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Fancy a locust for lunch? Probably not, if you live in the west, but elsewhere it’s a different story. Edible insects – termites, stick insects, dragonflies, grasshoppers and giant water bugs – are on the menu for an 80 per cent of the world’s population.
More than 1000 species of insects are served up around the world. For example, “kungu cakes” – made from midges – are a in parts of Africa. Mexico is an insect-eating – or entomophagous – hotspot, where more than 200 insect species are . Demand is so high that 40 species are now under threat, including white agave worms. These caterpillars of the tequila giant-skipper butterfly fetch around $250 a kilogram.
Eating insects makes sense. Some contain more protein than meat or fish. The female gypsy moth, for instance, is about 80 per cent protein. Insects can be a good of vitamins and minerals too: a type of caterpillar (Usta terpsichore) eaten in Angola is rich in iron, zinc and thiamine.
What do they taste like? Ants have a lemon tang, apparently, whereas giant water bugs taste of mint and fire ant pupae of watermelon. You have probably, inadvertently, already tasted some of these things, as insects are often tourists in other types of food. The US Food and Drug Administration even issues guidelines for the number of insect parts allowed in certain foods. For example, it is for 225 grams of macaroni to contain up to 225 insect fragments.