Find insects where you are

So where to find them? It is possible to get edible insects in some restaurants now. These tend to be more at the expensive end of the scale; places that feature experimental food, like Noma in Copenhagen and Archipelago in London. This is changing though, as insects become more accepted and are sold in more affordable venues - food trucks, pop-up restaurants and other street vendors.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

In some countries it’s possible to buy edible insects in supermarkets and specialist stores. And we've digged through them all. Here's the BUGSfeed directory of stores and restaurants:

Stores & Restaurants on BUGSfeed

Another option is to forage for insects. Foraging is becoming more and more popular as both a pastime and a serious source of food. In the places were eating insects is most common they get more than 90% of their insects from foraging. Importantly, and unsurprisingly, wild, foraged insects often provide the best taste.

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Photo: Nordic Food Lab, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Forage with care
In terms of safety, you’ll know that plants, mushrooms and berries can be poisonous so research and care is required before heading out foraging. It’s exactly the same for insects - just make sure you know what you’re eating.

You can also raise your own insects at home, something done extensively throughout south-east Asia, and increasingly in Europe and the US. Crickets and mealworms are apparently easy to breed yourself. This way you know exactly what the insects are and what they’re fed on, so no surprise ingredients. If you want to sell the produce, restrictions apply - see our section on legality.

Unsurprisingly, wild, foraged insects often provide the best taste.

In fact many people are raising their own edible insects - if unknowingly - in the form of the bee hives that dot gardens and roofs everywhere. Honey may be the most famous product of the hive, but it’s certainly not the only one - baby bees are also a versatile ingredient.

Insect City Utopia: Inside the 'Cricket Reactor'

Insect City Utopia: Inside the 'Cricket Reactor'

"It got really weird at one point", Jakub Dzamba admits. "When I was sort of... herding them."

Dzamba, a Canadian researcher, is describing the point at which he realised the crickets in his experimental farm had personalities. Observing his bugs intensely and making notes on their preferences, the cricket farmer and PhD student noticed that some preferred their own space, while others would follow the herd. He figured out how to encourage the crickets to move somewhere, rather than manually picking them up to transfer. The realisation translates into significantly lower labour costs when farming on a big scale.

It's these ingenious tweaks and ideas that give Dzamba's Cricket Reactor impressive results. While standard cricket farms (yes, there are a growing number in this booming industry) have a typical monthly yield of 1 pound of edible cricket per square foot, Dzamba says his model can produce 5 pounds. The initial countertop prototype has been developed into a much larger version, which can come pre-fabricated in a cargo container, or be modified to fit into whatever space you have free.

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Wax for the worms gets you the best of bugs

Wax for the worms gets you the best of bugs

Greater Wax Moths, or Galleria mellonella, are hardy moths whose larvae ('waxworms') eat beeswax and honey, resulting in a lightly sweet but mostly bland flavor, perfect for absorbing other flavors while cooking.

Having traveled with their honeybee hosts, they are found practically all over the world.  Scientists theorize that exposure to a wide variety of predators during these travels may explain why wax moths have developed the world’s most extreme hearing. They recognize frequencies up to 300 kHz, while bat sounds are only believed to reach 212 kHz and humans can only hear 20 kHz at best.

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Gathering palm weevil larvae in Uganda

Gathering palm weevil larvae in Uganda

Here's some footage Andreas shot for BUGS the film.

Guided by local Ugandans, Josh and Ben go looking for palm weevil larvae in tree trunks.

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Drumming is rainfall for termites

Drumming is rainfall for termites

When the bugs you want to catch are smaller than a fingernail’s length and live underground, how on earth do you get to them? Harvesting termites looks at first like one of the trickier challenges in entomophagy.

A traditional method in Kenya involves literally drumming the insects out.

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"In supermarkets by the end of the year" – a chat with Crobar

The success of Crobar is a story of one big gamble that seems to be paying off. You might not have heard of the product yet, but in a few years the energy bars will be filling supermarket shelves and gym bags – so says Christine Spliid, founder of the brand.

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Herding grasshoppers

Herding grasshoppers

‘As difficult as herding cats’, the saying goes – well, try herding grasshoppers. Not only can these guys jump the bug-equivalent of several football fields, but they can actually fly too.

Nevertheless, the idea of farming them like a domesticated food source is actually taking off in parts of the US, and has long been practiced around the African continent. Grasshoppers love the prairie – warm winds, big open plains and lots of tasty grass.

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The latest kitchen gadget: endless protein supply

The latest kitchen gadget: endless protein supply

Up to 500g of protein-rich ‘superfood’ could be yours each week, and all you put in is food scraps. It sounds too good to be true; perhaps the catch for most people will be that the superfood wriggles. It’s mealworm, aka beetle larvae. Usually spotted in fish-bait tubs or pet food aisles.

But the creators of the LIVIN farm don’t see this as a catch at all.

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Saucy bugs from Thailand

Saucy bugs from Thailand

Dipping sauces are ubiquitous throughout south-east Asia. Thai cuisine is famous for its Nam Jeem sauce, which is made with rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili, and in Vietnam a fish-sauce and carrot-based condiment called Nuoc Cham is common on dinner tables.

The sharp, sweet/sour, hot and vibrant ingredients of these cuisines are increasingly popular all over the world, particularly among budding chefs. Detailed recipes for the creation of ‘authentic’ sauces and dishes are popular, made with chilis, garlic and herbs pounded together into a paste.

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Urban Beekeepers of Copenhagen

Bybi – Urban Beekeepers of Copenhagen

Our increasingly urban world demands clever innovation and utopian ideas if we are to have a liveable, sustainable future. The idea of ‘resilient cities’ has taken hold in recent years, and at the heart of this is food and energy sovereignty. It’s linked to the emphasis on community control and localised production, because reliance on distant food chains and their over-packaged products does not foster resilient communities, or indeed healthy ones. 

So people are devising new ways to produce and source food. A noticeable trend has been the rise in urban beekeeping. Bans were lifted in the UK and some US states, and hives now adorn the rooftops of thousands of buildings in towns and cities. There’s even bees on top of the Tate Modern gallery!

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Jakub Dzamba did not stop at a consumer-friendly countertop farm, but has imagined whole urban landscapes that have the mass production of edible insects built in to their fabric, with heat, warmth, waste and sustainability all addressed. As is often the case with new design and architecture, it's feels simultaneously like far-fetched science fiction, and something that's just around the corner. More →

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