Why don't we eat more insects?

This question really bugs me: we humans eagerly devour most species of animals, birds and fish, so why do we shudder at the very thought of eating insects?

Australian aborigines in the outback enjoy eating witchety grubs, Bogong moths and honeypot ants, and Algerians used to collect vast numbers of desert locuts, which they cooked in salt water and dried in the sun before eating.

Insects have been a popular food in Japan for centuries. To this day, Tokyo restaurants offer such dishes as hachi-no-ko (boiled wasp larvae), zaza-mushi (aquatic insect larvae), inago (fried ricefield grasshoppers), semi (fried cicada) and sangi (fried silk moth pupae).

"What is it about North American culture that keeps us from using one of our most abundant and readily available food sources, insects?" asks Lana Unger, Iowa State University entomologist, who has kindly given us permission to quote from her online article. "We could learn a lot from our international neighbors.

"Many cultures around the globe have evolved to use insects in their diets. There was probably some trial and error involved because not all insects are edible. In fact, some insects are poisonous. But there are lots of insects that are safely eaten...

"Honey bees are accepted around the world as a favored food. They are edible at all stages (larval, pupal and adult) of growth. Boiling tends to break down their poison which is basically protein and at boiling temperatures, the stinger softens. Also pounding them before boiling is effective".

In Kwara State, Nigeria, West Africa, says Lana, people have feasted on termites, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, palm weevil larvae, and compost beetle larvae.

Iowa State University has an Entomology Club, which offers internet visitors a batch of tasty insect recipes for such delicacies as Bug Blox, Banana Worm Bread, Rootworm Beetle Dip, Chocolate Chirpie Chip Cookies, Crackers and Cheese Dip with Candied Crickets, Mealworm Fried Rice, Corn Borer Cornbread Muffins and Chocolate-Covered Grasshoppers.

It thoughtfully adds this disclaimer: "The Department of Entomology at Iowa State University is not responsible for gastric distress, allergic reactions, feelings of repulsion, or other problems resulting from the ingestion of foods represented on these pages.

Every fall (autumn) the Entomology Club hosts an Insect Horror Film Festival, featuring gourmet insect tasting, live insect displays, a butterfly house, informational displays, and a classic insect movie.If you feel adventurous enough to taste an insect or two, there's no need to catch your own bugs. Here's an edited copy of an online advertisement:


IMPORTANT. All food on this page is real. All insects are cleaned and cooked, and actually have some nutritional value. To remove cricket legs from teeth - brush teeth, then rinse.

CHOCOLATE COVERED CRICKETS. Did you ever see a cricket and just want to eat it? Sure you have. Who hasn't? Try these delicious oven-roasted crickets covered in fine chocolate. Each one is individually wrapped, and comes with the official "I Ate a Bug" button. $2.95 each.

LARVETS. They may not be wiggling, but they still feel good in your mouth. When you want a snack, forget about chips or pretzels. Worms are where it's at. And these aren't just unflavored worms. Noooooo. We have BBQ flavored and Cheddar Cheese. Can't decide? Order 1 of each. $1.25 ea.

BUG POPS. Lollipops with a surprise insect inside. Well, it may not be a surprise to you, but it'll sure be a surprise to the bug!

© 2002, Eric Shackle