Will The Developed World Embrace Entomophagy?


the practice of eating insects

On May 8th, I attended a special viewing of the film “Bugs” at the Ruth Sokolof Theater in downtown Omaha. I call it a special viewing, because immediately after the show, there was a question and answer session with Kelly Sturek and Julianne Kopf of Bugeater Foods and Dr. Jody Green of the University of Nebraska Lancaster County Extension. This was part of the theater’s Science On Screen, an innovative series that creatively pairs classic, cult, and documentary films with lively talks led by notable figures from the world of science, technology, and medicine.

I’d actually saw the documentary on Netflix a few months ago, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to hang out with some “bug” folks.

I must admit, sitting in a dark theater and away from the distractions of home, I caught a few details I missed in my original viewing. For that reason alone, the outing was worth the price of admission.

One line I missed in my original viewing of the documentary was a comment made by Josh Evans.

I mean, to be honest, after traveling the world eating insects everywhere, I think all the farmed insects lack flavor. All of this has been more an exercise in how we can slip them into cooking rather than how we can utilize their characteristics.

I think that statement may hold true for the next few decades – at least in the developed world. Sure some cultures have eaten bugs for hundreds of years, but I’m sure many did so out of necessity.

In the United States, we’ve seen advancements in Hydroponic Gardening and Aeroponics. Experiments at MIT are very promising for the latter.

I personally know of a local produce facility that harvests high volumes of various vegetable sprouts in a span of seven days.

We have companies like “Beyond Meat” working on plant based protein designed to taste similar to the real stuff. These meat substitutes have similar amounts of protein that you find in actual beef or poultry.

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t discount the incredible feed conversion ratio we see with crickets.  They’re far more sustainable than the highly inefficient cattle we seem to love.

But, as earlier stated, edible bugs are not the ONLY answer to our need for a more sustainable food supply.

So, with all things considered…

I’d never say never, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to embracing Entomophagy in the U.S.

Poisonous Versus Venomous

One of the most common questions I receive about various spiders and scorpions is whether or not the species is poisonous.

Here’s the good news: I’m not aware of any spider or scorpion that is poisonous.

The bad news: plenty of spiders and scorpions are venomous.

Animals that deliver toxins via fangs or stingers are considered venomous, while organisms that deliver toxins when they are consumed or touched are considered poisonous.

Some mushrooms and berries are poisonous, but brown recluse spiders, black widow spiders and rattlesnakes are venomous.

With arthropods like spiders and insects, there are two types of venom. They are called Neurotoxic and Cytotoxic.

Neurotoxic venom disrupts proper functioning of developing and mature nerve cells. You’ll see this type of venom in Black widow spiders (and others in the genus Latrodectus), as well as some scorpions and insects.

Cytotoxic venom works by destroying cell tissue, which can lead to tissue death. Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) possess this type of venom.

In the case of spider bites, Neurotoxic venom works MUCH faster than Cytotoxic.

Some people think I’m crazy for saying this, but if I had to choose between being bitten by a Brown recluse spider or a Black widow, I’d prefer the Brown recluse any day.

If left untreated for weeks, a Brown recluse spider bite could lead to nasty ulcers, but a Black widow spider bite could cause muscle spasms or (in rare cases) seizures in about… fifteen freaking minutes!

How Bugs Travel To the Sixteenth Floor

Warning: If you have a fear of bugs or suffer from Entomophobia, I recommend skipping this article.

Now on with the post.

Servicing several apartments in downtown Omaha, I often have tenants ask questions like the following:

I live on the sixteenth floor and my windows are sealed, how do bugs make it all the way up to my apartment?

While I’ve seen several scenarios where ants have entered an apartment from the exterior, the most common way bugs get to higher-floor apartments is unsettling to most.

They hitchhike.

Outdoor bugs make it into structures all the time. They can fly in, crawl under door sweeps, or enter through various plumbing/electrical voids.

But what are the odds that a bug makes it inside the building, navigates its way up the stairs/plumbing/elevator/elevator shaft, then into a sixteenth story apartment?

Five or six floors? Maybe.

Sixteen? Highly unlikely.

Don’t get me wrong. Anything is possible, but it’s much more likely the bug was on/in someone’s clothing, bag, purse, plant, groceries or Amazon shipment. In fact, German roach, pantry pest and bed bug infestations almost ALWAYS enter a home via hitchhiking.

So next time you see a metallic green beetle crawling around in your apartment’s foyer, just remember it probably had a lot of help getting there.


My Observations of the ACE Exam

I recently completed the exam to become an Associate Certified Entomologist. Many folks claim it is the most difficult test they’ve ever taken. I do feel this test is difficult, but I believe the reason people struggle with it is because it’s a different type of test.

While most exams are a test of KNOWLEDGE, this exam tests your APPLICATION of knowledge. Simple memorization isn’t enough, you’ll need to know the information, then apply it in problem solving scenarios. For pest control operators preparing to take the test, I offer the following advice:

Get a good night sleep

Don’t spend the night obsessing over the names of body parts, different active ingredients or the construction of respirators. Although you will see questions about those topics, the lion’s share of questions will pertain to pest’s habits and characteristics. You’ll need to be mentally sharp, so make sure you’re well rested.

Schedule you test at the best time (If possible)

I often find myself getting drowsy around 1pm – 2pm.

Care to guess when I scheduled my test?

If I needed to take the test again, I’d definitely schedule my test around 8am when my mind is at it’s sharpest.

Be Hydrated

While being self explanatory, I think this tip is highly underrated!

Study the right stuff

You’ll definitely want to spend adequate time with IPM for the Urban Professional: A Study Guide for the Associate Certified Entomologist, but you’ll also want to have a good understanding of 132 pests. If using the NPMA Field Guide to Household Pests, you’ll not only want to focus on the “Characteristics” section, but also the “Habits” and “Control” sections.

Here is a list of the pests and categories that could possibly be included in your test:

Bed bugs and bat bugs
Yellowjacket wasps
Paper wasps
Honey bees
Black widow spiders
Brown recluse spiders
Cat fleas
Brown dog ticks
American dog ticks
Wolf spiders
Bumble bees
Black legged tick
Solitary bees
Flesh flies
Stable flies
Black & yellow mud daubers
Lone star ticks
Sac spiders
Hobo spider and other funnel weaver spiders
Soft ticks
Cicada killers
Ground spiders
Jumping spiders
Organpipe mud dauber
Head louse
Dust mites
Body louse
Crab louse
Chigger mites

Small fruit flies
House flies
Lesser house flies
Moth/Drain flies
Phorid flies
Fungus gnats
Blow flies
Cluster flies
Flesh flies
Stable flies
Horse and Deer flies
Small dung flies
Crane flies
Soldier flies

Carpenter Ants
Odorous house ants
Red imported fire ants
Pavement ants
Pharaoh ants
Argentine ants
Little Black Ants
Acrobat Ants
Crazy Ants
Ghost Ants (Tapinoma melanocephalum)
White Footed Ants
Big Headed Ants
Field Ants
Harvester Ants

German cockroaches
Asian cockroaches
American cockroaches
Brownbanded cockroaches
Smokybrown cockroaches
Oriental cockroaches
Australian cockroaches
Woods cockroaches
Surinam cockroaches

Indian meal moths
Cigarette and drugstore beetles
Carpet/domestic beetles
Clothes moths
Flour beetles Sawtoothed and merchant grain beetles
Warehouse & Cabinet Beetles
Rice Weevils and Corn Weevils
Hide and larder beetles
Angoumois Grain Moths
Mediterranean Flour Moths
Foreign Grain Beetle
Plaster Beetles
Spider Beetles
Mealworm Beetles
Dust mites
Bean Weevils
Flat Grain Beetles
Cowpea Weevils
Red Legged Ham Beetles

Subterranean termites
Carpenter ants
Formosan termites
Carpenter bees
Drywood termites
Lyctine powderpost beetles
Old house borers
Anobiine beetles
Bostrichid (false powderpost) beetles
Long horned beetles
Dampwood termites
Metallic wood boring beetles

Brown marmorated stink bugs
Boxelder bugs
Sowbugs and pillbugs
House crickets
Cellar spiders
Multicolored Asian lady beetles
Ground Beetles
Field crickets
Clover mite
Comb footed (cobweb) spiders
Camel (cave) crickets
Elm Leaf Beetle
Aquatic Insects Adults

House mouse
Norway rat
Roof rat
Pigeon (rock dove)
Deer mouse
English sparrow
European starling
Commensal bats (Chiroptera)

Four More Celebrities That Would Make Terrible Exterminators

Question: Which celebrity do you think would make a terrible exterminator?

Last year, I visited the topic. You can find the original post here.

I have no idea why, but for some explainable reason, I felt the need to revisit the topic. This time, however, I’ve decided to include females.

Let’s skip the formalities and jump right into the list:

4. Ronda Rousey: Despite standing 5’7”, Ronda has quickly become a huge UFC superstar. She’s cleared the Bantamweight division and will have to go up a few weight classes to find competitive fighters. Her 11-0 record is impressive, but nine of those fights were won by armbar submissions. I can’t think of a single household pest with arms. If she were some sort of leg lock expert, maybe things would be different. As it currently stands, however, I see no PCO potential in Ms. Rousey.

3. Warren Buffett: Okay, let’s look at this from an economic standpoint. Warren, with a net worth of $72.3 billion, has annual earnings of about $6.6 million. When you do the math, that equates to monthly salary of $550k. Even if his 84 year-old knees could stand the punishment of 260 quarterly services every month, you’d have to charge each pest control customer about $2,165 PER SERVICE!!! Just about the only customer that could afford pest control service from Warren Buffett is Warren Buffett.

1&2. Kenny Chesney/Larry the Cable Guy (Tie): Have you ever seen these guys wearing sleeves? I don’t know about ALL uniform suppliers, but Cintas highly frowns on shirt alterations – including sleeve removal. That’s not to mention the issues you’d encounter with OSHA and your Dept of Ag. Employing these guys would be like hiring your own turnover – termination is practically assured.

So, there’s the list.

Can you think of someone that belongs on the list? Shoot me a Tweet: @Stevejacksonus.