Eco-Friendly Protein: Edible Bugs

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(images via Bill Hail, Kent Wang, $ensai)

In certain cultures around the world, creatures like beetles, stink bugs, and grubs are not seen as pests, but as food items.  In places where protein sources are rare, they are a vital part of the diet.  Though they are relegated to game show gross-out props in much of the West, these creatures are quite eco-friendly as food.  They consume relatively little, and do not require grazing land or antibiotics.  Perhaps these crawling, wiggling animals will have a role to play in a greener future.

Giant Water Beetles

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(image via travel leisure, su-lin and North by North East)

These beetles are fried or roasted and are said to have a flavor that is not unlike scallops.  They are a cheap treat in Thailand, where they are readily available in the wild and are eaten shells and all after being fried or roasted.

Caterpillars and Witchetty Grubs

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(images via Kent Wang and Northern Territory News)

Caterpillars are a popular food source because they are common over most of the world.  They can be eaten raw, fried, baked or even dried and stored for use at a later date.

Witchetty Grubs have been a traditional food among Australia’s indigenous community for centuries.  This wood-eating larvae turns into a moth if it doesn’t find its way onto the plate.  They are either eaten raw or cooked in the ashes of a fire.

Tarantulas

tarantulas

(images via spotter_nl)

These arachnids are a popular food in Cambodia.  Though the habit of eating spiders can be traced back to the scarcity brought on by the Khmer Rouge regime, the cooked spider trade still thrives in town’s like Skuon, which is well known for its edible arachnids.

Crickets and Grasshoppers

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(images via hiyori13, mckaysavage, dawvon and wiendietry)

These hopping creatures are considered pests by farmers, but are eaten after being cooked in a variety of ways.  They are plentiful in the wild and are among the few insects that are actually dubbed “edible” in the West.  Larger specimens said to have an earthy flavor, not unlike the plants they consume.

Casu Marzu

casu-marzu

(image via Shardan)

This cheese, made from sheep’s milk, is famous for being infested with fly larvae.  These worms are introduced to the cheese in order to aid fermentation.  While some people remove the larvae prior to eating, many do not.

Mosquito Eggs

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(image via smccann)

Mosquito eggs are easy to come by in many markets in Mexico.  They are dried and roasted and eaten wrapped in tortillas or with a squeeze of lime or lemon.  The eggs are taken from trees near water after they have been laid by water mosquitoes.

Termites, Ants, and Mopani (Mopane Worms)

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(images via Agricultural Research Service, exfordy and Fuzzy Travel)

Termites and ants are readily available around the world.  Termites are a popular protein source in Africa, where they can grow to three-inches in size.  They are eaten raw and have a high amount of calories considering their size.  Mopani, a caterpillar, is eaten after being dried or fried.

Cicadas

cicadas1

(images via kumon, Alexis and Money Specialist)

This insect is often considered a pest, especially to farmers.  Its large, meaty body and pleasant flavor (if skillfully cooked) make it one of the world’s favorite edible insects.

Bee Larvae and Bamboo Borer

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(images via Jason Hanley and The Sydney Morning Herald)

Bee larvae are a prized snack food in East Asia.  Despite their “maggot-like” appearance, these baby bees are known for their earthy, slightly sweet taste.  Bamboo borers, another bug that is considered a pest, has become a popular food source and is another example of turning a “pest insect” into food.

Edible Stink Bug

edible-stinkbugs

(images via North Dakota State University)

Shield-shaped stink bugs survive by sucking sap out of plants.  Despite their name, not everyone finds their “stink” (a defense mechanism) to be foul.  These large, allegedly sweet tasting, bugs are especially popular in regions of East Africa and parts of Mexico

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