Insects As Food

Insects As Food: How The World Eats Insects!

The western world may think eating insects is gross, but culturally and historically, it is wrong. Here’s how the world uses insects as food.

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.

These ants are those 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).

Insects As Food
Honey Ant, by Greg Hume at en.wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese were said to eat silkworm 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 Dragonflies 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.

Insects As Food
Larva of giant Weevils

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.

Insects As Food
Giant water bugs (Belostomatidae)

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 Giant Water Bugs (Maeng Da)

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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