So apparently people love cicada casings. In the US. I am in Japan, and have been asked to bring one back to the US.
Will I be picked up at customs or have to declare cicada casings (the empty shell of a non-live insect)?
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An adult cicada will not shed its skin, rather a young nymph will shed it exoskeleton as it grows. Likely what you are talking about is the final shedding when the nymph emerges to become a winged adult cicada.
I never knew cicada shells were popular in the USA (they are in China) as there are plenty of cicadas in the USA.
You can bring a shell in*, as long as there are no body parts or debris left inside the shell. Agricultural agents are looking for any thing that might harbor eggs, larva or other insects.
But that said, ultimately it is up to the agent inspecting your shell to allow it or destroy it. Being able to bring it in is not guaranteed, even if you meet all the rules.
*Under 7 CFR 330.200, "Biological specimens of plant pests, in preservative or dried, may be imported without further restriction under this part, but subject to inspection on arrival in the United States to confirm the nature of the material and freedom from risk of plant pest dissemination."
Long story short I can't find specifics on the subject of bringing the insect shells or casings into the US through customs, however, all of this is subject to regulations by the State where you're going and APHIS.
The page from APHIS mentions email address where you can send the question and find out whether or not it would be legal to bring a cicada casing into the US from Japan:
[email protected] as well as a phone number:
+1 (301) 851-3300 that will allow you to do the same.
So unless you get a positive answer from USDA that this is allowed I would assume that the Customs and Border Protection will err on the side of caution and have it destroyed. Whether or not you will get fined along with it may depend on whether you declare the item or not.