Insects as human food

The habit of eating insects is also called entomophagy. In a large part of the world, some insects or their larvae are eaten and are highly-valued due to their high protein percentage. They are eaten boiled, fried or grilled, but often also raw or even alive. Although the habit of eating other arthropods, such as lobster, in modern Europe is customary and even considered as a delicacy, is eating insects rather unusual and even experienced as bizarre. Only recently, some European countries processed insects in their food. A nice example is the maybeetle soup which was eaten in France and Germany, and this not only in times of need.

Other insects which are eaten are grasshoppers, beetle larvae and cockroaches which are consumed fried. In some countries like Thailand, everything with legs is used as a food source. Even spiders, scorpions and centipedes, which are usually stripped of their possible poisonous jaws and spines, are deep-fried. The habit of eating insects is in some countries also a part of military training, because soldiers have more chances to survive.

Muslims consider grasshoppers as ‘halal’, which means they are permitted to eat them. Other insects such as flies, mosquitoes and wasps are on the other hand ‘haram’: forbidden to eat. The Jews believe that only 4 species of grasshoppers are ‘kosher’, all other insects and arthropods are ‘treife’ or non-kosher. Bee honey can however be consumed since bees don’t produce the honey themselves, but only collect it.

Sicilians even eat ‘Casu marzu’, or better known as ‘maggot cheese’. This cheese “ripens” because fly larvae eat the cheese in order to excrete it back. Connoisseurs say the cheese improves as larvae live in it longer and digested the cheese several times. The traditional cheese is still made locally, despite a ban on making it due to the risk of food poisoning.

Even persons who do not dare to think of eating insects, will get (parts of) insects down from time to time when following a normal eating pattern. Products like grain (bread), fruit (jam, yoghurt) and nuts (cocktail snacks, candy) are very popular among insect larvae, which can end up in food sometimes.