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Bugs on Your Plate… Bugs in Your Teeth… Bug Appétit!

Mealworms and crickets and waterbugs, oh my!

giant water bug

(click photo for slideshow)

Saturday marked opening day for the Franklin Park Conservatory’s “Hungry Planet: Local Food, Global View” weekend exhibition. The exhibit was designed to encourage people to “explore local and global food culture through art and horticulture displays, children’s interactives and a full menu of programs for all ages.” And Jiminy Crickets, were the attendees in for an eyeful AND a mouthful! One of the highlights of the program offerings was “Man Eating Bugs” with Mark Berman of Bugman Educational Entoprises. Mark (aka Bugman) is a Columbus entomologist (and chef extraordinaire) who introduced attendees to the world of entomophagy (bug eating) through his entertaining stories about bugs and onsite cooking demonstrations.

Entomophagy (pronounced “en-tuh-mof-uh-gy”) is defined as the consumption of insects as food by humans. Non-human species that eat insects are called insectivores. Believe or not, eating bugs is nothing new. People have been eating arthropods (insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes and others) throughout time all over the world. It is believed that early man at insects before they learned how to make and use tools to hunt and farm. In many cultures today, insects are a main staple of the local diet. In fact, it has been documented that over 1000 insects have been eaten in 80 percent of the world’s nations. Bug eating is popular in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. The most common arthropods eaten include ants, beetle grubs (like mealworms), caterpillars (like waxworms and silkworms), cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions and tarantulas. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for those with weak stomachs and no sense of adventure), in the Western World and similar societies, eating bugs is considered to be uncommon, taboo or downright disgusting.

Why people consider bugs to be ‘yucky’ is beyond me. Who doesn’t love eating seafood like crawfish, lobster, crab and shrimp? Well, guess what? Those are all arthropods. As a matter of fact, if you have shellfish allergies it’s suggested that you avoid eating bugs as you may have similar reactions. But when it comes to eating, shellfish aren’t lumped in with the other arthropods when it comes to entomophagy. But let’s take a serious look at eating bugs – and I don’t mean Fear Factor style (that shows gives bug eating a bad name and bugs can be good, actually yummy!). First, insects are nutritious! They are very high in protein, low in fat, economical to harvest and do not come with all the problems associated with farming and processing beef, pork and poultry. Minilivestock, the intentional cultivation of arthropods for human food, is starting to catch on and has been the subject of a number of organizations, research institutes, entomologists… and even chefs. Second, everybody eats insects every day whether they like or not. I’m sure you’ve seen the TV programs that talked about the number of insects and parts allowable by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

If you’d like to learn more about entomophagy, check out the interesting videos listed on the Entomophagy of the Future webpage on World News Network. You can also read about eating insects in two popular books, which include recipes, Man-eating Bugs and Eat-a-Bug Cookbook. Both also feature insect recipes and stories about people who eat bugs around the world. And, wouldn’t you know… when it comes to eating bugs, there’s also an Eat Insects app for that!

Bug appétit!

 

 

 

(This article was originally posted on the now defunct Examiner.com.)

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