Entomophagy is quite simply the practice of eating insects- especially by humans.

The word “entomophagy” derives from the Greek term éntomos, or éntomon, meaning, “insect(ed),” literally meaning “cut in two,” referring to an insect’s segmented body, and phăgein, “to eat.” Combined, the two terms mean, “insect eating.”

As a point of information the word itself is a rather new term. There’s no record of its coinage in the Oxford English Dictionary and its first usage to denote a human behaviour may well be as recent as the 1950s.

There are no words equivalent to ‘entomophagy’ in the languages of the many ethnic groups that practice insect consumption, simply because these peoples never distinguished between insects and other varieties of food.

The History of Entomophagy

Insects have served as a food source for people for tens of thousands of years, all over the planet. Today insect eating is rare in the developed world, but insects remain a popular food in many developing regions of Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.

People from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Africa, Mexico, Columbia and New Guinea to name just a few, are regions where the inhabitants eat insects for nutritional value as well as for taste.

Some of the more popular insect and arachnids eaten around the world are: crickets, grasshoppers, ants, a variety of species of caterpillar, also referred to as worms, such as the mopani worm, silkworm and waxworm. Mealworms are actually the larva of the flour beetle and are becoming increasingly popular as an easy to breed and efficient mini-livestock.

There are an estimated 1,462 species of recorded edible insects including arachnids. And in all likelihood, there are hundreds if not thousands more that simply haven’t been sampled or perhaps not even discovered yet.

Entomophagy going forward

The future of entomophagy holds extremely significant implications surrounding the protein challenge. It is widely estimated that there will be between 9-10 billion of us humans by the year 2050. How will we as a human race produce enough protein? Edible insects and the mini-livestock market are an emerging market here in the West with the scientific research councils starting to implement government funding into the investment for the feasibility of breeding human grade edible insects. It is indeed the farming methods and structures that will determine the economic (and therefore) long term success for the mini-livestock industry.

Some current research papers.

There is a lot of current research surrounding the science behind edible insects. The health benefits, environmental impacts, and nutritional content of different species. Here is a small selection of research papers:

UN FAO Edible Insects- Future prospects for food and feed security.

(A comprehensive assesment of edible insects in the West)

Insects as food and feed:

(An overview of nutrient content and environmental impact)

A comprehensive look at the possibilities of edible insects as food in Europe- a review

(A review of the current literature about entomophagy in the West)

Scroll down for some info’ on some of our favorite insects to cook with

mealwormMealworms

Country of Origin: Mediterranean region

Common Name; Adult: Darkling beetle, Larva: Mealworm

Scientific Name: Tenebrio molitor

Order: Coleoptera

Size: 20-40mm

Weight: 0.10-0.11g

Facts: Mealworms are now found all over the plannet feeding on grains and flour spread by human colonization.

The mealworm beetle breeds prolifically. Within a few days after mating the female burrows into soft ground and lays about 500 eggs.

After four to 19 days the eggs hatch. Many predators target the eggs, including reptiles.

During the larval stage, the mealworm feeds on vegetation and dead insects and periodically molts A molting episode occurs between each larval stage, or instar. The larva of this species has 9 to 20 instars. After the final one it becomes a pupa. The new pupa is whitish, and it turns brown over time. After 3 to 30 days, depending on environmental conditions such as temperature, it emerges as an adult beetle.

Nutrition; Per 100g, Protein: 23.7%, Fat: 5.4%, Calcium(mg): 23.1, Energy (kcla/100g): 206

In the Kitchen: Mealworms are a great introduction to entomophagy. They are taste great even un-seasoned and slow roasted in the oven. They can be used in a huge variety of different recipes and their fast-breeding means they are great to experiment with.

CricketCrickets

Country of Origin: Wolrd wide

Common Name: House cricket

Scientific Name: Acheta domesticus

Order: Ortoptera

Size: 16-21mm

Weight: 0.25-0.40g

Facts: The singing of crickets in the folklore of Brazil and elsewhere, is sometimes taken to be a sign of impending rain, or of a financial windfall.

Male crickets establish their dominance over each other by aggression. They start by lashing each other with their antennae and flaring their mandibles. Unless one retreats at this stage, they resort to grappling, at the same time each emitting calls that are quite unlike those uttered in other circumstances. When one achieves dominance, it sings loudly while the loser remains silent.

In the southern part of Asia, crickets are commonly eaten as a snack, prepared by deep frying the soaked and cleaned insects. The food conversion efficiency of House crickets (Acheta domesticus) is reported to be five times higher than that for beef cattle, and if their fecundity (reproductive efficiency) is taken into account, fifteen to twenty times higher.

Nutrition; Per 100g, Protein: 20.5%, Fat: 6.8%, Calcium(mg): 40.7, Energy (kcal/100g) 121

In the Kitchen: Crickets are without a doubt one of the most commonly used of edible insects. They have a great taste whether toasted, roasted, fried or ground into a flour and used in baking. They contain

ChapulineGrasshoppers (Chapuline)

Country of Origin: Mexico

Common Name: Chapuline

Scientific Name: Sphenarium purpurascens

Order: Orthoptera

Size: 15-25mm

Weight: 0.35-0.75g

Facts: One of the regions of Mexico where chapulines are most widely consumed is Oaxaca, where they are sold as snacks at local sports events and are becoming revived among foodies. There is one reference to grasshoppers that are eaten in early records of the Spanish conquest, in early to mid 16th century.

Nutrition; Per 100g, Protein: 65.1%, Fat: 10.8%, Calcium(mg): 112, Energy (kcal/100g) 16.9

In The Kitchen:  Chapulines take on spicing and strong flavours very well, they are traditionally stir-fried with salt, garlic, chilli and lime in Mexico.

 

 

Sago-wormSago worm

Country of Origin: Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Borneo/South East Asia

Common Name: Sago Worm

Scientific Name: Rhynchophorus ferrugineus

Order: Coleoptera

Size: 50mm length x 16mm width,

Weight: 4-6g

Facts: The sago worm, or sago grub, is the larvae of the Sago Palm Weevil. The sago palm tree is chopped down and the trunk is left to rot. After a few weeks, stripping off the bark and breaking open the trunk reveals dozens of palm weevils and their larvae. The larvae feeds on the starch of the sago palm.

Nutrition; Per 100g, Protein: 25.5g, Fat: 38.5, Carbohydrates: 33.2g, Energy (kcal/100g) 583

In the Kitchen: Sago grubs have been described as creamy tasting when raw, and like bacon or meat when cooked. They are often prepared with sago flour. In New Guinea, sago worms are roasted on a spit to celebrate special occasions. They are eaten either raw or roasted, and are regarded as a special high-nutrient meal among most Sarawak tribes.

Locust.3Locust

Country of Origin: Africa/Arabia

Common Name: Locust

Scientific Name: Schistocerca gregaria

Order: Orthoptera

Size: 12-75mm

Weight: 2g

Facts: Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae. These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming gregarious.

There is no taxonomic distinction between locust and grasshopper species; the basis for the definition is whether a species forms swarms under intermittently suitable conditions.

During quiet periods, called recessions, desert locusts are confined to a 16-million-square-kilometer belt that extends from Mauritiana through the Sahara Dessert in Northern Africa, across the Arabian Peninsular, and into northwest India.Under optimal ecological and climatic conditions, several successive generations can occur, causing super-swarms to form and invade countries on all sides of the recession area, as far north as Spain and Russia, as far south as Nigeria and Kenya, and as far east as India and southwest Asia. As many as 60 countries can be affected within an area of 32 million square kilometers, or approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s land surface.

Nutrition; Per 100g, Protein: 62g, Fat: 17g, Energy (kcal/100g) 247

In the Kitchen: People in several countries collect locusts using large nets and by other means. Locusts are usually stir-fried, roasted or boiled and eaten immediately or dried and eaten later. Locusts are rich in protein. During periods of increased locust activity, piles of dead locusts can be found in the market places of many locust affected countries.

Answers or opinions to some of the most commonly asked questions about Entomophagy

There are over 2,000 species of edible insects  discovered so far (2,037 to be exact). Around 1 million species of insects have been described so far, with some experts stating that there maybe between 4 and 17 million more species yet to be discovered. That is potentially a lot more edible insects for us!
The answer to this question depends largely on how you eat the insect; cooking methods and flavourings, whether they are prepared fresh, dehydrated or freezedried. The unseasoned insects generally taste quite like bran, tea or even grassy cereals. Cooked, insects carry flavour and seasoning really well, but unseasoned can vary between toasted nuts, creamy avocado or even smokey bacon. Slow roasting brings out an almost nutty taste, stir frying makes them taste a bit like seared meat. Cricket flour actually tastes almost chocolatey. Some insects are said to take on the flavour of the food you feed them, which is very exciting from a culinary perspective. Watch this space!
The first stage in this process is to purge them of any gut contents, this is achieved by effectively starving them for 24-48 hours. The second stage is to euthanize them by putting them into a plastic bag and placing them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. This puts them into a deep sleep which in entomology is known as diapause (insect hibernation). They are now ready for cooking. The best way to start is to give them a rinse in cold water and then place them into a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Now drain them into a sieve and then pat them dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll. They are now ready to be toasted, baked, stir-fried, deep-fried, put in a processor or marinated.
You should only eat insects that have been bred for human consumption or purchased from a reputable source. This is because in the wild you don’t know which pesticides or chemicals they might have come in contact with. Insects can bio-accumulate chemicals which means they can become immune to different generations of treatments, whilst still containing traces. They can then pass them onto us.
There is a certain amount of evidence of allergies induced through the ingestion of insects. Because honeybee larvae contain pollen, for instance, people allergic to pollen are advised not to eat them (Chen et al., 1998). Some people allergic to dust mites that were increasingly exposed to mite antigen became sensitive to seafood tropomyosins, for example (Reese, Ayuso and Lehrer, 1999). These findings suggest that people with seafood allergy, for example, could experience allergic reactions to the consumption of edible insects. Although from a personal experience we have witnessed people with a seafood allergy quite happily, and successfully consume insects.
Mealworms (etc) are actually the larvae of beetles and are quite different from the worms we know as earthworms. And yes, these have been tried as human food (with varying degrees of success)!
Insects are hugely sustainable for us to breed for human consumption. They convert their feed or fodder into protein in a much more efficient manner than conventional live stock. They take a fraction of the land area and a comparatively fractional amount of water. Here is a direct comparison with your intensively reared beef:

To produce 10kg of beef takes 9kg of fodder. For 10kg of edible insects takes 1kg of fodder.

To produce 150g of beef (1 small steak) you need 3,250~ litres of water. For an equivalent amount of insect protein you need about a pint.

Livestock production already takes up a third of the planets available surface. Another third is used to grow crops to feed that livestock. Insects can be bred in labs, warehouses and contained sealed units with a fraction of the space needed.

We are not at saying not to eat beef, just choose conservation grade beef that is a by-product of responsible land management. We don’t actually need half the protein we eat on average per capita here in the West, we only need 52g a day and on average we are eating well over 100g.

Firstly you need to forget everything you think you have seen on T.V. about celebrities eating bugs in a Jungle! Insects are highly a nutritious, sustainable and exciting new culinary experience especially here in the West. Go online and order some mealworms, crickets or grasshoppers. These will be dehydrated or freeze-dried, so you should be ok to eat them straight from the packet (make sure of this be reading the packaging carefully). After trying them plain, try sprinkling on some of your favourite seasonings such as salt and vinegar, Cajun spice, or bbq rub. The next stage is to experiment with cooking them. Stir fry them with chilli, lime garlic and sea salt. Try them in a passata sauce with pasta and parmesan. Look for the recipe tab on this website coming soon, and ultimately, come to Grub Kitchen and see what an award winning chef can do with them.
Kids can be more sensitive to new foods than adults, but that is the same whether fish, mushrooms, sprouts or edible insects. But one fact is- Kids love bugs! They don’t have the aversion to eating insects that us adults have built up due to negative media representation of entomophagy. Get your kids making chocolate cornflake crispy bars, bug burgers. They will love getting their hands dirty and love eating them even more!
Insects are very high in protein and indeed, gram per gram, are higher in protein than beef, chicken or pork (for example). Most are low in fat, yet it is suggested that the fats they do contain are mostly PUFA’s (poly-unsaturated-fatty-acids). They are also mostly low in cholesterol. They also contain essential amino acids and trace minerals and vitamins such as: calcium, phosphorous, iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. So to put it very simply… Yes, insects are healthy! They could be looked upon as natures little multi-vitamin packages.