15 insects you can eat

From beetles and butterflies to dragonflies and lice, bugs from the following orders are all good enough to eat.

Not being much of an eater of things with legs in the first place, partaking of those from the creepy-crawly family of edibles doesn’t hold much appeal to me personally. But I might be in the minority there, especially when considering entomophagy from an international perspective. We may be squeamish here in the United States when it comes to binging on bugs, but people all over the world smartly consume insects. In fact, some two billion people across the globe eat a wide variety of insects regularly.

They are a fantastic source of protein and don’t require intensive resources to produce; and they have little environmental impact, unlike the livestock that we are so reliant on here.

Given the food crunch the globe is in, all I can say is this: Bring on the cricket skewers and roasted water bugs, the smoked tarantulas and candied ants. If you’re an eater of creatures already, get on this!

While there are more than 1,900 edible insect species from which to choose, not all are edible. Brightly colored insects usually indicate a warning: Back off, buddy, I’m toxic. Pungent bugs, hairy bugs, bugs that bite or sting, and disease-carriers like flies, ticks and mosquitoes are also on the very generalized do-not-eat list, although there are exceptions. But not to worry, that leaves so many many other insects to revel in.

To get started, here are the main 15 orders of insects suitable for eating:

1. Anoplura: Lice
2. Orthoptera: Grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches
3. Hemiptera: True bugs
4. Homoptera: Cicadas and treehoppers
5. Hymenoptera: Bees, ants and wasps
6. Diptera: Flies and mosquitoes
7. Coleoptera: Beetles
8. Lepidoptera: Butterflies and moths
9. Megaloptera: Alderflies and dobsonflies
10. Odonata: Dragonflies and damselflies
11. Ephemetoptera: Mayflies
12. Trichoptera: Caddisflies
13. Plecoptera: Stoneflies
14. Neuroptera: Lacewings and antlions
15. Isoptera: Termites

And a few things to consider. Cooking will improve flavor, texture and kill parasites. Wings and legs do not contain much protein, remove them if they make you want to gag. Heads, too. Take care in eating already-dead insects, as they may have been killed by pesticide. And importantly, if you want to forage for wild insects, seek out a good guidebook so that you are sure to get the best from your efforts. Be brave, and bon appetite.

Tags: Agriculture | Food Miles | Insects

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