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)?

  • 3
    to be clear: the insect could still be alive, however you are not planning to bring the live part with you; merely the shell that remains after molting.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 15:08
  • @Shog9 correct -- the insect regularly sheds it's casing. I don't want to bring back the insect, but it's 'husk' so to speak.
    – jmac
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 15:09
  • 8
    This is an interesting question, though I must ask... why not just get the cicada shell from the U.S.? It's not like we have a shortage.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 20:01
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    A bit of a tangent, but I've brought an unmarked bottle of liquid back from Europe before (it was homemade cough syrup) and had go to through agg screening. The agent was a bit rude but I was able to answer my way through without any issue. Can't think of a reason why a cicada casing would be any more suspect, at least.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 1:19
  • 1
    @reirab Because cicadas from Japan are different species than the US ones.
    – Jabe
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


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."

  • 4
    "I never knew cicada shells were popular in the USA" I've never even heard of a cicada or what it is, and I've lived in the US all my life. It might be a regional thing. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 20:18
  • @Panzercrisis I believe cicadas can be found all over the US, any place where trees grow. If you go outside right now and can hear insects buzzing, then your probably hearing cicadas. Their characteristic droning is associated with Summer the same way the sound of crickets is associated with night time.
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 21:33
  • @RossRidge This thing? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada#/media/File:Tibicen_linnei.jpg I guess I know what it is now, and I have seen them locally, but not very often. It sounds like other places may pay more attention to them though than at least some of the Southeast. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 22:00
  • @RossRidge "Periodical cicadas are found only in the United States east of the Great Plains. Seventeen-year cicadas are found mainly in the northern, eastern, and western part of their range. Thirteen-year cicadas predominate in the South. Within the 17-year cicadas there are 12 year-classes or broods." according to nat-geo Not sure about Hawaii or Alaska though.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 15:48
  • 1
    Yes, even in Alaska
    – user13044
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:09

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.

  • Even if you do get a positive answer from USDA, it's possible that CBP won't allow it. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 19:14
  • @DavidRicherby True. Along those lines, if you did get a positive answer from USDA, I would print it out and take it with you. Or, perhaps even better, ask them to mail it to you on official USDA letterhead and bring that with you. Also, I would assume that the regulations you'd want to look up are the ones of the state where you'll first be entering the U.S., which may or may not be the state you're actually planning to visit.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 20:07

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