I wrote an article in this space a few weeks ago about the impending emergence of Brood X cicadas. I ended the article imagining all of those little insects humming the song, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross. Soon there will be millions of periodical (not to be confused with annual) cicadas all over the place in parts of eastern North America. A social media discussion prompted a thought as I carried our food waste out to my composting bins yesterday. Can you compost the cicadas?
Though I am an atmospheric scientist, there is a relevant connection to this question. During the quarantine lockdown my family started composting. Compost is, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, “Organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.” If composting is done correctly, it can reduce the amount of food waste and methane in landfills. Methane can have a 100-year global warming potency 30 times that of carbon dioxide according to some estimates. The EPA website goes on to say, “Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away, and could be composted instead.” For the basics of composting, a previous article in Forbes chronicled how I got started. Let’s get back to the cicadas.
Can we put them in our compost? For the answer, I turn to some very useful information provide by The Nature Conservancy website. Deborah Landau, a conservation ecologist, wrote an excellent “101” on what you need to know abut the 2021 emergence Brood X cicadas. She pointed out, “The dead adult insects will drop back to the ground and help fertilize the soil. You can even add dead cicadas to your compost pile.” I started this article with a Diana Ross song, but now Elton John’s “Circle of Life” comes to mind. A 2007 article in the Chicago Times even recommended watering and turning compost regularly once cicadas are added to encourage decomposition. I am guessing it is probably a bad idea to add pesticide-exposed insects to your compost pile, however.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, the University of Maryland published a cicada cookbook. That certainly takes food waste to a different level. For me, I will pass and just add them to my compost tumbler.