May 24, 2007 — -- After a 17-year absence, a red-eyed insect is inflicting its loud mating call on millions of Midwesterners. The cicada is back.
Famous for their mating call, cicadas are rearing their ugly heads in five Midwestern states this spring. One swarm, which scientists call Brood XIII, is expected to number in the billions.
The insects attach themselves to just about anything vertical and in the next 30 days will mate and then die.
Humans find the cicadas' earsplitting plea for love deafening.
"An individual cicada can sound as loud as a lawnmower," said Doug Taron, a conservation biologist at Notabaert Nature Museum in Chicago.
The reason these cicadas show up every 17 years is a mystery even to scientists, but the noisy and frighteningly unattractive bugs are otherwise harmless.
For cookbook author Marilyn Pocius, these rare creepy crawlers are reason to throw an exotic dinner party.
"They're good! Not scary at all," Pocius said. "I really thought they were going to be much scarier than they really are."
Cicadas were on the menu: cicadas tempura, cicada sushi, grilled cicada and for cocktail hour, "cicada-tinis."
"I found them woodsy and nutty at first, kind of crunchy. And there was a creamy peanut butter taste under them that was not unpleasant," one partygoer said.