Entomophagy in humans

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Fried insects in a market in Bangkok , Thailand

As entomophagy in people eating is insect designated by humans. Insect species that are suitable for human consumption are also subsumed under the term edible insects .

Insects in human nutrition worldwide

FAO employees estimate that insects are part of the traditional diet of nearly 2 billion people ("part of the traditional diets"), widespread in parts of Africa , Asia , North , Central and South America and among the native Australians . In western cultures, entomophagy is a marginal phenomenon and is often associated with feelings of disgust ( food taboo ).

Dolls of the silkworm as a food in a diner in Korea

Given their distribution, it is easy to collect insects, especially in tropical regions. In addition, they reproduce quickly and are easy to keep and breed, which is particularly important in the so-called developing countries with frequent famine . A veritable insect kitchen has often established itself there.

Australia and Papua New Guinea

The Aborigines of Australia are known to eat various larvae (for example the witchetty maggot ) raw or cooked in sand and ash. The Bogong moth of the mountains of the same name was particularly popular, Josephine Flood described extensive feasts of several tribes in the book The Moth Hunter . The bogong moth is fried in the sand and loses legs and wings, after which the head is removed. What remains is the fleshy abdomen, which is boiled or baked into cakes. Even sweets are the insects Aborigines: The Collector of honeypot ant hanging bulging with a hint of honey sticky mass in their nests and so offer a sweet dessert.

Collected sago worms in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea , the beetle larva known as sago worm is valued as a delicacy.


In various African states, particularly Nigeria , a number of insects are regularly eaten. These include cooked or raw termites (the queen in particular is considered a delicacy), roasted grasshoppers or the thick palm beetle larvae. The so-called Bushman rice ( English Bushman rice , also Bushman's rice or Hottentots rice ) of the San consists of the optically rice-like pupae of different termite species.


In Japan , dishes such as hachi-no-ko (cooked wasp larvae ) and semi (fried cicadas ) are prepared. In Bali , dragonflies are caught with special glue sticks. After the wings have been removed, the animals are cooked in various sauces. In Thailand , cockroaches and water beetles as well as all kinds of larvae are prepared in different ways and are available to take away in public cookshops. A giant bug species is also considered a delicacy there. Where there is silk production , the larvae of the silk moth contained in the cocoons are used as food after the cocoons have been boiled.

Mexico and Central America

Escamoles cooked in butter

In Mexico , where insects as food fetch higher prices than high-quality meat in the markets, “agave caterpillars” are added to agave schnapps mezcal . Possibly since the Aztecs time of apply agaves living caterpillars of comadia redtenbacheri well as Scyphophorus acupunctatus considered edible.

In upscale restaurants, cooked ant larvae are considered a delicate (and very expensive) starter: the larvae are mixed with oil and garlic and served with tortillas . This dish, called escamoles , is known by many as “Mexican caviar ”.

Probably unique in the insect kitchen with chocolate doused locusts , which in many places in southern Mexico and Guatemala are highly appreciated by children as confectionery.

South America

Fried ants on the market in Tarapoto ( Peru )

In the Amazon region of Peru , suri , the larvae of a weevil, are eaten.

In Colombia the Hormigas culonas , translated as "big-assed ants", are eaten fried and are considered an aphrodisiac .

In itself, this does not belong to the field of entomophagy , since spiders are not insects , but the indigenous people of the Amazon and Orinoco regions slurp a raw and still living giant spider as a delicacy - the appreciation is comparable to the appreciation that is raw in Europe Oysters are offered as a delicacy.


While other arthropods such as lobsters , prawns , crabs or shrimp are traded as expensive delicacies , the thought of eating insects is not very widespread in Europe and is usually associated with feelings of disgust.

In Sardinia and in parts of France, certain types of cheese, in which the larva of a small fly develops, are considered to be particularly delicate ( Casu Marzu ). A cockchafer soup was known in Germany and France until the middle of the 20th century . In the Magazin für Staatsarzneikunde of 1844, the Medical Councilor Johann Schneider recommended this dish, which is reminiscent of crab soup, as an “excellent and strong food” for which 30 beetles per person are caught, washed and pounded in a mortar, then fried in butter and boiled with broth. And he added that candied cockchafer was a popular dessert among students.

Whole, prepared insects on a street food market in Germany

In the big cities, such as Berlin , there are a few restaurants that have prepared insects on the menu. The visitors to the EXPO 2000 in Hanover were offered roasted grasshoppers, which taste reminiscent of a mixture of potato chips and peanuts, but only a few visitors wanted to eat them. In Brixen / South Tyrol, locusts were still on sale in the market hall around 2001.

A survey by the AStA of the University of Münster with more than 9,000 student participants showed that 28% of those questioned would like to try insects. If the cafeteria occasionally offered insects for consumption, it would make no difference for the majority (57%) in terms of frequency of visits, while 22% would avoid the cafeteria and 7% of those surveyed would go to the cafeteria more often.

In Switzerland apply startups like Essento or Entomos for some years the consumption of insects.


Already around 700  BC In an Assyrian representation, a feast with locusts was depicted as a delicacy. Both the Bible and the Quran contain references to eating locusts. Even in ancient times , the Greeks and Romans ate insects and their larvae , for example bees and cicadas . Wood drill caterpillars ( Latin cossus ) were considered a delicacy by Greeks and Romans (especially Epicureans ). Some of them were fattened with flour. However, other caterpillars of wood-eating butterflies and grubs of beetles such as those of the stag beetle ( Lucanus cervus ) can also be subsumed under the term .

The ancient Israelites, on the other hand, were not allowed to eat insects as non-kosher (except for four precisely identified species of grasshopper). This still applies today within the framework of the Jewish food laws.

Business promotion

The FAO supports the breeding and consumption of insects through programs such as "Edible Insects" as measures against malnutrition in tropical and subtropical regions. In addition, the rearing of food insects offers economic opportunities for the local population, as it can be operated on a small scale without much technical effort. The products can be sold on the local markets and provide small farmers with an important source of income. The EU is funding the research with 3 million euros.

Web links

Commons : Entomophagy  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Florian J. Schweigert : Eating insects. Instructions for use for a food of the future. CH Beck, 2020, ISBN 978-3-406-75645-0 .
  • Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio: Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects. (English). Material World, 1998. ISBN 978-0-9840744-1-9
  • Fritz Zumpt , Erwin Schimitschek: Human and veterinary medical entomology - insects as food, in customs, cult and culture . In: J.-G Helmcke, D. Statrck, H. Wermuth (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Zoologie . IV. Volume, Arthtroposa, 2nd half Insecta. Walter de Gruyter, Vienna, Berlin 1968, ISBN 3-11-000654-5 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  • Arnold van Huis, Joost Van Itterbeeck, Harmke Klunder, Esther Mertens, Afton Halloran, Giulia Muir, Paul Vantomme: Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security , PDF file , FAO Forestry Paper 171, Rome 2013.

Individual evidence

  1. Alan L. Yen: Entomophagy and insect conservation: some thoughts for digestion. In: Journal of Insect Conservation 13, No. 6, 2009, pp. 667-670, doi: 10.1007 / s10841-008-9208-8 .
  2. Peter Fellows, Afton Halloran, Christopher Muenke, Paul Vantomme, Arnold van Huis: Insects in the human food chain: global status and opportunities . In: Food Chain . tape 4 , no. 2 , doi : 10.3362 / 2046-1887.2014.011 .
  3. ^ Alan L. Yen: Edible insects: Traditional knowledge or western phobia ?. In: Entomological Research 39, No. 5, 2009, pp. 289-298, doi: 10.1111 / j.1748-5967.2009.00239.x .
  4. AEGhaly: The use of insects as human food in Zambia . In: Journal of Biological Sciences . tape 9 , no. 4 , 2004, ISSN  1608-4217 , p. 93–104 ( docsdrive.com [PDF; accessed October 30, 2016]).
  5. ^ JF Santos Oliveira, JF Santos, J. Passos de Carvalhoa, RFX Bruno de Sousaa, M. Madalena Simão: The nutritional value of four species of insects consumed in Angola . In: Ecology of Food and Nutrition . tape 5 , no. 2 , 1976, p. 91-97 , doi : 10.1080 / 03670244.1976.9990450 .
  6. ^ A b C. E. Mbah, GOV Elekima: Nutrient composition of some terrestrial insects in Ahmadu Bello University, Samaru Zaria Nigeria . In: Science World Journal . tape 2 , no. 2 , 2007, ISSN  1597-6343 , p. 17-20 ( ajol.info [PDF]).
  7. JO Fasoranti, DO Ajiboye: Some edible insects of Kwara state, Nigeria . In: American Entomologist . tape 39 , no. 2 , 1993, p. 113-116 , doi : 10.1093 / ae / 39.2.113 .
  8. FS Agbidye, TI Ofuya, SO Akindele: Some edible insect species consumed by the people of Benue State, Nigeria . In: Pakistan Journal of Nutrition . tape 8 , no. 7 , 2009, ISSN  1680-5194 , p. 946-950 , doi : 10.3923 / pjn.2009.946.950 .
  9. Eric Rosenthal: Bushman rice . In: Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa . 4th edition. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, London 1967, p. 87 . quoted in Bushman rice. In: Dictionary Unit for South African English. Retrieved October 30, 2016 .
  10. Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, José MP Moreno, Adolfo I. Vázquez, Ivonne Landero, Héctor Oliva-Rivera, Víctor HM Camacho: Edible Lepidoptera in Mexico: Geographic distribution, ethnicity, economic and nutritional importance for rural people. In: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine . tape 7 , no. 1 , 2011, p. 1-22 , doi : 10.1186 / 1746-4269-7-2 ( springer.com ).
  11. MJ Manzano: Estudio etnobiológico del gusano de maguey (Aegiale (Acentrocneme) hesperiaris Walker, Cossus redtenbacheri Hammerschmidth y Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyll.) En el municipio de Apan Hidalgo. Habilitation thesis, UNAM, 1989.
  12. ^ A b Sandra GF Bukkens: The nutritional value of edible insects. In: Ecology of Food and Nutrition 36, No. 2-4, 1997, pp. 287-319, doi: 10.1080 / 03670244.1997.9991521 .
  13. H. Cerda, R. Martinez, N. Briceno, L. Pizzoferrato, P. Manzi, M. Tommaseo Ponzetta, O. Marin, and MG Paoletti: Palm worm Rhynchophorus palmarum traditional food in Amazonas Venezuela - Nutritional composition small scale production and tourist palatability . In: Ecology of Food and Nutrition . tape 40 , no. 1 , January 2001, p. 13–32 , doi : 10.1080 / 03670244.2001.9991635 ( researchgate.net [accessed October 30, 2016]).
  14. Travel tips Peru & Bolivia. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . Retrieved October 30, 2016 ( House recipe section ).
  15. Ready for the extraordinary: The first insect restaurant in Berlin. In: Excite . August 1, 2011, accessed February 19, 2017 .
  16. First insect restaurant opens in Berlin. In: Berliner Zeitung. March 9, 2002, accessed February 19, 2017 .
  17. Micha Greif: The UN recommends: Insects on the menu . In: Semesterspiegel . No. 408 , October 2013, p. 39 ( uni-muenster.de [PDF; accessed October 30, 2016]). The UN recommends: Put insects on the menu ( memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / semesterspiegel.uni-muenster.de
  18. ^ The 2012 canteen survey by the AStA at the University of Münster. (PDF) October 24, 2013, accessed October 30, 2016 .
  19. Susanna Ellner: Insects as a treat: When mealworms sizzle in the pan . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . July 24, 2015, ISSN  0376-6829 ( nzz.ch [accessed October 4, 2016]).
  20. Gene R. DeFoliart: Western Attitudes towards insects as food: Europe, the United States, Canada. In: The Human Use of Insects as a Food Resource: A Bibliographic Account in Progress. Archived from the original on December 28, 2015 ; accessed on October 30, 2016 (chapter 9).
  21. Gene R. DeFoliart: Insects as Food: Why the Western attitude is important . In: Annu. Rev. Entomol. tape 44 , 1999, pp. 27-50, 40 , doi : 10.1146 / annurev.ento.44.1.21 ( wisc.edu [PDF]).
  22. JM Regenstein, MM Chaudry, CE Regenstein: The Kosher and Halal Food Laws . In: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety . tape 2 , no. 3 , 2003, p. 111-127 , doi : 10.1111 / j.1541-4337.2003.tb00018.x .
  23. ^ Enabling the exploitation of Insects as a Sustainable Source of Protein for Animal Feed and Human Nutrition. European Union, accessed October 30, 2016 .

See also

  • the further and more extensive chapter insects in the article food taboo
  • for information on insects as food (nutritional values, safety, approval) see article edible insects