posted on Jan, 22 2008 @ 06:55 PM
This post is in response to another forum member asking which insects were edible, and which ones were not. First of all, I'm not an expert on the
subject, so please do a little researching on your own, then draw your own conclusions as to the viability of insects as survival chow.
The eating of insects or entomophagy, has been practiced for thousands of years all over the World. In today's World however, the use of insects as
a food source is rare in developed countries like the United States, but still fairly common in developing countries like Central and South America,
Africa, and Asia where foodstuffs such as beef, pork, vegetables, and grains are in short supply and money is scarce.
I know what you're going to say.. eating insects is gross! That a cultural bias, not a statement of facts. Have you ever ate a bug? Sure you have!
You've probably consumed over a pound of insects during your lifetime without even knowing it. The FDA even has guidelines as to the acceptable
number of insect parts allowed in your processed foods. You didn't know that, huh? Well, here's another interesting factoid: the average person
'eats' upto 4 spiders in their sleep during their lifetime. Yum, yum! you great big entomophagous you! Don't get all in a panic about it though.
The experience obviously didn't hurt you, and probably gave you a much need protein boost to your otherwise boring meal.
Here's something to think about when you blanch at the thought of eating insects: These are some of the permissible levels in your food:
Apple butter 5 insects per 100g
Berries 4 larvae per 500g OR 10 whole insects per 500g
Ground paprika 75 insect fragments per 25g
Chocolate 80 microscopic insect fragments per 100g
Canned sweet corn 2 3mm-length larvae, cast skins or fragments
Cornmeal 1 insect per 50g
Canned mushrooms 20 maggots per 100g
Peanut butter 60 fragments per 100g (136 per lb)
Tomato paste, pizza, and other sauces 30 eggs per 100g OR 2 maggots per 100g
Wheat flour 75 insect fragmnets per 50g
Source: The Food Defect Action Levels: Current Levels for Natural or Unavoidable Defects for Human Use that Present No Health Hazard. Department of
Health & Human Services 1989.
So what exactly is an insect?
Insects, are Arthropods and have three pairs of legs, a segmented body divided into three regions (head, thorax, and abdomen), one pair of antennae
and, usually, wings. Typical examples are beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, moths, flies, mayflies, dragonflies, etc. You
get the idea. Not all insects should be eaten though, and I'll give you a rough idea of which ones to avoid in the following paragraphs.
So Which insects are edible?
There are over a thousand species of edible insects in the World, so your choices are only limited by your imagination and level of squeamishness.
Most ants, crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers are safe to eat including insect larvae, like those from moths and yellowjackets. In africa termites
are a local favorite, and are eaten either raw or fried. Grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles are usually fired, while ants are ate raw or ground
up into a mouth-watering paste. In Mexico and South America grasshoppers are the insect of choice along with the agave worm which is either swallowed
whole or preserved in tequila..yeah, that's right, the little worm that comes in the bottle of the good stuff. In Asia giant waterbugs are much
sought after and roasted whole for a gastronomical delight.
Which insects should I avoid?
Have you ever heard the saying "What looks good, isn't always good for you"? Well, that little sage bit of advise applies to some insects as well.
Avoid insects that feed off of dung (crap) or carrion (dead flesh). They may be host to toxins or other parasites consumed during their feasting.
Avoid brightly colored insects. Their coloring is an adaption to predators, and typical signifies that they are rather bad-tasting or toxic by
nature. Don't eat insects that frequent places where pesticides are in use. Most insects eat fresh green plants, but it's better to be safe than
sorry. Don't eat dead insects. You have no idea what killed them. Lastly avoid those insects that may inflict painful stings unless you're really
feeling adventurous and know for a certainty that you have no allergy issues to stinging insect.
How Do I prepare them?
You can prepare your insect however you like, but typically frying, roasting, and boiling are the norm. You may also ground them up into paste or
powders to add to soups, stews, broths, and bread items for an added protein punch. Grasshoppers should not be eaten raw, and you should remove the
wings, legs, and ovipositors before consuming them. This would also apply to any insect with wings or legs that are hard and chitinous (Think beetle
Why Eat Insects
Insects are high in protein and relatively low in fat
They're abundant and easily captured
They can be raised and harvested in very little space
Think of the money you can save on your grocery bill!
Last, but not least, You're hungry and have no other food to eat