What kind of herbs can insects eat?

Hey bug farmers :)

I've been asking myself what kind of herbs can i feed my insects? Locusts, Crickets, Mealworms and Superworms in particular.

For example, do they tolerate essential oils and will they even eat it? Like Mint, lavender or rosemary? There is also alot of stinging nettle in my garden and humans can eat it but i am not sure what happens if i feed that to the insects? Do they get damaged by that poison in the little stingers or wont they be harmed? And what about oxalic acids? If i feed them regulary with fresh green that has a bit more oxalic acids like rocket(i think thats thge english name), will the insect store that inside the body? Or can i just eat it without thinking about that?

Comments

  • Hi Carni - Insects that chew, as opposed to insects that suck (ex: aphids) will take longer to pupate & those pupae will be smaller if consume plant tissue calcium oxalate (crystals you probably mean by oxalic "acid", since oxalic acid complexes with calcium in the plant tissue fluid). Larvae consuming this are likely to grow less & be more likely than otherwise to not survive; those crystals can abrade parts of their mouths when try to feed wearing down serrated edges.

    The negative impact of oxalate crystals on larval weight in comparison to non-oxalate feeders goes up as succesive larval instar stages occur. Likewise larval mortality in high oxalate feeding takes time to manifest; approximately (?) starting in 4th instar.

  • A number of farmers have experimented with feeding herbs in the final instars before harvest. I don't have first hand experience, but some of the flavor effect may be from the gut load rather than actual flavors picked up in the tissues.

  • Yes Carni, - oxalate consumed when feeding can be partially retained in herbivore insects. However, it is quite low & was measured (for example) as 0.474% of dry matter in the grasshopper Oxya hyla hyla. Other "anti-nutrients" in this grasshopper were phytin, at 0.109% of dry matter & taninn, at 2.316% of dry matter.

    I would not normaly be too concerned about insect oxalate since so many plant foods we eat have that. And, for that matter lots we feed bugs have calcium oxalate; for example carrots are not low in oxalates. Which may be a reason I don't see early instar mealworm larvae consuming carrot pulp, even though I provide no other moisture vegetable nor keep them in ideal relative humidity. Yet the late instar larvae really go for carrot pulp even though they live in bran.

    As for stinging nettles: the older leaves are high in calcium oxalate. Young tender leaves may be accepted by your bug if can select those.

    Many essential oils are repellent to insects & they are quite concentrated. Even human internal consumption of essential oils should be on a selective basis.

  • Thank you for your answers. Alot of herbs have a positive effect when consumed by humans or animals but i am not quite sure what is good for insects. Are there any reports of plants that boost the health, immunity system or productivity or have any other positive effect on insects?

    When humans mass rear cattle, they use medicine most of the time. I am against something like that and i am looking for something natural with positive effect on insects. Something to feed them beside their normal food.

    Has someone feed their insects something like cabbage? Was wondering if that is good for them because it has alot of vitamins but i don't know if its good for insects because of the bloating and flatulence effect...

    I want to give my insects a wide variety of food if that is possible and not just mostly wheatgrass for locusts as an example.

    For the flavor - i think it would make sense that the insects get a special flavor when fed with special food. Think of some pigs that eat acorns most of the time.

  • edited February 1

    Hi Carni, - There was an insect breeder who fed his late instar mealworms certain herbs before bringing them to be consumed by humans. His exact herbal choices were kept as proprietary secret; I believe his approach was discussed elsewhere in the Forum (try search function).

    From my perspective it seem you are confusing human immunological dynamics & preventative health practises with insect robustness. Insects synthesize melanin, which is used when they engulf a simple microbialt pathogen that got inside them as a consequence of ingestion or penetration.

    As for bugs offered vitamin rich foods this may only be worth the effort when using a diet fomula that is far different than a particular kind of bug's normal diet. Probably the most common vitamin supplementation reported being used in laboratory designed diets are B vitamins; of which Niacin is an apparent favorite.

    Elsewhere in Forum is at least 1 compilation of exact proportions of different vitamins & trace minerals used as supplemental ingredients in a diet for specific kind of insect. Still, if you are feeding your insects on plant ingredients they are almost assuredly getting enough of these minor compounds & you do not need to coddle them; some bugs even can complete their life cycle on manure.

    There always seems to be a few that do not survive to the bug's kind of maximum life span; whether supplements would create a worthwhile change in the bug's mortality ratio is doubtful (in my opinion). What is more commercially relevant is usually preventing parasitic-like (including fungal) related deaths that can spread in the herd leading to a high rate of mortality (as opposed to a few bugs that fail to thrive when their cohorts manage to in the same conditions/feed).

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