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How do insects know what is edible?

How do insects know what is edible?



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What is the current scientific consensus on how insects innately know what is food and not food? If they are introduced to new food sources do they experiment with eating the new food? Could you teach a preying mantis to eat beef?


Insect feeding behaviour is generally triggered by one or more conditions which may include colour, shape, chemical traces or temperature. Insects generally locate food based on some combination of olfactory, thermal and visual queues (colour and shape). If their minimum criteria are met to specified tolerance, they will attempt to feed on whatever is nearby using their usual feeding method.

When these conditions appear on the 'wrong' target, it attracts insects and triggers feeding attempts. Insects can be triggered to feed on atypical food sources if the relevant aspects of their environment match those of their normal feeding environments. For example, here is a report from a professor of entomology recollecting his observations of being bitten by pea aphids while handling plants, which he assumes is because of the scent on his hands.

We can exploit this in various ways for research. One is for artificial blood-feeding of insects: most systems, like the Hemotek membrane feeding system, warm blood to the body temperature of the host. They do not normally resemble a target host in any other way. Some blood-feeding insects have very specific requirements for temperature (for example they will only feed on blood if it is heated to the body temperature of birds; the same blood heated to mammalian body temperature will be ignored) but we do not need to make the target look or smell like the natural host. Other species may need olfactory cues, which can be provided by researchers rubbing the membranes on their forearms before placing them on the feeding system, or by breathing on cages as you add the food.

A second way we exploit this is for insect traps. Although not all traps work this way, some work by mimicking the host and attracting insects that are looking for a meal. This can be via olfactory/chemical mimicry (for example carbon dioxide baited traps - try Googling "CO2-baited traps") or visual. Different degrees of visual 'deception' may be needed; for instance to attract tsetse flies, colour is important but shape is not:

[tsetse traps] often use electric blue cloth, since this color attracts the flies. Early traps mimicked the form of cattle but this seems unnecessary

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsetse_fly#Trapping)

The exact reason why blue is so attractive to tsetse is unclear:

But, why are tsetse flies attracted to blue and black colors? What is the evolutionary advantage for them? It has been hypothesized that certain areas on humans, where tsetse like to bite, are a darker shade. Or, that the dark color simply identifies the object as not plants.

(https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/11/28/do-dark-colors-really-attract-tsetse-flies-10471)

If such behaviour increases the fitness of the insects, there is a selective pressure to change the cues used to identify situations where feeding behaviour is appropriate, which may result in consistent feeding shifts. We can infer by comparing insect taxonomy and feeding modes when shifts in diet have occurred. For instance, the moth family Calpinae has evolved piercing mouthparts to feed on fruit, but species in the genus Calyptra ('vampire moths') have adapted to feed on blood (which generally moths cannot access because their mouthparts cannot pierce the skin).


Maybe some interesting reading here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27210550

"dopaminergic neurons (DANs) play a critical role in reinforcement and motivation"

"Olfactory learning in Drosophila could provide an inroad. Flies assign negative and positive values to odors in aversive and reward based paradigms"

Also

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28334410


We don't have all the answers to this question yet, but here's what we do know. Scientists believe that insects use chemical smell and taste cues to help them recognize host plants. Insects differentiate plants based on their odors and tastes. The chemistry of the plant determines its appeal to an insect.

Plants in the mustard family, for example, contain mustard oil, which has a unique smell and taste to a foraging insect. An insect that munches on cabbage will probably also munch on broccoli since both plants belong to the mustard family and broadcast the mustard oil cue. That same insect would probably not, however, feed on squash. The squash tastes and smells completely foreign to a mustard-loving insect.


How do insects know what is edible? - Biology

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service

Workers without bosses: How ants and bees know what to do when

Thousands of years ago, one of the authors of the Old Testament was a close enough observer of nature to notice that ants keep busy without anyone telling them what to do. Modern biologists have long known the same thing ­ that ants, honeybees, termites and other social insects can marshal just the right number of forces to forage for food, repair the nest, care for eggs and battle off intruders, without any central or hierarchical control.

There's no ant boss, termite overseer or bee middle manager shouting, "Hey you! The nest needs urgent repair, so stop collecting food!" says Deborah M. Gordon, assistant professor of biology.

Yet somehow social insects divide up tasks and switch from one task to another when the need arises. Gordon and other biologists would like to know how they do that.

In a progress article in the March 14 issue of the journal Nature, Gordon writes that research on social insects long has shown that the task a worker insect performs partly depends on internal factors, such as the individual's size or age. But in the past decade, studies have shown that the insects also respond to external factors. They choose to rest or rush to work, and they switch tasks rapidly and often, in response to cues from the environment and from the actions of other individuals.

Gordon says that the actions of a colony of ants or bees are like the many specialized cells produced as an embryo develops, or like the firing patterns of neurons in the brain. In each case there is no central headquarters giving orders, and the individual cells do not start out with a predetermined task.

"A single neuron does not think '10' or 'coffee cup,' " she says. "Its function depends on what other neurons are doing at the same time. No single neuron can think, but the brain can think."

Not exactly assembly line workers

In the 1970s and early '80s, most researchers thought that social insects were like super-specialized assembly line workers, with each individual suited to only one task. In some ways this is true, Gordon says: For example, some species of ants come in two sizes, small foragers and giant-sized soldiers. Honey bees move from one task to another as they grow older, and juvenile hormone levels influence this transition.

However, recent research has shown that even worker insects predisposed to do one task sometimes will switch to another if the colony's need is urgent enough. "The data show that some combination of . . . internal and external factors . . . contribute to individual decisions about task performance," Gordon writes. "Eventually we will probably abandon the dichotomy between internal and external causes."

Scientists like Gordon have turned to computer models to test theories about how each worker finds out what task it is supposed to do. The biologists are borrowing ideas from the artificial intelligence community ­ which in turn was inspired by the analogy between real-life ant colonies and some kinds of computational systems.

One model shows how task allocation can work even when all the individuals in a colony are intrinsically the same. Another predicts how quickly a colony can track and respond effectively to a changing environment.

The models are often used together with experiments to see if the colonies of insects act as predicted. In her own work, Gordon studies how ants allocate and re-allocate tasks in response to various challenges.

She says that an insect colony is like a computerized neural network, or like a mammalian brain, in the sense that individuals making simple decisions together do complicated things.

For example, an ant colony gets the right numbers of ants to perform a task like nest repair, and recruits extra ants for emergency repair jobs, yet no single worker can count how many ants are doing repair, and no single worker can decide how many are needed for the job.

How does an individual ant know what to do and when to do it?

"Workers might use some simple rule based on the rate of encounter with others," Gordon says. "Say a forager expects to meet another every 2 seconds, and if she does, she goes on foraging. But if she starts to meet other foragers every 0.5 seconds, she stops foraging.

"If the number of foragers goes up, she will experience a higher interaction rate. Using this simple rule the worker can respond to a change in worker number without having to count anything global, only having to assess the interval between contacts that she experiences."

Gordon's review describes the contributions of the theoretical models and field biology in helping biologists understand how social insects make group decisions.

"The behavioral ecology of social insects is a young field," she writes. "So far only a tiny fraction of social insect species have been studied. Social insects obtain food, build nests and defend their colonies in an astounding variety of ways. We will probably discover the same diversity in the ways that these tasks are regulated."

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300.

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300.


Okay Cool – They Taste. But How? Exactly?

Insects are covered in hairs. From their wings, to their legs, to their face. Some of these hairs are just to keep the insect warm or to detect motion. Some of these hairs are responsible for smelling (coeloconic sensilla [food] and trichoid sensilla [pheromones]), and others are responsible for tasting. These hairs are thick walled hairs set into a pit where chemicals can enter. These are called “pegs” or more technically, uni-porous sensilla. These pegs can be found on different parts of the body including the mouth area but also on the insect’s feet! If the insect is walking on something tasty their tongue will stick out which is called the tarsal taste and proboscis extension reflex. Drosophila even have taste receptors on their wing margin and some taste receptors are found on parasitic wasps’ ovipositors (the structure that lays eggs into the host).

A robber fly demonstrating hairs and fluff
PC: Nancy Miorelli

Basiconic sensilla (hairs) are on the maxillary palps and these are responsible for tasting sugar. Basiconic sensilla are also found on the antennae but are responsible for mainly detecting carbon dioxide. In most insects this detection of CO2 tells the insect to get out because a mammal is looming. Except for mosquitoes. Those just “bee-line” it to you to get a sample of your sweet, sweet, mammal blood. Anyway – I digress. When these basiconic sensilla are on the mouthparts and detect CO2, the opposite response is elicited and the insect is attracted to it. Because CO2 means fermenting. And fermenting means sugar. And sugar – is well – delicious.

Gr family genes are responsible for making these tasting pegs and we can find different genes of this family expressed in tarsi (last leg segments), the proboscis, in mouthparts, the antennae, and sometimes in the ovipositor.

Taste receptors on different Drosophila body parts
(Yarmolinsky et al. 2009)

Insects can taste. They taste the same things we do – sweet things, salty things, acidic things, and bitter things but are really only attracted to sweet things. They have thick hairs called pegs that end in a pore instead of taste buds like humans have, but the net result is basically the same. When a substance comes in contact with these hairs the insect can taste it. Sometimes these hairs are found on funny places. Not just the mouth like you’d expect, but also antennae, legs, and even the egg laying organ in some wasps.

These flowers taste good. I know, cuz I licked them with my feet.
PC: Nancy Miorelli


Edible insect farming and big bug dreams

Montreal company Tricycle takes a unique approach to farming that could very well be the future of food.

Louise Hénault-Ethier, the energetic scientist responsible for research and development at Tricycle, slips into her lab coat and leads us through the breeding area, a square, temperature-controlled room where stacks of what look like plastic shoe bins are piled 10 shelves high. Each bin has a label neatly stuck on the front, bearing a 12-digit code.

The cramped room, roughly 800 square feet, looks more like a generous walk-in closet than a farm.

And yet, this is where Hénault-Ethier and her three associates at the company — Étienne Normandin, Alexis Fortin and Guillaume d. Renaud — breed 44 million heads of livestock a year, keeping a watchful eye on their development as the hum of the climate-controller keeps a steady temperature between 25 and 28 degrees, and the humidity level at 60%.

She pulls one of the drawers open and gently gives it a shake. After a few seconds, almost imperceptibly, minuscule mealworms — the size of short, thick, white hairs — begin to wiggle to the surface through what appears to be sawdust. (It’s actually dried food.)

“There’s life in this one!” I can’t help but yelp, because after all, that’s what one does at the sight of thousands of squirming bugs.

But Hénault-Ethier and her young company are betting on a new growing trend that will hopefully foster a different reaction: eating them. By the millions.

Welcome to Tricycle, an innovative, Montreal-based edible insect farm with big bug dreams, and a unique approach to farming that could very well be the future of food.

Edible insects, insect farming and big bug dreams

If your idea of eating insects is limited to devouring the worm at the bottom of a mezcal bottle or inadvertently swallowing a mosquito during a bike ride, you should know that bugs are already part of the traditional diet of approximately two billion people on the planet. Grasshoppers, beetle grubs, caterpillars, giant ants and crickets are just a few of the culinary staples notably found in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

From 1993 to 2005, the Biodome infamously put edible insects on the map in the city with its Insect Tastings event, where visitors could crunch into a wide array of six-legged delicacies. The insect movement gradually faded away, crawling back under its rock until it received a massive jolt in 2013, when the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommended the production of edible insects for an ever-growing population because of their tremendous nutritional bang and limited ecological impact.

“For the same weight, you’ll have two to three times more protein in insects than you have in meat,” explains Étienne Normandin, director of production and entomologist at Tricycle, whose mealworm powder features a whopping 58 grams of protein per 100 grams. “Insects can also be included in a vegetarian diet because they contain vitamin B12, an essential vitamin only found in animals.”

With the nutritional wind in its sails, the market recently exploded with a variety of insect-based snack bars, powders and flours now readily available in many grocery stores. President’s Choice even sells their own private-label cricket powder. Insects also made it to prime time TV thanks to Shark Tank and Mark Cuban’s numerous forays into the industry.

A recent report from Barclays forecasts that the edible insects market could reach $8-billion by 2030. In Quebec alone, l’Association des éleveurs et transformateurs d’insectes du Québec (AÉTIQ) already boasts more than 30 breeders and processors, producing more than 100 tons of insects a year.

However, in all this sudden frenzy, Tricycle’s approach remains unique in that it’s truly both entomological and ecological, keeping the environment at the core of its business model.

“We want to give a third life to food,” explains Hénault-Ethier, in reference to the company’s name. “We’re working on a circular economy that I would qualify as deep. A circular economy is when you take a byproduct and give it value. Well, at Tricycle, we’re taking it to the next level.”

And it all starts with food waste — roughly 80 tons of it a year.

Edible insects, insect farming and big bug dreams

Hénault-Ethier’s laboratory is a short, metallic counter located just on the other side of the breeding area.

“This is my playground and my small instruments of torture,” she chuckles, pointing to an assortment of Petri dishes, scales and clipboards, along with plastic bags of dry insects.

Here, Hénault-Ethier analyzes as much food waste as she can, collected within a five- kilometre radius. Whether it’s pulp from local juicers Loop, who make their products by repurposing discarded fruit and vegetables, spent grain from the nearby Etoh micro-brewery or bread residue from la Boulangerie Jarry, Hénault-Ethier uses these byproducts to concoct a perfect blend of feed for her worms. Like an alchemist of refuse, she carefully weighs each gram to find the perfect combination to optimize her tiny tenants’ growth.

The feed is broken down into two types: dry and humid, which are equally essential to ensure her mealworms reach maturity, from eggs to larvae, in roughly three months’ time.

“They’re able to churn out chickens a lot faster,” she laughs. “But they’ve been doing research on chicken breeding for hundreds of years. We’re just starting.”

Once the insects reach the larval stage — weighing an average of 100 mg each, slightly lighter than a coffee bean — they’re ready for harvest and are then dehydrated in an oven, to be sold either dried or in powdered form. Some lucky adults are kept for reproduction, to repeat the cycle.

But that’s not all: along the way, all the insects’ droppings are also recovered to make a potent fertilizer known as frass.

“Our tests have shown that one teaspoon of frass per litre of earth yielded 16 times more vegetables than without it,” she explains.

The whole process is painstaking work that requires constant supervision, meticulous control at various stages of growth, continuous testing — and a hell of a lot of sifting.

The result is a high-end, local production of nearly four tons of mealworms a year where 93% of the food used in the breeding process is, in fact, local, organic residue.

Now in their third year of operation, Tricycle and its five employees offer consultation services to entrepreneurs who are tempted by the insect-farming venture, since the scientific groundwork is already done.

“We want to be an open-source company, a reference centre, and our goal is to create a network of interconnected insect farms across Quebec,” she says.

And the secret recipe to feed her worms?

“It turns out that the key for them to thrive is a wide variety of food in their diet,” she explains.

Ironically, food variety remains Tricycle’s biggest challenge in the marketplace.

Edible insects, insect farming and big bug dreams

There’s no doubt that we discriminate when it comes to what we’re willing to tolerate on our plates. While most of us still balk at eating insects, we’ve nevertheless elevated shrimp and escargot to the status of fine cuisine. Louisiana crawfish are a delicacy — even if they’re also known as mudbugs. And if you take a long, hard look at a lobster, it clearly has all the architecture of a giant insect.

The line between insects and seafood is probably murkier than we think. A note on Tricycle’s products warns that people allergic to crustaceans can also be allergic to insects.

“It’s a cultural problem,” says chef Jean-Louis Thémistocle, who grew up in Madagascar where tables of grasshoppers were regularly displayed next to peanuts at the local market. Chef Thémis, as he is known, is a pioneer of insect cuisine in Quebec, and wrote a book on the subject back in 1997 entitled Des insectes à croquer. “It’s not the insect’s taste itself that’s the pushback. It’s the concept of putting a bibitte in your mouth. Eating bugs just isn’t a reflex. And the only way to change the mentality is through chefs and gastronomy.”

Chef Richard Desjardins, who teaches at l’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, is doing just that by asking students in one of his classes to cook with insects and prepare hors-d’oeuvres with them.

“Today, everyone knows we can eat insects and that there’s an important ecological component to eating them,” says Desjardins. “But the question is always the same: people don’t know what to do with them.”

Insects, Desjardins points out, are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes such as risottos, muffins, sauces, dressings and cookies.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get to the point of eating a brochette of mealworms,” says Desjardins. “They’re an excellent, nutritional additive, but not necessarily a main dish.”

As for the taste, it will vary depending on which one of the 1,900 edible varieties you’ll eat. For example, mealworms have a distinct taste of roasted nuts, while ants are more acidic, closer to lemon.

The ultimate irony may be that we’re all eating insects already. We just don’t know it.

“On average, everybody eats half a kilo of insects per year,” explains Normandin, from Tricycle. “There are fragments of them in flour, peanut butter, chocolate, in fruit and tomato juice, in beer. There’s a threshold of acceptability for insect fragments in a lot of products. When a tractor passes in a field, there’s no small arm that comes out and says ‘no crickets, no ladybugs allowed.’ So they end up in our Cheerios and Corn Flakes.”

Edible insects, insect farming and big bug dreams

Eating habits take time to change, and in the meantime, Tricycle is developing partnerships in other areas for its products, like animal food, snacks or protein supplements.

Within two years, they’re also planning to expand their facility and massively increase their production, thanks to automation, with the ultimate goal of breeding 20 to 50 times more insects. This would also help them reduce their price point to fend off the competition coming from Europe and China. Their bag of 50 grams of dried mealworms remains a relatively high-end product, selling online at $7, the equivalent of $140 a kilo.

“We’re at the dawn of a new industry,” concludes Normandin. “In the information sector, we’ve seen new technologies emerging, with wi-fi and cellular. Well in agriculture, the equivalent is insects. But like every revolution, it’s not going to be easy. In general, because of our hesitation to eat insects, I would say that Canada is about 10 years behind.”

Tricycle is doing its very best to catch up. ■

For more information about Tricycle, please visit their website. This feature was originally published in the May issue of Cult MTL.

For more, please visit the Arts & Life section.


How can I tell if a bug is edible?

Most insects are edible. Unfortunately, there isn't a dead giveaway to tell if a bug is edible unless you know what you're doing. However, there are some general guidelines you can use to help you decide. One rule of thumb that survival experts endorse is to steer clear of brightly colored insects. Like on amphibians, bright colors are usually an insect's way of saying, "Avoid me, please." You should heed their advice. Insects that are extremely pungent are also good to keep off your plate. Some wilderness experts will caution against hairy critters as well as bugs that bite or sting. Disease carriers like flies, ticks and mosquitoes are also on the no list.

But for every rule, there are exceptions. The tomato worm is bright green and perfectly safe to eat. Caterpillars are edible for the most part, but maybe you should stay away from the hairy, colorful ones. Tarantulas are hairy too, but are roasted and eaten in some countries. Black ants are edible, but their fiery cousins aren't. Stinging bugs like bees and wasps are edible and known for being quite tasty. The same can be said for scorpions. People eat venomous snakes, so why not? There are even varieties of flies and mosquitoes that you can eat.

All in all, there are 15 orders of edible insects:

  • Anoplura - lice
  • Orthoptera - grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches
  • Hemiptera - true bugs
  • Homoptera - cicadas and treehoppers
  • Hymenoptera - bees, ants and wasps
  • Diptera - flies and mosquitoes
  • Coleoptera - beetles
  • Lepidoptera - butterflies and moths
  • Megaloptera - alderflies and dobsonflies
  • Odonata - dragonflies and damselflies
  • Ephemetoptera - mayflies
  • Trichoptera - caddisflies
  • Plecoptera - stoneflies
  • Neuroptera - lacewings and antlions
  • Isoptera - termites

The trick to eating any insect is to cook it. Even if a bug has harmful toxins or venom, a good boiling will usually negate the effect. Insects with hard shells like beetles can contain parasites, but if cooked are safe to eat. Even if you're in a survival situation, you should be able to get a fire going. This means you can boil, roast or smoke the insects you eat. Aside from making them safe to ingest, cooking them also improves the taste. Ants, for example, have a distinct vinegar taste until they're boiled. Another way to improve your dining experience is by removing the wings and legs from your meal. They don't contain much nutritional value anyway. You can also remove the head.

Many times the insects themselves are edible, but what they've been eating isn't. It takes a little while for insects to digest, so if they recently ate some leafy greens that were sprayed with pesticide, those chemicals are now inside their body. Locusts that have been doused with insecticide often have saliva at the corners of their mouths. Cook these insects or purge them by feeding them fresh greens -- 24 hours should do it. You should also stick to live insects because you can never be sure what killed the dead ones. You can take care of the killing part yourself by cooking or freezing them.

So if you're in a survival situation, play it safe. There are plenty of worms, grubs, termites, crickets and beetles in any wilderness area. Stick with these and you'll be fine.


ELI5: How do animals know which plants are edible and which are poisonous?

To the human eye, many edible plants have a poisonous plant look alike. We can distinguish the two after research and learning but how do animals just know the difference?

they cant always. part of it is training (being taught by their parents/colony/whatever), part of it is just by smell ("this smells like food"), part of it is trial and error.

had to get rid of a couple of plants when I got my last cat, due to them being poisonous for her

Sometimes they even go ballistic trying to eat things that could kill them, my coworkers dog will absolutely devour multiple bars of chocolate if youɽ let him.

A lot of it is also instinct.

You show clover to a chicken that's been raised on feed, she'll go crazy for it.

Makes sense. Thank you for taking the time to answer!

It takes like ten pounds of dark chocolate to hurt a dog. Milk chocolate does fuck all.

If videos aren't your thing I'll summerise my answer here.

Animals don't always know what to eat/not eat. There are small pointers in nature that help them.

Monarch butterflys are aposematic, meaning they display bright patterns or colours to warn off predators. If a bird was to eat this butterfly, theyɽ then fall ill due to it. Theyɽ then make the connection between the patterns and the illness, stopping them from chomping on more.

Animals adapt too, parsley contains psoralens which cause photsynphesis. It also makes it easier to sunburn due to this chemical. Insects that eat parsley have adapted, and have been seen to hide in shade for hours after consuming parsley.

Some plants that are poisonous contain Tannin which makes the plant taste bitter. Antelope and other animals are seen to nibble plants, it's thought that this is to see if the plant is edible. If it's bitter they will steer clear.

Natural selection plays a big part too, over generations and time animals that find poisonous plants tasy will stop having offspring and the species will eventually stop eating those plants.

Hope that helped, have a great day!

Your answer and video were incredibly thorough! So many great answers here. Thank you.

Also, I am about to dive into the rabbit hole that is your YouTube channel. Ha! About to learn alll the things.

Is parsley related to Hogsweed? are parsnips?

So humans have this tendency to both over estimate and underestimate animals. Instinct doesn't account for as much as you can. You know how some animals dig, or you know behavior animals do to indicate emotion? A lot isn't instinct, its taught by the parents. Animals born in capitivity or orphaned don't have the skills they need to be a flamingo or panda or what have you. Even then if released into other animals they are often out cast because they don't know the social ques and social norms of said animal pack.

so a great deal of it is taught by parent animal, panda goes to eat poison flower and mom will smack it, much like a human. other times they learn the way we do, eat it, get sick, never touch it again.

In the 70's they raised a dolphin in captivity and tried to teach it to speak. If fell in love with the woman who was teaching him, and constantly wanted to mate her (she would jack him off before language lessons so he could concentrate). When they released the dolphin it sought human attention in bays near boats and quickly died alone.

Dogs will happily eat chocolate, grapes, poop, or literally anything that can fit in their mouths.

Some animals just. don't know. Then they die without outside intervention.

In nature, those animals would likely get kicked out of the gene pool by having an untimely death. Dogs can afford to be this stupid because humans are there to save their ass and choose who reproduces. We’ve effectively surpassed natural selection.

For your interest, we have 2 rabbits, one of my rabbits eat chili, lemon and also likes alcohol and then she would make weird noises. Of course we dont feed these food, that was only to test if she would eat it because the older doesn't.

Conclusion :they don't know what they can eat.

I’m coming to an understanding that domesticated animals lack a general instinct when it comes to food safety compared to wild animals. Which isn’t completely surprising. I suppose maybe they’ve learned to trust their caregivers to not kill them. Kind of how wild animals trust their mothers for a while to show them the ropes—as I’ve learned from other comments.

This topic is really interesting. Glad to have received so many insightful answers.

Millions of years of trial and error being passed down through parental teaching in a lot of cases.

A lot animals to avoid toxicity only eat small amounts of all their food, and then eat a small amount of something else, etc. This is also what fruit eating animals tend to do to avoid eating too much fermented fruit and getting drunk (unless they're actively seeking out fermented fruit to get recreationally drunk which happens) which is why you see primates eating half a fruit and then dropping it on the ground.

A lot of toxic plants have evolved other ways to avoid being eaten as well. Normally toxic plants are quite bitter and just taste off putting to animals. So it's just not tasty, and generally avoided.

It's almost definitely not one thing, even within species, and probably a combination of being taught what is and isn't food, which all animals who raise their young will do, the plants just not tasting good, and in a lot of cases just not eating too much of any one thing.


Maggots on the menu: the pet foods using insect protein to help the planet

Do you know what goes into your pet’s food? And would it trouble you if the answer was maggots?

Nestlé has announced it is launching a new range of its Purina pet food made partly from insect protein. The cat and dog food, initially to be sold only in Switzerland, combines black soldier fly larvae protein with plant proteins and some meat.

It’s not the only product that puts bugs on the menu for our furry friends. UK pet food manufacturer Yora offers dog food that blends insect meal with a range of vegetables for a balanced canine diet.

It’s not just vegan and vegetarian pet owners who are behind the increasing demand for alternatives to meat. As awareness of the environmental impact of meat production grows, owners are realizing that changes to their pet’s diet, as well as their own, can have a positive impact on the planet.

Have you read?

Feeding the world’s pets is big business, using surprisingly large amounts of land and resources, and producing significant levels of greenhouse gases.

One recent study estimated the pet food industry’s annual emissions as the equivalent of between 56 and 151 Mt of CO2 - on a par with Nigeria, the Philippines and many medium-sized European countries.

Meat production - and especially beef - has a much bigger impact on the environment than other forms of agriculture - as our chart above shows. But simply cutting animal products out of pet food is not always possible - or even desirable.

Although dogs can technically survive, and even thrive, on vegetarian diets, getting the balance of nutrients right is tricky, and the risk of poor health is high. Cats, however, need an essential amino acid called taurine, that is found in meat and fish, but not plants.

Using unwanted cuts of meat reared for humans is one way of reducing the environmental cost of pet food, and has the added benefit of creating a market for parts that would otherwise go to waste.

But by using insect protein, manufacturers can cut out meat altogether. Not only do insects generate less carbon and require less land, but they can be fed on organic waste products, and are more efficient at converting what they eat into protein.

They are also very nutritious. For example, grasshoppers contain nearly as much protein, more calcium and iron, and less fat than the equivalent amount of ground beef. The British Veterinary Association has suggested that insect-based foods may even be healthier for pets. And, of course, insect farming entails fewer ethical and animal welfare concerns.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

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Cats and dogs aren’t the only animals that can thrive on an insect diet - their owners can too. Many people around the world already eat insects ranging from beetles to locusts and moths, both as daily staples and sought-after delicacies.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argues that insects will be essential to ensuring food security for a growing global population.

For the squeamish, snacking on a cicada or munching on a maggot might be unthinkable. But if it’s good enough for the four-legged members of the family, would you be prepared to give it a go?


How do insects know what is edible? - Biology

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Where To Get Bugs

I am so thrilled that I am already receiving requests on where to buy edible insects. There are several good sources, both domestically and abroad, which I have listed here. Others may be found on the web.

If you’d like your company to be included in this list, send me an email at GirlMeetsBug at gmail. Include a short, concise blurb about what your company offers.

Hotlix: The Original Candy That Bugs

Hotlix is an established purveyor of insect candy: lollipops with scorpions, meal worms, or crickets inside candied ants and assorted chocolate-covered bugs. They also sell prepared ‘larvets’ and ‘crickettes’, which are toasted and flavored like potato chips. They are often the supplier for restaurants like Typhoon, which serves bugs on the menu. If you call them up, you can order “food-grade” insects like toasted crickets and preserved scorpions. The great thing about Hotlix is that they are the only place in the US that raises and prepares insects specifically for human consumption.

San Diego Wax Worms

When I called San Diego Wax Worms to ask about their rearing practices, the woman on the phone said that her husband “sometimes eats them raw.” That was a big selling point for me (although I don’t recommend eating bugs raw). They have great customer service, good prices, and their wax worms are always very healthy and tasty.

Fluker Farms

I don’t know what it is about Fluker Farms crickets, but they taste great! Ideally, order 5-week old crickets — larger than that, and their exoskeletons get a little tougher and their flavor slightly more intense. Smaller than that, and they are, well, pretty tiny. (Ultimately, they’re all fine — you’re just getting the snobbery of a bug-ficionado.) The best deal is to order 1000, and to make some room in your freezer. They arrive live in a box at your door. Since they’ve had a day or so to purge, you can just put the box directly into your freezer . Once frozen, collect the crickets and rinse them in a mesh strainer (though Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, author of Creepy Crawly Cuisine, doesn’t recommend rinsing them!).

Rainbow Mealworms

Southern California Compton-based bug farm. When I called, they said they feed their stock primarily on cactus leaves. Good stuff!

Rainbow says they’ll offer my readers 15% off of any purchase they make. The dicount code is GIRLMEETSBUG and the you’ll see the text 󈫿% Discount to Daniella’s Girl Meets Bug Readers.”

Gillian Spence, the general manager, says, “We too are very excited about using insects for food and the positive effect changing protein sources would have on the planet by reducing the amount of meat we eat.”

SmallStock Foods

Dave Gracer has worked in the field of entomophagy for over a decade, and can provide a range of products and services. SmallStock is currently doing everything it can to expand its inventory of edible insects and related arthropods, and they are ready to ship to you! Email for pricelist: [email protected]

World Entomophagy

Your source for organic crickets and mealworms.

All Things Bugs

All Things Bugs manufactures and sells cricket flour wholesale.

Next Millennium Farms

“With 7 years of farming experience, we at Next Millennium Farms are excited to bring you insects, farmed and grown exclusively for you! Check out our store for ingredients, flour, crickets and more!”

Thailand Unique

“Unique Specialty Foods, Drinks & Gifts, Edible Insects, Scorpion vodka and more.”

An impressive online store for preserved arthropod species from around the globe. Queen Weaver Ants, Silkworms, Waterbugs, Ant Eggs, Rhino beetles, giant centipede, etc., etc., all at fairly good prices, though they do ship from Thailand.

http://buggrub.com/

“Ready to eat bugs and insects – plain, chocolate, fried, seasoned, protein bars, dehydrated. Edible beetles, bugs, insects, worms, ants and scorpions.”

Much of BugGrub’s stock appears to be sourced from (and thus the same as) Thailand Unique, though BugGrub is based in the U. If you live in Europe, they may be a good bet.

“Join the Revolution! Try the first organic energy bar with protein derived from crickets.”

Chapul, based in Utah, USA, was first-to-market with their cricket protein powder-based energy bar. Their bars are currently sold in over 75 stores across the US. I’ve visited their production center personally, and must admit, I was impressed with both the company and the product.

Insect-powder energy bars may be a good choice for you if you want to try eating insects but don’t want to see them. Chapul grinds them into a fine flour, then sifts it before adding it to the bars, so you won’t find any evidence of the original shape of the insect. No legs stuck in your teeth with Chapul!

‘UK’s home of edible and cookable insects.’

“We sell a range of premium quality insects, reared specifically for you. Our insects are fed on potatoes, carrots and grain making them safe and tasty for our customers.

Visit our website for tasty recipe ideas, from tempura grasshoppers to coconut and cricket rice cakes. Share your own delicious dishes and win some incr-edible prizes.

Grub also hosts unique events so sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on the next one!”

For more “exotic” bugs

Ken The Bug Guy

For bigger bugs, check out Ken The Bug Guy. I will say that from experience, I now recommend adopting big bugs over eating them – though I recommend eating them over squashing them!

Ken has a great selection of healthy arachnids. The two I bought from him years ago, a Chilean Rose-haired tarantula and a tailless whip scorpion, are still cherished members of my family today. They make much better pets than goldfish, in my opinion.


If Edible Insects Are the Future, We Should Talk About Poop

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Two billion people can’t be wrong—at least, not about the nearly 2,000 species of insects that make for good eatin’ around the world. But nobody has to pitch you on the benefits of insectivory, right? Easier on the environment, full of weird nutrients, and whoa, check out that feed conversion ratio: It takes half as much food as you’d give to pigs and chickens and a twelfth as much as cattle to get the same amount of cricket protein on the far side of the abattoir. If Earth might have to feed 9 billion people in the coming decades, insects are what’s for dinner. Ask the United Nations.

But let’s slow down this Snowpiercer train a bit. Insects like crickets and beetles are, indeed, a very good source of protein and other nutrients. But the ones that humans already eat tend to be wild-caught and consumed in comparatively small numbers. That’s not the scaled-up future of insectivory that the UN foresaw in 2013. Factory farm facilities that can breed, raise, kill, and ship millions of critters require more food as input, output more waste, and raise thorny issues from entomology to ethics. “Actually, we don’t know that much,” says Åsa Berggren, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala who has been trying to sort out how sustainable an insect-based menu would be. “And people don’t know what we don’t know.”

That ignorance should bug you, because we humans have already steered our food system into a sustainability crisis. As any soy-swilling vegan will tell you at the drop of a hemp-knit hat, the global system of raising animal protein for people to eat has flaws. People use 77 percent of the world’s agricultural land to grow feed for meat animals, even though they represent just 17 percent of calories consumed. Livestock emit 14.5 percent of climate change-causing greenhouse gases farmed hogs represent a possible reservoir of pandemic-causing influenza viruses chicken farming fueled the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and giant pools of hog waste threaten natural disaster every time a hurricane brushes the Carolinas.

But those aren’t problems with animal protein per se they’re problems of scale and capitalism. And now the future of insects as food threatens to become every bit as industrial. Some European countries already have “mass-rearing facilities, enormous, like airplane hangar-sized,” Berggren says. But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. The newly buzzy insect biz is an opportunity. “If you start with totally new animals, we should be able to do it better. Knowing what we know now, what could we change if we started all over again, so we don’t continue to make it worse?”

Writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Berggren and her colleagues lay out a sort of anti-review article, a litany not of what’s known but of the unknowns that emerge when a swarm of new companies start mass-producing insects. According to one analysis, edible insects will be a $710 million global market in the next five years—multiple species, ground into flour or sold as bars and snacks. But growing up all those insects will mean more space for unintended consequences.

So, for example, today people use a huge amount of land on Earth to grow plants then fed to animals so people can eat the animals. Insects need less of that food to become more protein, and more of each insect (depending on the species) is actually edible—insects, having chitinous exoskeletons, make no bones about that. But that still means productive agricultural land has to be turned from feeding people to feeding critters. What you’d really like is to scroll through the thousands of edible insects and find species that grow fast, aren’t too finicky about living conditions, and most importantly are not picky eaters. Best case: insects that eat something people don’t, or can’t—solving a recycling problem while freeing up land to grow food for humans instead of human prey. And at the other end of the problem, it’d be great to figure out how much waste zillions of insects create, what’s in it, and how to use it.


Watch the video: Ο Κόσμος Των ζώων - Τα Έντομα (August 2022).