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ENTOMOPHAGY: Human Consumption of Insects for Food

Science Reference Section
Science, Technology & Business Division
Library of Congress

OVERVIEW

Insects have been eaten by humans for tens of thousands of years, and they still retain an important place as a traditional food in many parts of the world. Acceptance may lag in some Western nations, but it is widely estimated that insects are currently regularly consumed by about two billion people, around a quarter of the world’s population.

Today, there is increasing discussion of the potential role insects could play in providing a sustainable protein source for a rapidly growing world population. Although insect farming is already practiced in many areas of the world, a number of questions remain concerning the future, especially if entomophagy is to be practiced on a large scale. More exploration is needed into ways in which insect farming can be sustainable on a large scale, and into which species would be best suited for this practice—along with continued research on the future of processing, safety, and regulation of insects as human food.

Sources in this guide range from popular works to scholarly studies. Some of these resources look back at the history of entomophagy, while others are focused on possibilities for the future. Cookbooks and blog posts listed here offer recipes inspired by an array of world cuisines, while scholarly studies compare nutrient levels, and industry guides give advice for small-scale production and processing. Selected representative articles are also included, as are some suggested databases and online resources.

More titles can be found using the Library of Congress Subject Headings suggested below. If you have further questions about this topic, please contact the Science Reference section at the Library of Congress by using the Ask A Librarian form on our website.

Photo of a hand holding toasted crickets and pumpkins seeds alongside a container of the food

Snack food: toasted crickets with
pumpkin seeds.
Courtesy of A. Kelly.

GENERAL RESOURCES

Evans, Josh, Roberto Flore and Michael Born Frøst. On eating insects: essays, stories and recipes. London, New York, Phaidon Press, 2017. 335 p.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 319-328.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2017304773
LC Classification: GN409.5.E83 2017

"The concept of eating insects has taken off in recent years in the West, with media coverage ranging from sensationalist headlines to passionate press pieces about the economic benefits. Yet little has been written about how they taste, how diverse they are as ingredients, and how to prepare them as food. On Eating Insects is the first book to take a holistic look at the subject, presenting essays on the cultural, political, and ecological significance of eating insects, alongside stories from the field, tasting notes, and recipes by the Nordic Food Lab." (Summary provided by the publisher).

Kittler, Pamela Goyan. Insects. In The Oxford companion to American food and drink. Edited by Andrew F. Smith.
(p. 318-319). Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, c2007.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 319.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2006032303
LC classification: TX349.O94 2007

A brief introduction to entomophagy in America.

Kraig, Bruce. Entomophagy. In Wild food: proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 2004. Edited by Richard Hosking (p. 176-183). Totnes, Devon, Prospect Books, 2006.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2006445582
LC classification: TX345.O94 2004

An introduction to—and endorsement of—entomophagy, focusing on chapulines and other insects popular as food in Mexico.

Martin, Daniella. Edible: an adventure into the world of eating insects and the last great hope to save the planet. Boston, New Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 250 p.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 249-250.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2013045484
LC classification: TX388.I5M37 2014

Martin argues that insects, which have long been an important part of indigenous diets and cuisines around the world, are an efficient and sustainable food source for the future. In Edible, she travels to Thailand where the government is subsidizing local farmers to raise crickets, meets with Dutch researchers, and introduces readers to world class chefs like Jose Andres who are already incorporating bugs into their elegant dishes.

Menzel, Peter, and Faith D'Aluisio. Man eating bugs: the art and science of eating insects. Berkeley, CA, Ten Speed Press, c1998. 191 p.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/98004411
LC classification: GN409.5.M46 1998

The authors traveled the world to visit more than a dozen bug-eating countries, including Australia, China, Peru, South Africa, and Indonesia. Their book examines these insect-eating cultures through photos, interviews with locals, recipes, and highlights from the authors' field journals.

Mitsuhashi, Jun. Entomophagy: human consumption of insects. In Encyclopedia of Entomology. v. 1. Edited by John L. Capinera. (p. 785-787). Dordrecht, Boston, Kluwer Academic Publishers, c2004.
LCCN Permalink:https://lccn.loc.gov/2006275698
LC classification: QL462.3.E47 2004

This fairly short encyclopedia entry provides a good introduction to the topic.

Taylor, Ronald L. Butterflies in my stomach: or, insects in human nutrition. Santa Barbara, CA, Woodbridge Press Pub. Co., 1975. 224 p.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 216-224.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/75013593
LC classification: TX388.I5T38

This classic work on entomophagy is still relevant today.

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SPECIALIZED TITLES

Bodenheimer, F. S. Insects as human food; a chapter of the ecology of man. The Hague, W. Junk, 1951. 352 p.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 331-350.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/51007248
LC classification: GN407.B6 1951

Beginning with a discussion of the importance of insects in the diet of early humans, this book goes on to present an extensive anthropological survey of the entomophagous habits of indigenous cultures on various continents. It includes an extensive bibliography.

Cloutier, J. Edible insects in Africa: an introduction to finding, using and eating insects. CTA Publishing, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 2015. 84 p.
Series: Agrodoks (Agromisa, CTA)
https://publications.cta.int/en/publications/publication/1846/ External Link

"Population growth and an increasing demand for animal protein deplete finite agricultural resources and bring high environmental cost. Hence the need to rethink our food habits, particularly those related to meat consumption. In this respect there is much the Western world can learn from tropical countries about an excellent alternative: edible insects." (From the publisher’s website).

Demara, Fred. Survival guide to edible insects. Boulder, CO, Paladin Press, c2013. 56 p.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2014395261
LC classification: TX388.I5D46 2013

"Earlier civilizations considered insects as a primary protein source, and even today more than two billion people all over the world are sitting down to a hearty repast of insect cuisine." (From back cover).
Includes sections on butterflies and moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, ants, bees, termites, beetles, the American cockroach and others.

Gordon, David G. The eat-a-bug cookbook: 40 ways to cook crickets, grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin. Rev. ed. Berkeley, CA, Ten Speed Press, 2013. 126 p.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2012049746
LC classification: TX746.G67 2013
First published in 1998.

Detailed recipes for preparing a range of insects.
Color drawing of a green and yellow insect climbing up the stem of a pink flower

William Steig. An insect climbing the stem of a flower. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Holt, Vincent M. Why not eat insects? Hampton, Middlesex, Classey, 1967. 99 p.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/70403996
LC Classification: TX388.I5H6 1967
Distributed in the U.S.A. by Entomological Reprint Specialist, E. Lansing, MI.
Originally printed 1885, online version available from GoogleBooks:
https://books.google.com/books?id=awNbAAAAQAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s External Link

This early underground classic was originally published in 1885. In it, Vincent Holt presents an argument for consuming “clean, palatable” vegetable-feeding insects and snails along with suggestions on which insects to eat and tips on cooking them. There is also a section on “insect-eaters” that briefly reports on insect eaters through history and across the world.

Huis, Arnold van, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke. The insect cookbook: food for a sustainable planet. New York, Columbia University Press, 2014. 191 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2013030373
LC classification: TX746.H8513 2014
Originally published by Uitgeverij Atlas Contact, Amsterdam in 2012 as Het Insectenkookboek.
Series: Arts and traditions of the table: perspectives on culinary history

More than a cookbook, with information on many types of edible insects and their place in various food cultures, sustainability, and education. Includes recipes from Mexican chapulines to dim sum.

Insects as sustainable food ingredients: production, processing and food applications. Edited by Aaron T. Dossey, Juan A. Morales-Ramos, and M. Guadalupe Rojas. London, United Kingdom; San Diego, CA, United States, Elsevier/AP, c2016. 385 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2016937816
LC classification: TX746.I57 2016

Describes mass production and incorporation of insects into the food supply at an industrial and cost-effective scale. Chapters on various aspects of the topic (including nutrient content, farming, industry, food safety, and use as animal feed) by international experts summarize the current state and future direction of insects as sustainable food sources.

Olson, Miles. Exploring entomophagy: bugs as food. In Unlearn, rewild: Earth skills, ideas and inspiration for the future primitive. (p. 193-202). Gabriola, BC, New Society Publishers, c2012.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2012517879
LC Classification: GV200.5.O476 2012

The short section on entomophagy in this guide to living off the grid includes ants, slugs, snails, maggots, termites, worms and earwigs.

Ramos-Elorduy, Julieta. Creepy crawly cuisine: the gourmet guide to edible insects. Rochester, VT, Park Street Press, 1998. 150 p.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 143-149.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/97048506
LC classification: TX746.R36 1998

An introduction to the world of edible insects, this book also includes an historical look at the use of edible insects in indigenous cultures as well as numerous recipes.

Schiefenhövel, Wulf, and Paul Blum. Insects: forgotten and rediscovered as food, entomophagy among the Eipo, Highlands of West New Guinea, and in other traditional societies. In Consuming the inedible: neglected dimensions of food choice. Edited by Jeremy MacClancy, Jeya Henry, and Helen Macbeth. (p. 163-176). New York, Berghahn Books, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 175-176.
Series: The anthropology of food and nutrition, v. 6
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2007043682
LC classification: GT2850.C65 2007

Discusses the nutritional value of insects as food, especially as a source of protein and essential amino acids. Entomophagy still constitutes an important food source for many ethnic groups around the world and one that deserves increased attention.

Stock, Paul V., Catherine Phillips, Hugh Campbell, and Anne Murcott. Eating the unthinkable: the case of ENTO, eating insects and bioeconomic experimentation. In Biological economies: experimentation and the politics of agri-food frontiers. Edited by Richard Le Heron, Hugh Campbell, Nick Lewis, and Michael Carolan. London, New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2016. 274 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
Series: Routledge studies in food, society and environment
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2015030225
LC classification: HD1415.B525 2016

Presents a case study of ENTO, a London-based start-up company using insects as the primary ingredient for novel foodstuffs.

Taylor, Ronald L., and Barbara J. Carter. Entertaining with insects: or, the original guide to insect cookery. Santa Barbara, CA, Woodbridge Press Pub. Co, c1976. 160 p.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/76047163
LC classification: TX746.T38

One of the earliest insect cookbooks. The recipes, centered mainly on mealworms, crickets and bees, range from Honey Bee Granola Bars to Insect Cricket Louis.

Wilson, Lauren. Apocalyptic entomophagy. In The art of eating through the zombie apocalypse: a cookbook & culinary survival guide. (p. 115-126). Dallas, TX, Smart Pop, an imprint of Benbella Books, Inc., 2014.
LCCN Permalink: https://lccn.loc.gov/2014014307
LC classification: PN6231.Z65W55 2014

The entomophagy section of this culinary manual for the doomsday prepper includes recipes for roasted crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and cicadas, with tips on raising mealworms.

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REPRESENTATIVE JOURNAL ARTICLES

Caterpillar cereal as a potential complementary feeding product for infants and young children: nutritional content and acceptability. Melissa Bauserman, Adrien Lokangala, Kule-Koto Kodandi, Justin Gado, and others. Maternal & child nutrition, v. 11 (S4), Dec. 2015: 214-220.
   Wiley online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mcn.12037/full External Link

Chapulines and food choices in rural Oaxaca. Jeffrey H. Cohen, Nydia Delhi Mata Sánchez, and Francisco Montiel-Ishino. Gastronomica, v. 9 (1), Winter 2009: 61-65.

Edible insects. Peter Fellows. In Setting up and running a small-scale business producing high-value foods. B. Axtell and P. Fellows, editors. CTA Publishing, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 2014: 339-362.
   Series: Opportunities in Food Processing (CTA)
   CTA Publishing:
   https://publications.cta.int/en/publications/publication/1808/post-harvest-processing/ External Link

Edible insects in a food safety and nutritional perspective: a critical review. Simone Belluco, Carmen Losasso, Michela Maggioletti, and others. Comprehensive reviews in food science and safety, v. 12 (3), May 2013: 296-313.
   Wiley online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12014/full External Link

Environmental manipulation for edible insect procurement: a historical perspective. Joost Van Itterbeck and Arnold Van Huis. Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine, v. 8 (3), Jan. 21, 2012.
   BioMed Central: https://ethnobiomed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-4269-8-3 External Link

Food habits of some Pre-Columbian Mexican Indians. E. O. Callen. Economic botany, v. 19 (4), Oct./Dec. 1965: 335-343.

Food value of meal-worm grown on Acrocomia aculeate pulp flour. Ariana Veira Alves, Eliana Janet Sanjinez-Argandoña, and others.
   PLoS ONE: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151275 External Link

For more protein, filet of cricket. Gretchen Vogel. Science, New Series, v. 327 (5967), Feb. 12, 2010: 811.

The Geography of edible insects in Sub-Saharan Africa: a study of the mopane caterpillar. Peter Illgner and Etienne Nel. The Geographical journal, v. 166 (4), Dec. 2000: 336-351.

Grub: eating bugs to save the planet. Dana Goodyear. The New Yorker, Aug. 15/22, 2011: 15-26.

How then shall we eat? Insect-eating attitudes and sustainable foodways. Heather Looy, Florence V. Dunkel, and John R. Wood. Agriculture and human values, v. 31 (1), Mar. 2014: 131-141.

Insects as food: a case study from the Northwest Amazon. Darna L. Dufour. American anthropologist, New Series, v. 89, (2), June 1987: 383-397.

Insects as food in indigenous populations. Gene DeFoliart. In Ethnobiology: Implications and applications. Proceedings of the First International Congress of Ethnobiology, Belém, 1988. Belém, Brazil, The Museum, 1990. v. 1. p. 151-158.
   Includes bibliographical references: p. 157-158.

Insects in the diet. Marston Bates. The American scholar, v. 29 (1), Winter 1959-60: 43-52.

Insects (The Original white meat). Janet Raloff and Peter Menzel. Science news, v. 173 (18), June 7, 2008: 16-21.

Man’s six-legged competitors. E. O. Essig. The Scientific monthly, v. 69 (1), July 1949: 15-19.

Mealworms for food: a water footprint perspective. Pier Paolo Miglietta, Federica De Leo, Marcello Ruberti, and Stefania Massari. Water, v. 7 (11), Nov. 2015: 6190-6203.
   MDPI Open Access: http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/7/11/6190 External Link

New sustainable protein sources: consumers’ willingness to adopt insects as feed and food. Monica Laureati, Cristina Proserpio, Constana Jucker, and Sara Savoldelli. Italian journal of food science, v. 28 (4), 2016.
   Italian Journal of Food Science online: http://www.chiriottieditori.it/ojs/index.php/ijfs/article/view/476 External Link

Nutritional composition, quality, and shelf stability of processes Ruspolia nitidula (edible grasshoppers). Geoffrey Ssepuuya, Ivan Muzira Mukisa, and Dorothy Nakimbugwe. Food science & nutrition, v. 5 (1), Jan. 2017: 103-112.
   Wiley online: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fsn3.369/full External Link

Proximate composition and mineral content of five edible insects consumed in Korea. Soon-Kyung Kim, Connie M. Weaver, and Mi-Kyeong Choi. CYTA-Journal of food, v. 15 (1), 2017: 143-146.
   Taylor & Francis online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19476337.2016.1223172 External Link

A Review on the fascinating world of insect resources: reason for thoughts. R. K. Lokeshwari and T. Shantibala. Psyche, v. 2010: 11 p.
   Hindawi Open Access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/207570 External Link

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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADINGS

Additional works on entomophagy in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. For additional assistance, please contact the Science Reference section using the Ask A Librarian form on our website.

Edible insects

Entomophagy

Cooking (Insects)

Food habits

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainability

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DATABASES AND INTERNET RESOURCES

Databases and Online Catalogs:

Many of the resources in this list are open access; others are subscription databases available to researchers at the Library of Congress. These subscription databases are not available remotely, but local university, public, or archival collections may also have purchased access so please check to see what is available locally.

AGRICOLA (National Agricultural Library (NAL)
https://agricola.nal.usda.gov/

This freely available site serves as the catalog and index to the collections of the National Agricultural Library, as well as a primary public source for world-wide access to agricultural information.

BioMed Central (BioMed Central)
https://www.biomedcentral.com/journals External Link

Provides free access to biomedical research publications. These publications include biology and medical journals, current reports, and meeting abstracts.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
https://doaj.org/ External Link

The Directory of Open Access Journals is a service that indexes over 9,000 high quality, peer reviewed Open Access research journals, periodicals and their articles’ metadata.

Food Science and Technology Abstracts (Ebsco)
http://eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000727~S9

A subscription database produced by the International Food Information Service (IFIS), FSTA covers the literature of food science, food technology and nutrition found in over 4,600 publications.

Food Science Source (Ebsco)
http://eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000728~S9

A subscription database, Food Science Source provides full-text coverage for more than 1,300 publications, including journals, monographs, magazines, and trade publications, all directly dealing with food industry-related issues.

JSTOR (JSTOR)
http://eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000616~S9

This subscription database offers a collection of full-text, keyword-searchable academic journals dating back to the late 17th century.

Public Library of Science Journals (PLOS)
https://www.plos.org/ External Link

PLOS publishes a suite of peer-reviewed Open Access journals featuring quality research, expert commentary and critical analysis across all areas of science and medicine. Each journal is editorially independent and specialized with regard to both its selection criteria and breadth of content.

PubMed Central (NIH)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/

PubMed Central (PMC) is a free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed and managed by NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Internet Resources

Selected online resources focusing on various aspects of the topic. Many of these websites include links to more sources for research on entomophagy.

Center for Invasive Species Research: Entomophagy, University of California Riverside
http://cisr.ucr.edu/entomophagy.html External Link

Provides an informative discussion and introduction covering key areas of entomophagy, along with links to other online resources. This page includes a detailed compilation, with photographs, on entomophagy in Malaysia, by Arthur Y. C. Chung.

Curious About Edible Insects? Coalo Farms Blog
http://coalo.farm/blog/2016/top-ten-entomophagy-articles-on-the-web External Link

This blog post (May, 2016) features a compiled list of favorite entomophagy-related pieces available online.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security

Rome, 2013. FAO Forestry Paper 171
http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e00.htm External Link

The report includes sections on the beneficial roles of insects, entomophagy around the world, edible insects as a natural resource, and environmental issues and opportunities related to rearing insects for food and feed. There is also coverage of food safety issues and regulatory frameworks governing the use of insects for food.

Food Insects Newsletter
http://www.foodinsectsnewsletter.org/ External Link

This site includes links to resources, including the Food Insects Newsletter public group on Facebook, where much current news is posted.

Insects to Feed the World Conference
http://www.wur.nl/en/show/Insects-to-feed-the-world.htm External Link

This international conference, organized by Wageningen University and the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), took place in May 2014 in The Netherlands. The summary report is available on the website.

Iowa State University’s Tasty Insect Recipes
http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html External Link

From the Entomology Department at Iowa State University, recipes as featured on the Tonight Show.

Sip Chardonnay with Tarantula and Wash Down Scorpion with Pinot Noir: the World's First Guide to Matching Insects and Wine
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-2851873/The-world-s-insect-wine-matching-guide-pairs-Chardonnay-tarantula-Pinot-Noir-Asian-forest-scorpion.html External Link

A British wine merchant has created the world’s first insect and wine matching guide, pairing Chardonnay to tarantulas, sparkling rose to barbecued locusts, and sherry to giant waterbugs. Published Nov. 27, 2014.

Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, University of Michigan
https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/sustainablefoodsystems/student-scholarship/ External Link

Student Scholarship publications include Rachel Lacey’s thesis: “Cricket as food: The perceptions and barriers to entomophagy and the potential for widespread incorporation of cricket flour in American diets,” 2016.

“Why Not Eat Insects?”
https://archive.org/details/MarcelDicke_2010G External Link

TED talk by Marcel Dicke, 2010, available through the Internet Archive.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
USDA Blog: Insects for Dinner? Potential Tool in the Toolkit to Achieve Global Food Security
https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2014/05/16/insects-dinner-potential-tool-toolkit-achieve-global-food-security

This blog post by Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (May, 2014) discusses entomophagy in the light of such issues as food security, climate change, food safety, sustainable energy and childhood obesity.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
https://www.ars.usda.gov/oc/kids/weirdscience/story5/insecteaters/

Science for Kids: Insect eaters, with links to more information.

 

Black and white drawing of a woman and two men with a shovel and a jar at an anthill

"Excavating an anthill." From Chapters on Ants, External Link by Mary Treat.
Harper's half-hour series; v. 123. New York, Harper & Brothers,1879.

Alison P. Kelly, July 2017

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