The practice of eating insects, known as entomophagy, is not new; however, it’s gaining traction in modern societies for various compelling reasons.
The United Nations has endorsed insect consumption as a means to address food shortages, given their nutritional value and the sustainability of insect farming.
Many cultures across the globe have been consuming insects as part of their traditional diets for centuries.
Advantages of Eating Insects
Insects are rich in proteins, which are essential for muscle development and overall body growth.
For instance, a 3.5-ounce portion of grasshoppers contains between 14 and 28 grams of protein.
Moreover, edible insects can offer between 9.96 and 35.2 grams of protein per 100 grams, comparable to the protein content in meat.
Besides protein, insects are also sources of vital nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and essential fatty acids.
A January 2021 study highlighted the superior health benefits of edible insects owing to these nutrients.
Insect farming is far more resource-efficient than traditional livestock farming.
For instance, producing 1 kg of beef requires about 15 liters of water, while the same amount of mealworms only requires about 4 liters.
Moreover, livestock farming contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane, which is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
In contrast, insect farming produces 10 to 80 times less methane and 8 to 12 times less ammonia.
Insect farming does not necessitate extensive land or expensive machinery, making it a viable option even in less developed regions
This low entry barrier can empower even the poorest segments of populations to engage in insect farming and earn a stable income.
Overcoming the ‘Yuck Factor’
The initial aversion to consuming insects, often termed the ‘Yuck Factor’, is a significant hurdle in many cultures.
However, with increased awareness, palatable preparations, and exposure to the benefits of entomophagy, this perception can change over time.
Various restaurants and food companies are now incorporating insect-based items in their menus to help familiarize people with insect consumption and its benefits.
Overcoming this psychological barrier is crucial for entomophagy to gain wider acceptance.
Let’s now dive into 15 insects that you might find yourself eating very soon.
15 Insects That You Will Be Eating in the Near Future
The mealworm, often used as a protein source, is resource-efficient to farm, requiring less space and producing fewer waste products compared to traditional livestock.
They can be reared on various substrates like wheat bran, oats, and cornmeal, providing a potential sustainable food source.
Their nutritional content, particularly protein, is comparable to that of common livestock, making them a viable alternative, especially in areas where conventional meats are scarce.
Crickets are touted as a nutritious and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional livestock.
They can be processed into a powder and incorporated into various recipes, providing an alternative protein source.
Here are some key points regarding their nutritional value and other benefits:
Protein Content: Crickets are known to have a high protein content, which makes them a viable source of protein.
A study revealed that cricket consumption could offer benefits beyond just protein, contributing to a more healthful option compared to meat in many high-meat diet countries.
Vitamins and Minerals: While the exact mineral content can vary, crickets are also seen as a source of essential vitamins and minerals.
However, a study noted that crickets might not provide adequate calcium, iron, or manganese to meet certain nutritional requirements.
Healthy Fats: Crickets also contain healthy fats, although the specifics can vary based on their diet and the environment in which they are raised .
Gut Health: A clinical trial showed that consuming crickets can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Apart from this, crickets require significantly less water to produce the same amount of protein as traditional livestock.
For example, it takes only 1 gallon of water to produce the same amount of protein as 1 pound of beef, showcasing a stark contrast in resource efficiency.
Lastly, livestock such as cows emit a substantial amount of greenhouse gases, whereas crickets emit considerably less.
They also provide essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source.
Additionally, they are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Grasshoppers also contain healthy fats, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Grasshoppers are consumed in many cultures around the world, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
They can be roasted, fried, boiled, or ground into a powder and added to various dishes.
In Mexico, for instance, they are a popular snack known as “chapulines,” often seasoned with chili and lime.
They also contain essential fatty acids and are a source of vitamins, especially B vitamins, and minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Silkworms are a delicacy in several Asian countries, including China, Korea, and Thailand.
They are often boiled or steamed and then seasoned. In Korea, boiled silkworm larvae, known as “beondegi,” are a popular street food.
Additionally, the by-products of the silk industry, where silkworms are primarily used, provide a sustainable source of this edible insect.
5. Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)
They are also rich in lipids, especially lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties
BSFL are a good source of calcium, making them particularly beneficial for bone health. They also contain other mineralsminerals, like phosphorus and trace elements.
While BSFL are not as commonly consumed by humans as the other two insects mentioned, they are gaining popularity as a sustainable food source.
They are often processed into protein powders or meals and added to food products.
Moreover, BSFL are extensively used in animal feed, especially for poultry and fish, due to their high nutritional content and sustainability factor.
6. Buffalo Worms
Buffalo worms, which are the larvae of the lesser mealworm beetle, are rich in protein, with content ranging from 55-65% of their dry weight.
They also contain healthy fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Additionally, they are a source of essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, and zinc.
Commonly consumed in parts of Europe, buffalo worms are versatile and can be roasted, fried, or ground into a powder to be used in baked goods and other dishes.
Their mild, nutty flavor makes them a popular ingredient in snacks and protein bars.
7. Bamboo Worms
Bamboo worms, the larvae of the bamboo moth, are another protein-rich insect, with protein making up about 50% of their dry weight.
They also provide dietary fiber and are a source of essential fatty acids.
A delicacy in several Southeast Asian countries, bamboo worms are often deep-fried and seasoned, making them a crunchy snack.
They can also be added to soups and stir-fries, imparting a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.
8. Mopane Worms
Mopane worms, the caterpillars of the emperor moth, are incredibly nutritious.
They boast a protein content of around 60% and are rich in iron, making them an excellent source of this essential mineral.
They also provide other minerals like potassium, calcium, and zinc.
Widely consumed in southern African countries, mopane worms are a staple in many diets.
They can be boiled, smoked, or dried and are often rehydrated and cooked in sauces. Their meaty texture and rich flavor make them a favorite in many traditional dishes.
9. June Beetles
June beetles, also known as June bugs, offer a decent protein content, though not as high as some other edible insects.
They are also a source of essential fatty acids and contain various vitamins and minerals.
Consumed in certain parts of North and Central America, June beetles are often roasted or fried.
Their crunchy exterior and soft interior make them a unique culinary experience. They can be seasoned and eaten as a snack or used as a topping for various dishes.
10. Palm Weevils
Palm weevils, particularly their larvae, are rich in protein, with some studies suggesting a content as high as 35-40%.
They are also a good source of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Popular in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, palm weevil larvae are considered a delicacy.
They can be roasted, grilled, or boiled and have a taste often described as a cross between chicken and shrimp. In some cultures, they are a crucial ingredient in festive dishes.
Locusts are an excellent source of protein, with some species containing up to 60% protein content.
They also provide a range of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Additionally, they contain healthy fats, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Locusts have been consumed for centuries in various parts of the world, especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
They can be roasted, fried, or even ground into a powder to be used in various dishes.
Due to their abundance during locust swarms, they can serve as a crucial food source during such times.
Honeybees, particularly their larvae and pupae, are rich in protein and healthy fats. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and antioxidants.
While honey is the primary product most people associate with bees, the bees themselves are consumed in some cultures.
They can be roasted or fried and are often used in traditional medicines in some Asian cultures due to their perceived health benefits.
13. Escamoles (Ant Larvae):
Escamoles, also known as “insect caviar,” are rich in protein and contain healthy fats. They also provide essential amino acids and are a source of vitamins and minerals.
A delicacy in Mexican cuisine, escamoles are harvested from the roots of the agave plant.
They have a buttery, nutty flavor and are often sautéed with spices and herbs. They can be served in tacos, omelets, or as a filling for other traditional dishes.
Tarantulas are another protein-rich food source. They also provide essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. The abdomen, in particular, is rich in fat.
Consumed in countries like Cambodia, tarantulas are often deep-fried until crispy.
They are seasoned with spices and served as a snack or street food. For many, eating tarantulas is also seen as a rite of passage or a way to boost courage.
15. Witchetty Grubs
Witchetty grubs are high in protein and provide a significant amount of healthy fat. They are also a source of thiamine, riboflavin, and other essential nutrients.
A traditional food of Indigenous Australians, witchetty grubs can be eaten raw or cooked.
When cooked, they have a crispy skin and a soft, yellow interior that is often compared to scrambled eggs or chicken.
They are a staple in the diet of desert-dwelling communities and are also used in modern Australian cuisine.
I hope it’s evident to you by now that the future of food might just be “crawling” with possibilities.
From the protein-packed grasshoppers to the delicately flavored escamoles, insects are not only a sustainable answer to our planet’s increasing food demands but also a treasure trove of nutrition.
While the initial ‘Yuck Factor’ might deter many, it’s essential to remember that many of our now-beloved foods were once viewed with skepticism.
With environmental, economic, and nutritional benefits hard to ignore, it’s only a matter of time before these tiny powerhouses become a staple in global cuisine.
So, the next time you come across a dish featuring one of these 15 insects, take a leap of culinary courage; you might just discover your new favorite delicacy.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – A Gourmand’s Feast
Plate of Edible Bugs – locust pizza, tarantula, cricket cookies
I’ve been looking through your Edible Insects page and absolutely loving Dave’s comments. Although I’ve not eaten any insects (or arachnids), at least not knowingly, I’m not squeamishly opposed to the thought.
I’m fascinated by the variety of bugs eaten and by the ways they are prepared. Anyway, I came across this fabulous display at an insectarium in St. Louis this weekend, and I thought it would fit nicely on your edible insects page.
Thank you for all the time you put into this website. It’s very informative and full of wit (specifically unnecessary carnage page).
We are happy you appreciate our sometimes questionable sense of humor. We are thrilled to post your awesome epicurian sampler plate.
Letter 2 – Eating Insects in Japan
I guess that you would post this in your eating insects forum. I spent 8+ years in Japan. I learned (on my own) to enjoy insects as edible fare. The giant department stores there often sold large insects as pets.
One type often sold was the larvae and adults of the giant Japanese Rhinoserious beetle (Tripoxylus Dichotomous) I used to buy the larvae (they look like humongouse garden grubs) and would boil them in water, before placing them in jars of alcohol to preserve them. (boiling them helps keep their natural white color when you pickle them.)
Well, while boiling them, they smelled so good that I decided to eat some! Here’s what I did: After boiling, I would slice them open and remove the central gut with its digested wood. Then I would cut off the too-crunchy head and six legs. The remaining white body I would dip in hot, melted butter with lemon juice, and enjoy! Yum!
The flavor is like a cross between escargot and frog-legs…a sweet, earthy flavor. I also enjoyed the sweet, white bodies of Brood-X, 2004 Periodical cicadas, just after they’re emerging from their underground nymphal shells. I would collect these and sauteé them in garlic butter. Cicadas are extremely clean insects, only drinking tree-juices, and have wonderful sweet flesh.
OK, heres another treat I enjoyed while living in Japan: Dragonfly thoraxes! There were billions of dragonflies flitting around all the ponds there and I netted dozens and dozens of them for my meals.
Pop-off the heads, legs, wings, and abdomens, and the thorax is nothing but powerful wing-muscle meat…Extremely delicious and flavorful. Sauteé these in butter and enjoy the sweet, tender flesh which is true red-meat.
I have tried other commonly-eaten insects but don’t really like them: Grasshoppers have an ugly taste, as their guts are filled with their meals and their “spit” which is untasty to me. Ants tend to be sour, what with their formic acid and all. Caterpillars have a wierd taste, like the smell of brand-new rubber garden-hoses.
However, Japanese silk-worm moth larvae are good, with their almost tea-like flavor. Remove the heads and six true-legs for a softer-fare. I DO recommend Tenebrio (domestic meal-worm beetle larvae and the larger “super-worm” Tenebriads) as they eat clean grains fed to them and have a sweet grainy taste. Delicious, cooked or sauteéd.
Cut off their heads and legs to remove some of the “crunch”. I have tried eating tarantulas too. But to me, only the ‘thorax’ portion is edible. The abdomen is filled with the silk-glands and these are too chewy with their liquid silk formula. The taste is quite earthy, but different from their 6-legged relatives.
Very “escargot” in flavor, use the same butter formula to cook: Butter, Shallots, garlic, parsley, salt ‘n’ pepper to taste. Insects are quite edible if you can get over the “yuk factor” that is instilled in almost every American!
Thanks so much for your informative letter. If food prices continue to rise, eating insects might seem much more desireable.
Letter 3 – Toebiter Bar-Be-Que
Thought you might be amused to see this image from a recent barbecue thrown by entomology fans. In addition to the many standard menu choices, I’d brought some insects. These Giant Water Bugs are sold by the fourpack on a Styrofoam tray. Though the thick exoskeleton is not really edible, there’s actual meat inside and it’s very tasty — a really unusual flavor in fact. Best,
Thanks for sending us that yummy looking photo.
Letter 4 – 7 Insects You’ll Be Eating in the Future
January 12, 2014
While researching something totally different, we stumbled upon 7 Insects You’ll Be Eating in the Future on the Mother Nature Network. We have had an Edible Insects tag for years, and we thought our readers might find this article interesting. We really don’t understand why the Toe-Biter or Giant Water Bug did not make the list.