It's time to eat insects

Not only are insects a more resource-efficient food source than meat (and more nutritious, to boot), you're also already eating them, writes Mary Hall at Mind the Science Gap. Insect parts are considered unavoidable, natural "defects" in foods and the FDA makes allowances for them, including up to 30 insect parts per average chocolate bar, up to 10 whole aphids for 2.5 cups of spinach, and up to 10 fly eggs (or, if you prefer, 5 eggs and one maggot) per serving of tomatoes. It all sounds gross, but when you consider all the benefits of bug eating (and the fact that many, many reviews proclaim them to taste delicious) it might be best to think of this news as a wakeup call. You're eating bugs already. Why not do it intentionally?


    1. They’re one of the brightly colored insects to remind the predators that they taste bad.  Eat something camouflaged instead.  

  1. There’s certainly a valid argument to be made for eating an abundant but taboo food source, but I don’t think the fact that food regulations allow for certain trace amounts of it in other foods really plays into it. The FDA also famously allows for certain proportions of rat feces in various products. That’s not a reason in itself for us to all start eating bowls of rat feces or bugs for breakfast, it just means that the FDA has deemed certain amounts of those things not to be overly dangerous.

    1. Further, the nature of processing food grown out in the dirt and under the sun guarantees that things like fruit flies, fly eggs, and mold spores, will be in your food. There is not way to completely prevent it, so they limit the amounts to enforce quality control and oversight. My first job at 16 was working in the QC lab of a food canner in Virginia

  2. I’ve had them intentionally. Chrysalis in two different Korean preparations. They were absolutely disgusting. I had to drink A LOT of Johnny Walker and O.B. Lager to rid myself of the flavor and mouthfeel. I suspect that is the purpose of those dishes. They helped me get hammered more quickly at karaoke.

    1.  Eating meat is completely natural – why do you think we have the dentition we have?  Herbivores do not have canines.

      Eating meat is necessary for me – I get a pretty wicked jones for lamb chops if I go too long without them.  Why do you want me to suffer for your half-baked philosophy?

  3. I’m not sure the insects will stand for it.  Once we add eating them to the thousands of years of squashing and swatting they’ve had to endure, I fear they will rise up and enslave us all.

    I don’t really worry about that with cute, fuzzy mammals. Birds had their day as dinosaurs and decided to go this non-threatening evolutionary route. And fish? C’mon, they’re practically vegetables.

    But insects… the story is not over for them. It is just beginning.

  4. Are there any online resources for bug eaters?  I’ve fried up some grubs I’ve found while chopping logs (and hot damn they were tasty) and would love to grow my own to have a constant supply.

    1. There are a few links to online resources and also a couple of book suggestions here:

  5. God knows I tried, but all that skinning and gutting was just too much hard work.

    1. Chitin is in the cell walls of fungi. But, then again, there are plenty of people who refuse to eat mushrooms.

  6. Nearly everyone reading this has intentionally eaten bug products.  Cochineal for instance.

  7. Just introduce insects deep fried into the carnival and fair circuit and I sure it will snow ball from there. Also introduce honey and locusts treats to the Bible Belt and call them “Baptist Snacks”.

  8. Added bonus: locusts are kosher. Apparently, the logic was “if all you’ve got to eat are locusts because the locusts have eaten everything else, better not complain too much.”

    The only chitinous beasties I’ve eaten were silkworm larvae (kind of bland but crunchy; a bit like water chestnuts) and scorpion (utterly disgusting). I’d be quite happy to try more, but I draw the line at cockroach, for some reason…

    1. No crabs, lobsters, or shrimp? Those seem like the most commonly eaten chitinous animals around here. I’m not a fan, but for people who are, it doesn’t seem like some insects or arachnids should be too much of a stretch.

      1. It seems to me as though the flesh of the arthropods you mention is much more appealing than the viscous goo that seems to fill most land-based insects and arachnids.  Are there any terrestrial crawlies with real meat-like flesh inside the carapace?

        1. I haven’t taken any apart, because dead bugs. But I understand it depends on what parts need the muscles. Tarantulas are supposed to have gooey abdomens, but meatier heads, since that’s where the legs are.

          So maybe you could just eat the tarantula heads, or try something without an abdomen, like centipedes. Let me know it works out. As I said, I don’t even really like crustaceans.

          Which by the way, Meester Creester, people do eat “unpeeled” – that is, with the carapace still on.


            The only reason most of them have not to eat bugs is our culture.

            I agree with that 100%.  Absolutely goes for me too.  I’m a picky eater but that is also culture.

        2. Fresh, just-out-of-the-shell cicadas, especially the females, are soft and kind of nutty and potatoey and somewhat substantial. Sometimes,  when people are eating insects, they’re chomping grubs that have  been pan roasted with spices. Those might not be as goopy in the inside.

      2.  I had forgotten that sort of chitin. I love all of the above but don’t tend to eat crabs and lobsters shells and all though. There’s nothing more satisfying than crunching a perfectly cooked shrimp though…

    2. …even the citizens far prefer a dish of locusts to the Fasikh, which acts as anchovies, sardines, and herrings in Egypt.  They light a fire at night, and as the insects fall dead they quote this couplet to justify their being eaten —

      “We are allowed two carrions and two bloods,
      the fish and locusts, the liver and the spleen”

      Where they have no crops to lose, the people are thankful for a fall of locusts.  In Al-Hijaz the flights are uncertain; during the last five years Al-Madinah has seen but few.  They are prepared for eating by boiling in salt water and drying four or five days in the sun; a “wet” locust is to an Arab as a snail to a Briton.  The head is plucked off, the stomach drawn, the wings and prickly part of the legs are plucked, and the insect is ready for the table.  Locusts are never eaten with sweet things, which would be nauseous:  the dish is always “hot,” with salt and pepper, or onions fried in clarified butter, when it tastes nearly as well as a plate of stale shrimps.

      — Sir Richard Francis Burton
      Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Al-Meccah

  9. Because bugs.

    I mean, I hear all the sensible arguments about sustainability and nutrition.  But I can’t.

    Because bugs.

  10. My favorite insectophagy factoid:  First-world vegetarians need to watch their vitamin B12 intake, as there are few non-animal sources.  Third-world and pre-modern vegetarians do/did not experience this problem because insect part levels in the grain supply were sufficient.

  11. Maggie, are you sure you’re not just being bamboozled by bad science reporting?

    Ha. Seriously though. Annual Review of Entomology publishes some good reviews of “entomophagy,” including in the latest issue. I don’t think Western cultures will be quick to love insects for the taste, but there are some other great uses for them. Insects that convert waste organic matter (such as manure, spoiled/discarded food and food processing by-products) into clean, edible calories can be a great input to fish farms and other livestock. This would reduce the need for meat animals to eat grains or other human-preferred calorie sources.

  12. It’s not “natural”, “normal” or kind 
    The flies you so fancifully fry 
    The moths in your mouth 
    As you savour the flavour 

  13. Back in the 80s, I was a guest at a party where the hosts had recently returned from a trip to Mexico with a 250g baggie of roasted and dried grasshoppers with salt, chile, and lime. Now, I admit, I wasn’t too keen to eat any (although chile, salt, and lime makes anything good), but any disgust I felt toward eating grasshoppers was soon overwhelmed by my disgust with a roomful of grown adult human beings carrying on for half an hour with overly dramatic squealing and exaggerated retching noises.

    “Oh, for crying out loud,” I said, as I turned to our host. “Gimme the bag.”

    Nutty, crunchy, pretty much inoffensive. At least I put a stop to all the amateur theatrics.

  14. Ew, no. I’ll have some prawns and lobster instead.

    And don’t try to feed me any patagonian toothfish, I only eat quality seafood like chilean sea bass.

  15. To cook the bug, we must understand the bug.  We can ill afford another Klendathu.

      1. First impulse was “Vos me estás cargando, pibe!”
        Then yeah, forehead slap, “Starship Troopers”.

  16. The only problem I have with this is that I usually hear this idea bandied about by elitists who suggest that the world’s hunger problems can be minimized or eliminated by eating insects. Translation: Let the poor eat bugs while we continue to dine extravagantly.

  17. Growing up my buddy used to get BBQ flavored mealworms occasionally from the flea market. They weren’t half bad.

  18. If the FDA allows a certain amount of bugs, feces, or whatever in our food then my question is, how are they keeping track of this? Does someone actually have a job counting aphids on spinach leaves at a spinach farm to make sure the food passes the FDA’s regulations? What is the point of having a standard, such as this, which cannot be measured?

  19. Seeing pictures of Hercules beetle grubs just makes me want to throw them onto a hotdog bun slap on some sauerkraut and Michael Madsen’s spicy mustard. They just look like food.

  20. I will happily start eating bugs when I can go down to Safeway and pick up an inexpensive bucket of clean mealworms. Until then, the harvest effort is much too high for the nutrient value.

  21. In Australia school kids on excursion often get to partake in sampling Witchetty Grubs or Honey Ants which are eaten by the native Australian Aborigines. Those big fat grub bodies are doing something to my brain to set of my saliva glands – I always found them quite delicious. 

  22. Umm very good intentions, but we doubt you’d want to eat South Florida’s newest friends, Rat-Sized Snails:

    Escargot anyone?

  23. We’re starting a non-profit here in Austin called Little Herds, educating kids and adults about this eco-friendly, nutritious, alternative protein source. What nobody here has considered is how easy it is to powder the bugs (makes chitin more digestible and palatable), and put them into another food product. Depending on the bug, you can have baked goods like cookies, pastries, pastas or breads that taste no different, look no different, and smell no different, but have waaaaaaaay more protein, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, omega-3s, and a number of other useful trace vitamins and minerals. We will be holding our 6th Annual Bug Eating Festival in Zilker park late June. Anybody in the area come by and say hi and try a bug.

    If you have questions we’re happy to help, you can find us @littleherds:twitter or


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