Reconsider the lowly bug
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CTA. 1998. Reconsider the lowly bug. Spore 77. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48185
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore77.pdf
Have you ever eaten insects? Some people find the idea revolting, while others consider certain insects a gustatory delight. Insects make up a large proportion of the world's biomass - indeed, scientists don't even know how many species exist,...
Have you ever eaten insects? Some people find the idea revolting, while others consider certain insects a gustatory delight. Insects make up a large proportion of the world's biomass - indeed, scientists don't even know how many species exist, recent estimates place their numbers somewhere between 2 to 80 million. There are over 2000 recorded edible insect species in the world. Beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, ants, wasps, grasshoppers and bugs are most commonly eaten. Although 'entomophagy', or the eating of insects, is recorded from France, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom to all countries in Africa, the Americas and the majority of Asian countries and Australia, it is most common in tropical and subtropical countries. Consumption of insects is part of a people's cultural heritage, and knowledge on how to find, gather, prepare and conserve insect resources is usually handed down from generation to generation by oral tradition. Considerable amounts may be consumed; for instance, a recent study in Kananga, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), found that among a group of 2000 people, there was an average ingestion per person of 50 g fresh insect/day which translates into 35,000 kilos/year for the group. Nutritionally, insects can be a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals and even fat. Protein content on a dry-weight basis, mostly varies from 30% (wood worms) to 81% (Polybia wasps). In some villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is reported that insects are the source of up to 81% of ingested animal protein. Of course, insects can be terrible crop pests, but, in some cases, these same pests are edible and could be used as a food source and sometimes are! Not only are locusts and certain caterpillar crop pests eaten in parts of Africa, but they are also preserved and stored for later consumption. From a nutritionist's point of view, it seems ironic that large sums of money are devoted to the killing of insect pests, which may contain up to 75% high quality protein, to save crops that may contain no more than 14%. Although usually gathered for self-consumption, demand in towns and cities for some species is sufficiently great as to warrant commercialisation. In Venda, South Africa, the indigenous insect market is valued at a million $US per year. Exploitation of insects as a food source would seem to represent the ideal ecologically friendly, sustainable development project. The challenge for the future is to remove the social stigma attached to their consumption. Contact: Julieta Ramos-Elorduy Instituto de Biologia UNAM Aptdo Postal 70-153, 04510 Mexico D. F. Mexico.