“Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food. Insects are eaten by many animals, but the term is generally used to refer to human consumption of insects; animals that eat insects are known as insectivores.” -Wikipedia
This subject is fairly arcane, so I’ll be relying on several authoritative sources, in fair use. I have attributed all quotes and have provided links to their sources. Please take the time to explore these web sites, for further detail on this subject.
Like it or not, you’ve probably eaten some in your life. From Wikipedia:
“According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s The Food Defect Action Levels booklet. Contamination on the average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams of wheat flour, or below poses no health hazard. Other example of the maximum permissible levels of insect contamination in food products for humans, contamination below which level, poses no health hazard, are:
– Canned sweet corn- 2 or more 3 mm or longer larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments, the aggregate length of insects or insect parts exceeds 12 mm in 24 pounds
– Canned citrus fruit juices – 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml
– Wheat flour- Average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
– Frozen broccoli- Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams
– Hops- Average of more than 2,500 aphids per 10 grams
– Ground thyme- Average of 925 or more insect fragments per 10 grams
– Ground nutmeg- Average of 100 or more insect fragments per 10 grams”
As gross as it may initially seem, it is actually estimated that about 80% of the global population consume insects on a regular basis. “In Algeria, many people consume desert locusts. To add extra flavour to the bugs they are soaked in salt water and roasted in the sun. Australian Aborigines eat Bogong moths they find in caves and in crevices of rocks. In order to remove the wings, legs, and heads of the moths, the Aborigines cook them in hot ashes and sand and sift them through a net. In Africa, some cultures eat fried termites and caterpillars for nutrition. In Mexico, insects are served in restaurants for a high price. Also Thailand and Columbia feature insects on the menu.” – From Ask The Exterminator
Although the U.N. advocates eating bugs as a way to feed the hungry and end “costly” farming, many of us would use this information as a last resort to starving to death. You’ve probably seen Les Stroud, or Bear Grylls eating bugs on their respective survival shows. I can tell you that it will be a long time before I can scrub from my mind the image of grub guts being splattered through clenched teeth. It really doesn’t have to be that graphic or repulsive. Insects can be prepared in ways much like our normal everyday foods which can help cut down on the ‘revolting’ factor.
First, a list of edible insects, courtesy of Girl Meets Bug:
“Agave worm, Carpenter ants, Lemon ants, Leafcutter ants, Honeypot ants, Bamboo worms, Bees, Cicada, Cockroach (not house ones), Cricket, Dragonfly, Dung beetle, Earthworms, Fly pupa, Flying ant, Grasshopper, Hornworm, Jumiles, June bugs, Locust, Louse, Mopane worm, Meal worm, Midge fly, Nsenene, Pill bug, Rhino beetle and grubs, Sago bug, Silk worm, Scorpion, Tarantula, Termites, Wasp, Walking stick, Water bug, Waxworm, Wichetty Grubs.”
Bugs to Avoid -Courtesy of Chris Needham of Infolific.com
“Unfortunately, many of the bugs you come across shouldn’t be eaten even in a survival situation. Here are some guidelines for what to avoid.
* Bugs that are generally associated with carrying diseases should not be eaten. This includes flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.
* Some bugs use poison for capturing prey and for defense making them inedible so avoid centipedes, scorpions, and spiders.
* As a general rule, bugs with fine hairs, bright colors, or eight or more legs are off limits.
You can actually sustain yourself quite well with bugs so give them serious consideration when you’re otherwise without food and trying to survive in the wilderness. They have the additional benefits over animals and fish of being plentiful, not requiring traps, and needing little preparation before they can be consumed.”
*”Warning: Although many insects are edible, entomophagy poses some risks. If you are allergic to shrimp, shellfish, dust, or chocolate, never eat an insect. Even the non-allergic, unless in a survival situation, should never eat a raw insect. Certain insects store compounds that make some people sick; some are poisonous; others may be carcinogenic. Be as cautious with insects as you would be if you were gathering mushrooms. Know your insects!” From NOVA.
“Insects often contain more protein, fat, and carbohydrates than equal amounts of beef or fish, and a higher energy value than soybeans, maize, beef, fish, lentils, or other beans. According to a 2004 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, caterpillars of many species are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, as well as B-vitamins. In some African regions, children fight malnutrition by eating flour made out of dried caterpillars. Pregnant and nursing women as well as anemic people also eat caterpillar species high in protein, calcium, and iron.” Alison Fromme.
The following chart is reproduced from Iowa State University’s web site. It shows how some insects as food compare to lean ground beef and broiled cod.
|Insect||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Carbs||Calcium (mg)||Iron (mg)|
|Giant Water Beetle||19.8||8.3||2.1||43.5||13.6|
|Silk Worm Pupae||9.6||5.6||2.3||41.7||1.8|
Now if you are still with me, I’m going to share some recipes I found using insects. From Girl Meets Bug:
Cabbage, Peas ‘n’ Crickets
-Handful of crickets
-1 cup chopped snap peas
-1 cup chopped red cabbage
-1 tbs olive oil
-1 crushed clove of garlic
-Pinch of salt
Chop snap peas and cabbage. Heat olive oil in pan or wok. Begin stir-frying veggies and crickets. After 1 minute or so, add crushed garlic. Once cooked to desired level (I prefer mine firm and crunchy) add salt. Bug appetit!
-1 egg white
-1 tsp butter
-1/4 tsp honey
-1 leaf lettuce
-2 slices of bread
-1 tbsp mayonnaise
-1 pinch salt
Sautee the bee larvae in the butter, with a tiny bit of salt and a few drops of honey. Once larvae become golden brown and crispy-looking, remove, and mix into enough egg white to cover and bind them into a mass. Then return them to the sautee butter, pressing them together into a patty.
Toast bread, and slice tomato. Spread mayonnaise on toasted bread when ready. When bee patty becomes firm, place it atop the lettuce and tomato on the sandwich. Enjoy!
-1 cup waxworms
-1 cup chopped onions
-1 cup chopped tomato
-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
-2 tbsp olive oil
Freeze live Waxworms overnight.
Saute onions in olive oil until golden, then turn heat to medium-high. Add waxworms, stirring quickly to keep them moving, while adding a pinch of salt (to taste). Waxworms will start to straighten out as they hit the heat; this means they are partially done and are becoming firm, just like shrimp or fish. When you start to see a little bit of transparency around their edges, they are ready.
Simply use sauteed waxworms as you would any other taco meat, adding whichever complementary ingredients you fancy.
From Iowa State University’s Entomological Department:
Mealworm Fried Rice
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. oil
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. chopped onions
4 tsp. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 c. minute rice
1 c. cooked mealworms
Scramble egg in a saucepan, stirring to break egg into pieces.
Add water, soy sauce, garlic and onions. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice. Cover; remove from heat and let stand five minutes
Banana Worm Bread
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup dry-roasted army worms
Mix together all ingredients. Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour.
I will conclude with a quote that provides some more important provisos:
“If you have the desire to eat insects to become closer to nature, make sure you wash and cook them first. This will reduce the chance that you may chomp into a poisonous substance the bug may have consumed. However, if you live near agriculture that uses pesticide on a regular basis, do not eat bugs that live nearby. The pesticide cannot be washed off the insects, and it can be toxic to humans. Your safest bet is to order creepy crawlies from areas that do not use pesticides. Finally, do not eat insects that are dead when you find them. It is better to find live insects and cook them.” – Ask The Exterminator
Sources and Further Reading:
JWR Adds: Bon appetit, and Hakuna matata! (Scroll forward to 2:08.)