When you get home after school, what's the first thing that you do? Your parents would probably prefer that you immediately break out the books and get started on your homework. However, many kids instead head straight to the refrigerator.
Does that sound like you? What after-school snack do you look for as soon as you get home from school? Do you look for healthy snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables? Or do you seek out a sugar rush from candy?
If you live in certain parts of the world, your list of preferred after-school snacks might look quite different. How do you like the sound of beetles and caterpillars? Or maybe ants, cicadas, locusts, and crickets sound more appetizing?
If you're thinking "Yuck!" right now, then you probably live in an area of the world where eating insects is not popular. In fact, you might not even realize that insects are edible. After all, there aren't many pizzerias in the United States that serve pizza with dragonflies and grasshoppers.
Consuming insects as food — a practice known as entomophagy — is a much more common practice than people in western nations realize. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a report recently to bring attention to the many benefits of entomophagy.
According to the report, over two billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their diet. And there's no shortage of selection to choose from. In fact, there are over 1,900 species of edible insects on Earth.
With so many delicious foods available, why would people turn to insects for a meal? Unfortunately, worldwide food production isn't keeping up with the ever-expanding population of Earth. Alternative food sources become more and more necessary each year.
Growing more crops and raising more animals isn't always an option, given the resource constraints of our planet. There is only so much land that can be farmed or used to produce animals for food. Insects, on the other hand, can often be raised easily and cheaply compared to other types of foods.
Nutritionists also point out that insects can be chock full of nutrients, including needed protein, fiber, and minerals. For example, mealworms contain protein, vitamins, and minerals in amounts similar to fish and meat. Likewise, grasshoppers can provide as much protein as lean ground beef with lower levels of fat.
Although most countries that eat insects today can be found in Africa and Asia, there are more and more people around the world warming up to the idea of eating insects. But can any insect be eaten? Not quite! Experts warn that you need to make sure of what you're eating before you head to the backyard to start a buffet.
While most insects are edible, there's no surefire way to tell if a bug is edible just by looking. There are a few guidelines you can use to avoid bugs that might be dangerous. For example, experts recommend you stay away from insects that are brightly-colored, especially smelly, or hairy. It's also a good idea to steer clear of insects that bite or sting or carry diseases, such as flies, ticks, and mosquitoes.
So what bugs are good to eat? Some of the most popular edible insects around the world include beetles, caterpillars, ants, cicadas, locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, and dragonflies. Which of these would you have for your next after-school snack?