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Entomophagy explained - Why Eat Bugs? + a list of the world’s edible insects

Posted: Wed, May 15, 2013 | By: Food / Diet

by Daniella Martin

Despite the fact that 80% of the world’s cultures eat insects (that’s right: the US is in the minority here) most people in our culture consider insects simply to be pests. But when you consider the logic of bugs as food, from an ecological, financial, and global perspective, they start to seem a lot more palatable.

Insects: The True Eco-Protein

A United Nations report found that the livestock industry is responsible for generating more greenhouse gas emissions than transport. That means the burgers, chicken, and pork we are eating are technically worse for our environment than our cars. Insects require such fewer resources in terms of food, water, and land space that, as David Gracer of SmallStock Foods puts it, “Cows and pigs are the SUVs of the food world. And bugs—they’re the Priuses, maybe even bicycles.”

Top Ten Reasons To Eat Insects

10. Most edible insect species are highly nutritious.

9. It is up to 20 times more efficient to raise insect protein than beef. That’s per pound. This is mainly because bugs don’t ‘waste’ food energy on things like raising their body temperature, or making bones, fur, feathers, and other stuff we can’t eat.

8. Also, it takes less water to raise insects — much, much less: up to 1000 times less.

7. You are probably already doing it, as the FDA allows a certain amount of insect matter to be present in most commercial foods: an average of 150 or more insect fragments are allowed per 100 grams of wheat flour, for instance — that’s a lot of bug!

6. Most cultures in the world not only eat insects, but in many cases find them to be a delicacy.

5. If insects themselves were deemed a food crop, imagine how much we could cut down on pesticide use, and its associated environmental damage.

4. Many insects are tasty: some larvae taste like bacon. Who doesn’t like bacon?

3. Many animal rights activists often won’t get up in arms over eating bugs, as they are already exterminated on a daily basis (the bugs, not the activists).

2. Insects may be the food of the future, as scientists are researching their potential as a space food crop.

And the number one reason to eat insects is…

1. Insects are a great, inexpensive, green source of the protein desperately needed by starving peoples. If we can help create a market and funding for it, there is the potential to help spread nourishment throughout the planet.



Agave worm: Also known as the maguey worm, these larvae of either the Hypopta agavis moth or the Aegiale hesperiaris are sometimes included in tequila bottles as proof of authenticity and alcohol content (tequila must be of high enough proof to preserve the worm). In Mexico, they are also eaten as part of a meal, and are highly nutritious. (Image via Ianchadwick.com)

Ant: there are several varieties of ants that are eaten: Carpenter ants, leaf-cutter ants, honeypot ants, and even lemon ants.

Honeypot ants have abdomens swollen with a nectar-like substance, which is used to feed other ants, sort of like a “living larder.” An excellent “bush food,” they are dug up from the ground and eaten raw by  aboriginal peoples in Australia. (Image via Thinkquest.org)

Leafcutter ants, also known as Hormigas Culonas in Spanish (which means big-butted ant) are eaten mainly in South America. They are  said to taste like a cross between bacon and pistachio, and are usually eaten toasted. In Colombia, they are sold like popcorn at movie theaters. (image via Bugman on http://www.whatsthatbug.com)

Lemon ants are found in the Amazon jungle and are said to taste like just that: lemons. (Image via http://www.learnsomethingnewtoday.us)

Bamboo  worm: Often eaten fried in Thailand, they are the larvae of the Grass Moth, and eat their way through bamboo before metamorphosing. (Image via Changmai News)

Bee: Bee larvae, especially, are prized in many cultures as tasty morsels. Think about it, all they eat is royal jelly, pollen, and honey! The larvae, when sauteed in butter, taste much like mushroomy bacon. Adult bees may also be eaten, often roasted (roast bee!) and then ground into a nutritious flour. In China, ground bees are used as a remedy for a sore throat. (Image via www.weirdmeat.com)

Centipede: Most often found as a street food in China. (Image via biscuitswithhoney.blogspot.com)

Cicada: Periodical cicadas, primarily found in the Eastern US,  live underground for 17 years before emerging and molting into adults. Just after they molt, they have soft, juicy bodies, and are said to be very tender and delicious. Different species of cicada are also eaten in many Asian countries, such as Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia. (Image via huntingboots.com)

Cockroach: Yes, you can eat cockroaches! Just not the ones you find around your house. Contrary to popular belief, cockroaches can actually be very clean and tasty insects, especially if they are fed on fresh fruits and vegetables. They can be eaten toasted, fried, sauteed, or boiled. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches have a taste and texture like greasy chicken. (Image via Shoichi Uchiyama.)

Cricket: eaten fried, sauteed, boiled, and roasted, these are amongst the most common insects eaten. Eaten in Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia.

Dragonfly: eaten in Indonesia and China. Can be eaten in adult or larval form. In Indonesia, these are caught by dipping a reed in sticky palm sap and waving it through the air. Often eaten boiled or fried.

Dung Beetle: despite the strange-sounding name, dung beetles, often eaten fried, are quite tasty.

Earthworm: known to be high in protein and iron, eaten by various peoples such as the native Yekuana of Venezuela. (Image via news.bbc.co.uk; click for cool video on earthworm restaurant in Croatia.)

Fly pupae: the fatty acid pattern of house fly pupae (Musca domestica L.) has been found to be similar to that of some fish oils. Shaped like small red pills, the “flavor is rich with a hint of iron, sort of like blood pudding,” says David Gracer of Small Stock Foods. (image via http://www.smallstockfoods.com)

Flying Ant: Also known as Sompopos, the flying queens are collected in Guatemala and roasted on a comal with salt and lime juice. They are said to taste something like buttery pork rinds. Because of their territorial nature, flying ant queens are sometimes pitted against each other, cock-fight style. (image via antiguadailyphoto.com)

Grasshopper: in Mexico, these are eaten roasted with chile and lime, and are known as chapulines. They are high in protein and calcium. (image via FoodGal.com)

Hornworm:  David George Gordon, author of The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, says that Tomato Hornworms can be fried up much the same as the fruit of the plant on which they feed. They taste a bit like green tomatoes, shrimp, and crab.

Jumiles: also known as stink bugs. High in B vitamins, these are said to taste either bitter or like cinnamon, and may have tranquilizing and analgesic properties. Apparently, they can survive the cooking process, and thus are often eaten alive. The yearly Jumile Festival involves the eating of thousands of jumiles, and the crowning of a Jumile Queen.

June bug: June bugs (Phyllophaga) can be eaten at both the larval and adult stage. Native Americans roasted them over coals and ate them like popcorn. (Image via slice.seriouseats.com)

Locust: the locust is one of the few insects condoned by the bible. Leviticus 11:22: Even these of them ye may eat: the locust after its kind, and the bald locust after its kind, and the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. (image via blogjam.com)

Louse: ‘“I have seen the Cheyennes, Snakes, Utes, etc., eat vermin off eachother by the fistful,” wrote the nineteenth-century chronicler Father Pierre-Jean de Smet. “Often great chiefs would pull off their shirtsin my presence without ceremony, and while they chatted, would amuse themselves with carrying on this branch of the chase in the seams. As fast as they dislodged the game, they crunched it with as much relish as more civilised mouths crack almonds and hazel-nuts or the claws of crabs and crayfishes.” — excerpt from The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook by David George Gordon. (Image via  Entnemdept.ufl.edu)

Mopane worm: largely eaten in Southern Africa, during their season, mopane worms can fetch a higher market price than beef. When dried, they are said to taste like  an earthy jerky. (Image via SmallStockFoods.com)

Mealworm: Mealworms are found wherever there is, well, meal! They are the larva of the mealworm beetle. They are often prepared boiled, sauteed, roasted, or fried, and taste like a nutty shrimp.

Midge fly: in East Africa, these are pressed into solid blocks and cooked into Kunga Cake. (Image via Haraprasan)

Nsenene: This tasty grasshopper is a Ugandan delicacy. Usually prepared fried. David Gracer suggests that they taste like “a cross between chicken, shrimp, and croutons.” (Image via shout-africa.com)

Pill-bug: AKA sowbugs, roly-polies, woodlice, these are actually terrestrial crustaceans, closely related to lobsters, crab and shrimp. When boiled, they are said to turn red. (image via PestMall.com)

Sago grubs: the larvae of the Palm Weevil.  Sago Delight, or fried Sago grubs,  is a specialty in Malaysia and Indonesia. In Borneo  and  Papua New Guinea, they are often cooked in Sago flour, and wrapped in a Sago leaf like a tamale. They are said to taste somewhat like bacon, and are an essential source of fat. (Image via Deliciouslytasteless.com)

Silk worm: A popular dish in Korea, these are known as Bon Daegi, and are an edible byproduct of the silk-harvesting process. Image via TLC.com)

Scorpion: Often found skewered and fried in Thailand and China. Scorpions tend to have a flavor like soft-shell crab. (Image via Traveljournls.net)

Tarantula: Primarily popular as a food in Cambodia, tarantulas are high in protein, and are believed to help boost virility. They taste somewhat like an earthy crab. (Image via blog.asiantown.net)

Termite: Termites are often eaten raw straight out of the mound in places like Kenya. (Image via nationalzoo.si.edu)

Wasp: Wasps are eaten in both adult and larval stages. Boiled, sauteed, roasted and fried, they taste somewhat buttery and earthy. Emperor Hirohito of Japan favored boiled wasps with rice. (Image via yeinjee.com)

Walking stick: Eaten in Asia and Papua New Guinea, Walking Sticks taste somewhat leafy. Their legs can be used as fish hooks, says Aaron Dossey of All Things Bugs. (Image via annonces-gratuites.index-net.org)

Water Bug: AKA Toebiter, the giant water bug is popular in Thai cuisine, both c0nsumed whole (steamed or fried), and as an extract in sauces. Raw, the bugs have a scent like a green apple. Steamed, their flesh (plentiful enough to make small filets), tastes like a briny, perfumy banana/melon, with the consistency of fish. (Image via foxnews.com)

Waxworm: The larvae of the wax moth, in the wild wax worms are a parasite of bee hives. In captivity, they are fed on a diet of bran and honey. Roasted or sauteed, they taste like a cross between a pine nut and an enoki mushroom, and are high in essential fatty acids. (Image via Songbirdgarden.com)

Wichetty grub: Eaten by Aborigines in Australia, often roasted in coals or over a fire, wichetty grubs are high in protein and fat. According to Peter Menzel in Man Eating Bugs, “Witchetty grub tastes like nut-flavored scrambled eggs and mild mozzarella, wrapped in a phyllo dough pastry.” (Image via alwaysfoodie.com)

Zaza-mushi: “Zaza-mushizaza, the sound of rushing river water, and mushi, insect — are the larvae of aquatic caddis flies.” – Man Eating Bugs. Zaza-mushi are boiled then sauteed in soy sauce and sugar in Japan. (Image via loneleeplanet.com)

this information first appeared on Daniella’s blog HERE   

Daniella teaches how to prepare a delicious wax worm, in the video below:


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