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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is entomophagy?

Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects, including arachnids (tarantulas) and myriapods (centipedes). Read more here.

Why eat bugs?

Insects have served as a nutritional, tasty and safe food source for people for tens of thousands of years, all over the planet. Today insect eating is rare in the developed world, but eating insects is a common practice in over 13 countries. Insects remain a popular food in many developing regions of Central and South America, Africa, Australia and Asia. It’s only a matter of time till Eurocentric based cultures, like the United States, Canada and Europe catch on

How many insects are edible?

There are an estimated 1,462 species of recorded edible insects according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

How nutritional are they?

Insects are very nutritional; they tend to be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Let’s take the cricket as an example: 100 grams of cricket contains: 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 g. of fat, 5.1 g. of carbohydrates, 75.8 mg. calcium, 185.3 mg. of phosphorous, 9.5 mg. of iron, 0.36 mg. of thiamin, 1.09 mg. of riboflavin, 3.10 mg. of niacin and .05% fat. 

Compare that with 100 grams of ground beef, which, although it contains more protein, about 23.5 g. to be exact, it has 288.2 calories and an enormous amount of fat, in fact 21.2 grams worth! Lou Sorkin, Advisor for Insects Are Food, would like to add that like any food, how you prepare them can change their status from healthy to not so healthy. Deep-frying them or using them only as a novelty in a sugared or chocolate coating might be tasty, but then you're eating a junk-food preparation, albeit a tasty one.

The difference however between a regular chocolate chip cookie and one made with crickets is that the one made with crickets has a lot more protein! It’s a no-brainer to choose the chocolate chip cookie with crickets (or as entomophagists call them, “chocolate chirp” cookies) over any other brand!

What do insects taste like?

We here at Insects Are Food all have slightly different answers to this question because of our individual taste buds and taking into consideration the fact that the ingredients used in each recipe, naturally has the potential to influence and enhance the taste of the insect.

Dave Gracer, Advisor for Insects Are Food, has an answer that covers both sides of the coin: “One kind of answer deals with the details – dry-toasted cricket tastes like sunflower seeds; katydid like toasted avocado; palm grub like bacon soup with a chewy, sweet finish. Weaver ant pupae have practically no flavor, while the meat of the giant water bug is, astonishingly, like a salty, fruity, flowery Jolly Rancher. The other kind of answer is more theoretical and conceptual: often, insects taste the way that people expect them to. If insects were delicious then we’d all know it and we’d eat them, since we like delicious food. Whereas if insects are perceived, however incorrectly as disgusting, the chances that they’ll be deemed delicious are pretty low.”

Who and what cultures eat bugs?

The Old Testament encouraged Christians and Jews to consume locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers. St. John the Baptist is said to have survived on locusts and honey when he lived in the desert. In Ghana during the spring rains, winged termites are collected and fried, roasted, or made into bread. In Cambodia tarantulas are eaten and are one of the more popular foodstuffs sold to tourists.

In South Africa the insects are eaten with cornmeal porridge. In China beekeepers are considered virile, because they regularly eat larvae from their beehives. Gourmands in Japan savor aquatic fly larvae sautéed in sugar and soy sauce and candied grasshoppers, known as inago, are also a favorite cocktail snack. And in the highlands of Japan many of the elders enjoy wasp crackers. De-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic is a delicacy in Bali. Grubs are savored in New Guinea and aboriginal Australia. In Latin America cicadas, fire-roasted tarantulas, and ants are prevalent in traditional dishes. One of the most famous culinary insects, the agave worm, is eaten on tortillas and placed in bottles of mezcal liquor in Mexico. For Most People, Eating Bugs Is Only Natural by Sharon Guynup and Nicolas Ruggia, National Geographic Channel, July 15, 2004

Where can I purchase safe insects for eating?

One may purchase a variety of insects at any local and trusting pet store. Any pet store that sells food for reptiles should sell crickets and mealworms. There is also an assortment of online vendors. Any online search will bring up several vendors, mostly cricket and worm farms, but a more in-depth search should harvest more insect vendors. We provide a list below. Contact the folks below and tell ‘em you saw their link on Insects Are Food.com. and if you find any good ones please let us know.

Can you eat bugs collected from in and around your home?

People who know their insects and the care needed to harvest them from the “wild,” can collect bugs from local areas such as one’s yard, local parks, woodlands, in and along streams and rivers or even on the beach. Otherwise they should only be purchased from reliable and trusted sources.

How safe are bugs to eat; are there any we shouldn’t eat?

Bugs are safe to eat as long as you purchase them from a reliable source or raise them yourself. You do not want to take bugs from the wild because you don’t know what sort of pesticides or other chemical sources they’ve come into contact with. A good rule of thumb to follow is to avoid eating any brightly colored, hairy or spiny bugs, as they are likely to be poisonous. Most caterpillars are similarly inedible. In all cases of food consumption, a safe and reliable source equals a safe and healthy diet.

What is the most popular insect to eat?

It appears crickets are one of the more popular insects to eat. It is one of the easiest to raise, prepare and cook. They’re very inexpensive to raise and easy to maintain. They’re also highly nutritious and tasty. Mealworms and silkworms are also very popular. It would make for an interesting project for someone to find out which bugs are indeed the most popular to eat. We’d love to hear the responses.

What is a bamboo worm?

A bamboo worm is the pupa of the grass moth, from the Crambidae family of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). They are quite variable in appearance, the nominal subfamily Crambinae taking up closely folded postures on grass-stems where they are inconspicuous, while other subfamilies include brightly colored and patterned insects, which rest in wingspread attitudes.

Local people throughout Thailand and other regions ranging from the Amazon to China, collect "bamboo worms," which are the pupae of a common species of moth endemic to that region. The moths lay their eggs in a lower segment of the bamboo and the worms eat their way up segment by segment. When they are ready to emerge, they climb back down to the segment where they were born and eat through the wall of the bamboo. Local people know when this cycle occurs and make cuts in the bamboo to extract the worms.

What exactly is a mealworm; is it an actual worm?

Great question! A mealworm is not an actual worm at all, but rather the larva of a Mealworm Beetle or Darkling Beetle, also known scientifically as, Tenebrio Molitor.

How do I prepare bugs for consumption?

First off, insects should only be purchased from reliable sources and kept fresh as possible. Prior to preparing your live insects for a meal, place them inside a storage bag and keep them in the refrigerator between a half hour and an hour up until the time you are ready to use them. Refrigeration will not kill insects, but just slow down their metabolism, prohibiting their movement when removed from the refrigerator. Some people place them in a pot of boiling water for about two minutes ensuring cleanliness. They can be used in any number of recipes without boiling so long as they’re cooked, i.e. roasted, sautéed, fried, etc. Any insect after boiling and/or cooking can be stored in your freezer for later use much like any other food. Go to our RECIPES page for more information.

Are insects kosher?

We are asked this question quite a bit and the answer is both yes and no. Certain insects are ok to eat according to G-d as it is written in Leviticus, however this does not by virtue make them what we refer to today as “kosher.”
After extensive research the answer is best supported by a passage from the book: “The Diet of John the Baptist,” by Mohr Siebeck. In the chapter titled: “From Leviticus to Moses Maimonides: Locust Eating in Jewish Literature and the Ancient Near East,” pg 41, the author writes:
With regard to the eating of locusts/grasshoppers, Leviticus 11 allows the Israelites to consume four different kinds of ‘leaping’ insects:
[20] All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you. [21] But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. [22] Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (Lev 11:20-23) 1
There are Jews as well as Moslems (we at Insects Are Food know them personally) who eat crickets and grasshoppers because they recognize the passage from Leviticus as a claim for being kosher and halal.
Online source: “The Diet of John the Baptist,” by Mohr Siebeck

Can vegetarians eat insects?

It depends entirely on the individual, based on one’s adherence to the definition of the term. Vegetarianism is the practice of following a diet that excludes meat, fish, shellfish, sea animals and poultry. The popularity of vegetarianism grew during the 20th century as a result of nutritional, ethical, environmental and economic concerns. Eating insects would no doubt support a vegetarian’s outlook, which would lead one to believe that perhaps there are vegetarians who do indeed eat insects. But again it depends entirely on the individual. A vegan on the other hand would not eat an insect.

How can I become more involved in entomophagy?

Gain knowledge and insight on how eating insects is a nutritional and sustainable food resource. Learn how to handle, prepare and cook with bugs. Start cooking and feeding your friends while promoting the environmental, ecological, economical, and health benefits to entomophagy. Share your knowledge and courage with others and basically just practice what you preach. Or better yet, put your money where your mouth is. Reach out to others. Create a blog. Read our entire site. Contact us for further dialogue. Give us suggestions. Support us.

Can I raise my own insects?

Here are a few sites that explain in detail how to raise your own crickets and mealworms:

Can I make money with my involvement in entomophagy?

In short, yes you can make money. There is however as in anything in life, no guarantees, but we at Insects Are Food believe strongly that entomophagy is an incredibly inspiring untapped market and industry. On a more general level, let’s face it, one can make money at anything so long as there’s commitment, direction, a well thought out business plan and a trusted individual with the most expertise and knowledge of the market/industry in charge of making final decisions. With that said, the multi-faceted potential businesses with respect to entomophagy amount to relatively new and risky opportunities.

With the proper guidance, advice and monetary support system, the risks involved, ranging from financial and legal to health and safety can be corralled and controlled. Insects Are Food aims to serve as a portal for online networking. Feel free to email us with any questions you may have about making money with entomophagy and our staff will do its best to offer professional advice and guidance and connect you with the right people. Last but not least, please keep in mind, as with anything we do in life, you must ultimately trust your gut instinct in all matters daring.