7 types of edible insects: the different critters to chew on!

Why not add bugs to your plate? Beyond the psychological aspect, insects have real taste and nutritional assets. More and more dishes include insects in their preparation!

Entomophagy (the food consumption of insects), animal husbandry and production for food purposes are even a solution considered to reduce the problems of starvation. It can also be an alternative for people wishing to reduce their meat consumption, while maintaining a protein intake.

For an aperitif with friends or for the preparation of a sauce, there are many ways to consume insects. Entomophagy is cultural in some countries, but it is increasingly developing in developed countries.

Eating insects, okay, but you have to be careful not to eat anything either! Beetles, butterflies, caterpillars, crickets, ants?Which insects are edible? What are the most popular edible insects around the world!

To help you choose well, we invite you to discover the main edible insects. Thus, it will indeed be the big beast that will eat the little one!

Insecte alimentaire et insecte comestible
Insect fried.The food on street food in Thailand- A snack often used in Asia. Soft Focus and blur.

Beetles like the beetle

The first family of insects consumed in the world is that of the beetles. No wonder: beetles make up about 40% of the world’s known insects.

But what is a beetle? Beetles are insects with elytra (like a small shell) that protect their wings. This family includes beetles, ladybugs and stag beetles.

There are about 80 species of edible water beetles! Most of them are consumable at the larva stage. Another edible beetle is the palm weevil. Very harmful to palm trees, it is found in particular in Africa, southern Asia and South America. It is very popular, thanks in particular to the fat it contains, its taste being similar to cheese. Weevil is often barbecued and eaten with onions, salt and pepper.

The beetle is also a very popular dish thanks to its taste similar to shrimp.

Some may prefer the beetle that is both crispy and tender. Those who appreciate this insect find in it the taste of popcorn or grilled bacon!

In Europe and more particularly in the Netherlands, it is the mealworm larvae that are cultivated to feed animals, but also for human consumption. As its name suggests, it is found in particular in wheat flour which serves as food. Mealworms taste like crisps or grilled chicken in their salty version and like hazelnuts or almonds in their sweet version.

Good to know: entomophagy allows a significant supply of nutrients and especially proteins. For example, when 100g of meat provides 143 calories, 100 edible insects provides 500 calories! Insects are also low in saturated fat, which is not the case with meat.

Butterfly caterpillars (Lepidoptera)

Butterflies are mostly consumed at the larval stage, in other words at the caterpillar stage. The most consumed caterpillar in the world is the mopane caterpillar, found mainly in Africa.

In South America and more particularly in Mexico, it is Maguey worms that are acclaimed! They are eaten in their last larval stage, as this is when they are most nutritious. They are real delicacies for Mexican farmers. These worms are often fried or braised and spices are added to them. They can also be eaten in a tortilla! In the state of Chiapa in Mexico, nearly thirty varieties of caterpillars are eaten!

In Asia, the bamboo caterpillar (bamboo borer) is very popular, thanks to its taste between corn and cheese and its high protein content.

Key takeaways:

  • Caterpillars contribute significantly to the livelihoods of some populations.
  • In Australia, the most famous caterpillar is called ‘wichetty grub’.
  • The most popular caterpillar in Thailand is the bamboo borer.
  • The mopane caterpillar is the most popular caterpillar on the African continent.
  • 30% of edible insect species in sub-Saharan Africa are caterpillars.

Wasps, bees and ants (Hymenoptera)

Ants are very popular all over the world, both for their asset in agriculture and in gastronomy. In Asia, there is a large distribution of black weaver ants appreciated for their tangy and spicy taste. They accompany salads in a savory version and go well with chocolate in a sweet version.

Ant eggs are also very popular and can be found in canned form in Thailand. Generally speaking, ants are a widely used nutritional ingredient in Chinese health products. In South America, leafcutter ants are highly valued.

As for wasps, head to Japan and the famous hebo. Hebo is the name given to yellow jacket wasp larvae. It is very appreciated by the Japanese who even have an annual festival in honor of the hebo.

Finally, bees also constitute a part of edible insects and in particular bee brood (eggs, larvae and nymphs). Bee brood is indeed an excellent source of energy, amino acids, essential minerals and B vitamins.

Insecte alimentaire et insecte comestible
Crispy fried insects, grub larvae, Grasshopper, CRICKET

Locusts, grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera)

It is mainly in Africa that we find the most edible locusts such as:

  • The Desert Locust.
  • The migratory locust.
  • The nomadic locust.
  • The brown locust.

Locusts are fairly easy to harvest, as they can appear in swarms. They are very often cooked on a skewer.

As for grasshoppers, there are no less than 80 species consumed in the world. Most grasshoppers are indeed edible halfway between the taste of bacon and baked potato. They are, for example, sold on the market or on the side of the road in African countries, such as Niger. In Latin America, chapulina is the most common edible grasshopper, as it is part of the local diet. This grasshopper is often grilled in oil and garlic, with a little lemon and salt. The chapuline is found in local markets, but also in restaurants and export markets.

In Asia, it is the cricket which is very popular for its hazelnut and almond taste. It can be domesticated, but also eaten especially in Thailand where its tender body is highly valued.

Cicadas, mealybugs and bed bugs (Homoptera and Heteroptera)

It is in Malawi that cicadas are an extremely popular delicacy for their nutty taste. They are harvested directly from the trunks of trees. Other homopterans are used for the manufacture of common products such as carmine dye from the cactus cochineal or lerp, a sweet secretion of psylla larvae.

In sub-Saharan Africa and more particularly in Southern Africa, stink bugs are also eaten roasted. Oil can also be prepared using this insect. Most edible stink bugs are aquatic. The giant water bug, for example, brings flavors similar to grilled prawns.

In Mexico there is a very special caviar called ahuahutle. This caviar is prepared with the eggs of seven species of Homoptera and Heteroptera insects.

Termites (Isoptera)

Termites are also edible insects. Most of the termites consumed in the world are large termites such as Macrothermes or Syntermes.

Termites are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. After being de-winged, fried and dried, termites can be eaten both as a main course and as a side dish. Indeed, termites are rich in proteins, fatty acids and various micronutrients.

NEXT FOOD : producteur d'insectes comestibles
Fried scorpion for sale at the Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing

Tarantulas and scorpions (arachnids)

Many are afraid of them and yet, tarantulas have real taste value! Edible tarantulas are also called zebra tarantulas. They are eaten plain, often as an aperitif. Just fry them, to season them to discover their shellfish aftertaste or, according to some tasters, their notes of hazelnut and almonds. The pasta brings a crispy aspect, while the abdomen is soft.

Black scorpions are also very popular with entomophages (insect eaters)! Indeed, their taste is similar to that of shrimp.

Summary: Why is eating insects beneficial?

Regardless of the type of insects, consuming them is very beneficial. Today easily found in sachets, insects are becoming real food products. The breeding and production of insects thus become lucrative activities.

A real alternative in food, some people today prefer to eat insects rather than animals.

Insects are appreciated for their crispy or soft texture and for their taste similar to shellfish, cereals such as wheat or corn, dried meat or even almonds, hazelnuts or nut. Thus, they can enhance many recipes in your main dishes or as an aperitif. Offering insects is an opportunity to surprise friends and test new flavors.

If you want to know more about insect food consumption, we advise you to browse the market study on edible insects carried out by the FAO (Food and Agricultur Organisation), which served as our source for this article.

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