Bugging Out: How Many People Really Eat These 10 Gross Insects?

Bugging Out: How Many People Really Eat These 10 Gross Insects?

Hello, bug lovers, bug haters and the indifferent ones, welcome to a ‘buggy’ journey! Today, we’re delving deep into the world of entomophagy, a fancy term for eating insects. While the mere thought might make some of you squirm, it’s a widely accepted practice in many parts of the world. Yes, you heard it right! From crispy crickets in Cambodia to juicy june bugs in Japan, these creepy-crawlies are more than just unwanted guests at a picnic.

Now, you may be thinking, “Why on earth would anyone want to eat bugs?” But hold onto your hats, because this is not just about shock value or bizarre food challenges. Entomophagy has rich cultural, nutritional, and environmental implications. So, before you swat away that fly, take a moment to consider the potential it might have on your dinner plate.

For some, bugs are the stuff of nightmares, for others, they’re the unsung heroes of the food chain. Let’s embark on this fascinating journey of entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, and find out how many people are actually bugging out!

Top 10 Gross Insects People Commonly Eat

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty! Which bugs are people munching on? The answer is – quite a lot! Here are the top 10 ‘gross’ insects that people commonly eat:

weird bugs that people eat - crickets
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Crickets

People eat crickets for various reasons, primarily due to their nutritional value and sustainability. Crickets are a highly nutritious source of protein, containing essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, they require significantly less land, water, and feed compared to traditional livestock, making them an environmentally friendly and sustainable protein source.


Mealworms - weird bugs people eat
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Mealworms

Mealworms are consumed by people for similar reasons as crickets. They are a nutritious and sustainable source of protein, containing essential nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Mealworms require minimal resources such as water, feed, and space compared to conventional livestock.


Gross bugs people eat - silkworms
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Silkworms

Silkworms are consumed in various cultures for their nutritional benefits and unique taste. They are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, offering a nutritious addition to diets. In some regions, especially in Asia, silkworm pupae are considered a delicacy, often roasted, boiled, or fried and enjoyed for their nutty or buttery flavor.


Beatles - one of the gross bugs people eat
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Beatles

Eating beetles, as in the insect, are not typically consumed by humans in the same way as other edible insects like crickets or mealworms. While there are many edible insects worldwide enjoyed for their nutritional value, beetles as a food source are not widely consumed due to cultural perceptions or potential toxicity concerns associated with certain beetle species.


Humans eat ants
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Ants

Eating ants gives a whole new meaning to ‘ants in your pants’—but hey, some people find a picnic in their mouth! The unexpected protein-packed snack that comes with its own tiny workout—chew carefully and enjoy the crunch. But truthfully, they have nutritional value and some cultures love them.


People eat grasshoppers
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Grasshoppers

Eating grasshoppers adds a hop to your step and a crunch to your munch! It’s like having a ‘grass-fed’ protein snack straight from nature’s buffet. Don’t hop around the idea—dive into this ‘hopper’ of a tasty treat!


Witchetty grubs are bugs people eat
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Witchetty Grubs

Witchetty grubs, a type of wood-eating larvae found in the roots of certain Australian native plants like the witchetty bush, are consumed by Indigenous Australian communities. These grubs are a traditional bush food source and are often eaten raw or lightly cooked, providing a rich source of protein and nutrients. Indigenous Australians have incorporated witchetty grubs into their diet for generations, considering them a valuable and culturally significant food item.


Humans eat stink bugs
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Stink Bugs

While stink bugs are not commonly consumed by most cultures, in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia, Africa, and South America, certain species of stink bugs are eaten as food. Stink bugs are cooked and consumed for their protein content and are often fried, roasted, or cooked in various dishes. It’s important to note that stink bugs can emit a foul odor, hence the name, which might deter some people from consuming them.


gross bugs people eat - Tarantulas
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Tarantulas

In certain regions of Cambodia, particularly in the town of Skuon, fried tarantulas are considered a delicacy and are consumed as a snack or street food. The tarantulas, typically known as “a-ping” in Khmer, are deep-fried and seasoned with spices, often enjoyed for their crunchy texture and flavor. While eating tarantulas might seem unconventional in many cultures, they are regarded as a traditional and popular food item in these specific areas of Cambodia.


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Scorpions

In various parts of Asia, particularly in countries like China, Thailand, and Vietnam, certain species of scorpions are consumed as food. Scorpions are often deep-fried, skewered, or stir-fried and served as snacks or street food. They are considered a delicacy in some regions and are believed by some to have potential health benefits. While eating scorpions might be unconventional in many cultures, they are part of the traditional diets in certain Asian countries.


Why Do People Eat Bugs?

When you think of a delicious meal, I’m guessing a plate of squirming worms or crunchy beetles doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But believe it or not, there are solid reasons why people chow down on these critters.

Firstly, insects are everywhere! They constitute the majority of animal species on earth, making them an abundant and sustainable source of food. In a world grappling with food scarcity, insects offer a viable solution. Secondly, they’re quite the nutrition powerhouses. Yes, you heard it right! They’re packed with proteins, healthy fats, and essential minerals.

And lastly, they’ve been a part of human diet for centuries. Humans have been foraging for insects long before farming and modern agriculture came into existence. So, in a way, eating bugs is not a new trend, but a forgotten practice that’s making a comeback.

Nutritional Value of Insects

Bugs might not sound appetizing, but they’re a nutritional jackpot. You might not know it, but crickets, for instance, are a great source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. They’re also loaded with vitamins B12 and B2, iron, and zinc. A handful of these critters can give a steak a run for its money!

Beetles, the most commonly consumed insect, are packed with fiber and healthy fats. They’re the go-to bugs for people living in rural communities, where access to conventional protein sources is limited. Similarly, caterpillars are rich in protein, iron, and potassium.

In a world where malnutrition is a pressing issue, these bugs could be the superheroes we need. They’re not just plentiful and easy to harvest, but also packed with nutrients that are vital for our health.

The Cultural Perspective of Eating Insects

The practice of eating insects is not a new fad, it’s deeply rooted in culture and tradition. In many countries, bugs are not just a survival food but a delicacy enjoyed at festivals and family gatherings.

For instance, in Mexico, escamoles (ant larvae) are considered a delicacy and often compared to caviar. In Japan, silkworm pupae called ‘inago’ are a popular snack, served with soy sauce and sugar. Meanwhile, in Thailand, street vendors sell a variety of fried insects, from grasshoppers to bamboo worms, as tasty treats.

This cultural acceptance of eating insects illustrates the diversity of human diets and challenges our notion of what is considered ‘food’. It teaches us that ‘gross’ is a subjective term, and what might seem odd to one could be delectable to another.

You might find it hard to swallow, but for many, these critters are a regular part of their diet. From being ground into flour for baking to being fried, roasted, or boiled, these insects are prepared in a myriad of ways to tantalize the taste buds.

Surprising Statistics: How Many People Eat Bugs?

You might be wondering, “How many people eat bugs, really?” The answer might surprise you. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around 2 billion people globally consume insects as part of their traditional diet. That’s nearly a quarter of the world’s population!

The practice of eating insects is prevalent in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where they are a valued source of nutrition. Even in Western countries, there’s a growing interest in insects as a sustainable alternative to traditional livestock.

Countries Where Bug Consumption is Prevalent

Insect consumption is quite common in many countries. Thailand, for instance, is famous for its edible insect industry. From bustling street markets to high-end restaurants, bugs are everywhere on the menu.

In Mexico, insects like Chapulines (grasshoppers) and Escamoles (ant larvae) are popular and often served as tacos fillings. Meanwhile, in South Africa, Mopane worms are a staple, often served dried or in a spicy sauce.

In Cambodia, a visit is incomplete without trying the local specialty – fried spiders! Meanwhile, in Japan, one can enjoy Inago (fried locust) and Zazamushi (boiled insect larvae). These examples show that eating bugs is not a fringe activity, but a cultural norm in many corners of the world.

Overcoming the ‘Ick’ Factor: How to Start Eating Bugs

If you’ve made it this far and are feeling adventurous, you might be wondering, “How can I start eating bugs?” The first step is overcoming the ‘ick’ factor. Remember, the idea of eating bugs is no more bizarre than eating a slimy oyster or a squirmy octopus.

Start small. Try incorporating insect-based products into your diet. You can find cricket flour or protein bars in health food stores or online. Once you’re comfortable with this, you can move on to whole insects. Remember, the key is to keep an open mind and a curious palate.

Bugs on the Menu: Restaurants and Dishes Featuring Insects

Bugs are making their way onto menus around the world. From fine dining restaurants to local food trucks, chefs are experimenting with these unique ingredients to create a culinary sensation.

In London, you can find Grub Kitchen, a restaurant dedicated to serving insect-based dishes. Meanwhile, in New York, The Black Ant serves a variety of dishes featuring ants, grasshoppers, and worms. In Melbourne, you can enjoy a meal at the aptly named ‘Bug Dinner’ where the menu varies from cricket tacos to mealworm lollipops.

These restaurants are not just serving bugs for their novelty factor, but are aiming to introduce diners to a new, sustainable way of eating.

Conclusion: Future of Entomophagy

As we grapple with pressing issues like food security, climate change, and malnutrition, it’s time to look at alternatives. Insects, despite their ‘ick’ factor, offer a sustainable, nutritious, and eco-friendly food source.

With a growing acceptance of edible insects, trends indicate that these tiny critters will be more mainstream in the future. So, next time you spot a bug, don’t squirm in disgust. Instead, consider its potential as a tasty, nutritious treat. After all, entomophagy might just be the future of food!

So, how many people eat bugs? Quite a lot, it seems. And who knows, you might be the next to join the bug-eating club!