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Chef Plans Cicada Feast During Invasion

This photo provided by the University of Connecticut, shows a cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia on May 27, 2003. Any day now, cicadas with bulging red eyes will creep out of the ground after 17 years and overrun the East Coast with the awesome power of numbers. Big numbers. Billions. Maybe even a trillion. For a few buggy weeks, residents from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered by 600 to 1. Maybe more. And the invaders will be loud. A chorus of buzzing male cicadas can rival a jet engine.(AP Photo/University of Connecticut, Chirs Simon)

This photo provided by the University of Connecticut, shows a cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia on May 27, 2003. Any day now, cicadas with bulging red eyes will creep out of the ground after 17 years and overrun the East Coast with the awesome power of numbers. Big numbers. Billions. Maybe even a trillion. For a few buggy weeks, residents from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered by 600 to 1. Maybe more. And the invaders will be loud. A chorus of buzzing male cicadas can rival a jet engine.(AP Photo/University of Connecticut, Chirs Simon)  (AP2003)

As parts of the United States prepare for an insect invasion, one chef is using the influx of cicadas as a chance to get some free protein to cook with.

While Connecticut chef Bun Lai is already known for his Mexican grasshopper dish and his fried rice with meal worms and crickets, he might soon also be recognized as the cicada chef.

Lai, owner of Miya's Sushi, tells the "New Haven Register" that he plans to fill a big freezer full of Brood II cicadas, once the red-eyed bugs' 17-year life cycle brings them above ground for about five weeks.

"I'm going to catch a whole bunch of them and preserve them for future eating," he said. "I plan on eating a whole bunch of them myself."

Lai said cicadas, and insects in general have great nutritional value and are "healthier for our bodies than eating meat."

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He plans to feature the cicada in some theme dishes, steaming some of the bugs and boiling others, with the appropriate spices and herbs.

"I don't want to take something that's inherently nutritious and deep fry it," he explained. "If I'm going to interrupt this amazing, 17-year life cycle, I'm going to honor it and respect it."

Lai tells the Register that he sees it as a challenge to take something that's abundant and nourishing and make it appealing, not to mention tasty.

"I'm not trying to gross people out," he said. "I'm not running a frat house. I respect the cicada."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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