton: "Eating a bucket of bugs could get you high." 

Shetler goes on to say: "M. cicadina produces the amphetamine, cathinone, which is a mild stimulant. A western cicada species, an annual species, is often infected by Massospora levispora that produces the psychoactive tryptamine, psilocybin. So, eating periodical cicadas would only expose you to the cathinone, not the psychoactive tryptamine.”

Cicada stir-fry (image via Indy Star)

According to Wikipedia: "This fungus is also capable of dosing cicadas with psilocibin, the psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, as well as cathinone, an alkaloid similar to various amphetamines. These chemicals alter the behavior of the cicadas, driving males to copulate, including attempts with males, and is thought to be beneficial to the fungus, as the fungal spores are dispersed by a larger number of insect carriers.

Dr. Mary Clifton tells CelebStoner: "Eating a bucket of bugs could get you high." However, she notes, "People with shellfish allergies should avoid eating cicadas, since they're land-dwelling relatives of those creatures."

Many cultures around the world eat insects; it's known as entomophagy. Insects are a souce of protein and have been long eaten by primates. There are more then 2,000 species of edible insects, including butterflies, moths, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, cockroaches, termites, dragonflies and, yes, cicadas. The insects are traditionally eaten in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia. However, in Western cultures, it's considered taboo.

Insects for sale in Mexico City (photo by CelebStoner)

Now for how to eat insects:

• Wash them

• Boil, steam or fry them for at least five minutes

• Eat them right after cooking

• If not eaten immediately, keep them in a fridge or freezer, or sun-dry them to preserve them. They can last for a few days.

Check out a number of cicada recipes here

Cicada infestation happen in the U.S. every 13-17 years. They're expected to emerge from soil to mate in May and early June in the Southeast. These 13-year cicadas are known as Broad XiX. A second one dubbed Brood XIII is also expected to emerge in Illinois, making it a rare double-Brood event. The next emergence will be in 2037. 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.