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.