Some Past Insect Asides
In reading a variety of books I have come across the following reports, some of which I have been able to confirm and some of which have aroused laughter and scorn from representatives of the peoples concerned, whatever the truth I am sure you will find something to amuse yourself here if you are a lover of both Mankind and the Insects that surround us. Here are some interesting past asides and medicinal use of insects.
In the Carpathian mountains in Europe there is a legend that Simulid Flies breed in the blood of the dragon slain by St George.
Earwig powdered and mixed with hares urine was considered to be a cure for deafness if poured into the ears each night before going to bed.
Members of the beetle family Meloidea (Oil Beetles) particularly Spanish Fly (Lyta vesicatoria) have long been used in medicine, the active ingredient is cantharadin C8H12O(CO)2O. It has been used in various ways including as lotions for baldness and in love potions despite the fact that it is actually very poisonous, causing strong gastro-irritation, vomiting and ultimately death.
There is a Chrysomelid Beetle Diamphidia simplex in Africa which exudes a poison which is a powerful haemolytic and causes death by general paralysis, it is used by the Bushmen of African to ‘tip’ their arrows. (Its not all frogs you see).
The grub of the beetle Rhinocyllus conicus was known in the past as Antiodontalgicus and it was used as a cure for tooth ache.
Up until recently Bed Bugs (Reduviidae) were reguarded as a cure for malaria in a variety of forms.
Ladybirds (Coccinellidae)were once considered efficacious for the cure of colic and measles, while a crushed Ladybird placed in a hole in a tooth was said to release the pain immediately.
In parts of Europe powdered Cockroach was sold under the name ‘Pulvis Tarakanae’ as a remedy for pleurisy and pericarditis.
Formic acid from ants of the genus Formica was described by Hildegard of Bingen in 1,000 AD as a cure for neurotic troubles.
Bee stings were widely reputed to be a remedy for rheumatism, modern science was still investigating this as recently as 1940 as Beekeepers appear to be immune from rheumatism.
The Delights of Food and Drink
Mexicans used to make an infusion of tiger beetles (Cicindela spp.) in alcohol said to be a drink with a growl in it. They definitely do use insects in cooking regularly including making a kind of caviar out of the massed eggs of a couple of species of Giant Water Bug.
Women in the Nile Valley used to relish the Churchyard Beetle (Blaps mucronata) and the Scarab Beetle (Scarabaeus spp.) as a means of putting on weight quickly in order to improve their beauty.
Pliny records that a gastronomic delight of ancient Rome was ‘Cossus’ (probably the grub of the Goat Moth Cossus cossus) fattened on flour and wine.
Native Australians eat Witchety Grubs, the larva of wood-boring beetles, caterpillars of the Bugong Moth Agrotis infusa and Honey Pot ants, ants whose abdomens become swollen with honey-due and nectar when they act as living storage vessels for the colony, (these were also eaten by the natives of other countries where they occur).
The Chinese were said to eat silk worm pupa after robbing it of its silk. I have eaten an unknown sort of pupa, OK but not wonderful.
In South America the abdomens of gravid gynes (unmated female sexuals, called queens after mating) and new queens of the leaf-cutting ant Atta cephalotes were eaten with delight.
Natives of Lombak supposedly catch Dragon-flies on twigs smeared with bird lime, the bodies, minus the wings and legs are eaten fried with onions and shrimps.
The larva of giant Weevils are eaten in the West Indies, and I myself have eaten the larvae of Bamboo weevils in Thailand, the best really.
Cockchafers are eaten in Java.
Termite sexuals are eaten by the natives of many countries and are said to taste like Whitebait when fried.
Locusts are also eaten in many countries as are other large Orthopterans (Grasshoppers and Crickets). I have eaten several different species, they are quite good as a snack.
Giant water bugs (Belostomatidae) can still be bought in markets in Thailand. They are OK, but a bit all crunch and nothing else.
Tarantulas were eaten by native North Americans
I have seen Heterometrus scorpions for sale in Thailand, cooked (deep fried), but I didn’t try them as I was pretty pushed for time and money.
You can still buy dry roasted grasshoppers in Mexico, they are very good actually.
Insects as Food some recipes I admit I haven’t tried yet.