Questions About Entomophagy and the Edible Insect Industry

edited December 2013 in Bug Farming Questions
Frequently Asked Questions About Entomophagy and the Edible Insect Industry

This discussion consists of the most frequently asked questions, taken from the forum and the emails we receive.

If your question isn't listed here, feel free to post it as a new discussion!

Q: Is there a primer course in entomophagy and edible insect farming, background reading, etc?
A: There are several excellent publications from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) available here: http://www.fao.org/forestry/edibleinsects/84629/en/
Highlights:
- The "Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security" provides an in depth review of the current state of insect consumption around the world, current rearing practices, and discusses many areas that require development to get a full fledged edible insect industry off the ground
- The "Six-legged livestock: edible insect farming, collecting and marketing in Thailand" publication focuses on the current state of edible insect rearing, marketing and distribution in Thailand, which currently has the most developed edible insect industry and over 10,000 registered insect farming operations
More relevant reading
You can pre-order Daniella Martin's (author of the Girl Meets Bug blog http://www.girlmeetsbug.com/) upcoming book all about entomophagy here:http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Adventure-Eating-Insects-Planet/dp/0544114353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386621303&sr=8-1&keywords=daniella+martin
David George Gordon's new re-released "Eat a Bug Cookbook" http://www.amazon.com/The-Eat-Bug-Cookbook-Revised/dp/1607744368

We also recommend following Ana C. Day's Scoop.it lists where she is deftly compiling relevant articles about the insect industry and websites for companies involved in alternative protein production.
http://www.scoop.it/t/entomophagy-edible-insects-and-the-future-of-food
http://www.scoop.it/t/protein-alternatives-insects-as-mini-livstock





Q: What would be the most cost effective insect, which would contain the most protein, to grow in a northern climate? (e.g. Ontario, Canada)
A: You will need to provide supplemental heating during the winter regardless of the insect you choose, so the main criteria for species selection depends on your space and time availability. Mealworms are low maintenance and have a small space requirement, with a raw protein content roughly equivalent to chicken. Crickets have a higher protein content, but require more space and upkeep to farm. BSFL have a great nutritional profile and grow fast but require higher heat to survive and bright (preferably natural) light to breed.



Q: Are edible insects all raised in a controlled environments?
A: No, in most of the world insects are foraged from the wild. However we believe insects for human consumption should be raised in controlled environments for food safety and ecological reasons. This ensures the insects are free of heavy metals and other toxins, and there is no impact from over harvesting wild populations. It also ensures a continuous reliable supply when external environmental factors are variable.



Q: What kind of yield are we talking about ? (lbs produced/area, lbs produced/lbs fed or something like that…)
A: Yield depends greatly on the species and environment. For example, grasshoppers are reported to have a feed conversion ratio of 10:9, which is astonishingly high. It takes around 2 cubic feet to raise a pound of crickets, and less than that for the same weight in mealworms. Stay tuned, we'll be posting more detail about the economics of raising insects!



Q: What are the species used?
A: There are over 1,900 known edible species, across most of the orders. An extensive list is available for download here: http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Chair-groups/Plant-Sciences/Laboratory-of-Entomology/Edible-insects/Worldwide-species-list.htm



Q: What is an insect's meal feed value? (I'm looking mostly for protein content, energy and lysine content… If you have this info!)
A: See the attached paper for information on a large number of edible species. We believe this is a credible resource although we have not yet verified the source of the information ourselves.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/160318509/The-Dietitian-s-Guide-to-Eating-Bugs



Q: I am curious about existing markets: what is the most popular bug to sell and what are professional standards in packaging the end products. Are their any existing protocols within the industry?
A: In the United States anyone raising insects for human consumption must comply with FDA and USDA guidelines for raising, handling, processing and storing livestock and meat products. We'll have more information available as we fill out our knowledge base, but for some good examples you can check out the energy bars being produced by Chapul (http://chapul.com/) and Exo (http://exo.co/).



Q: Can you help me source grasshoppers? (Quebec)
A: We do not currently sell insects directly. Additionally grasshoppers may be considered an agricultural pest, so you may not be able to import them from other provinces or countries. You can try checking with local pet and feed stores in case they are available as feeders for larger lizards, otherwise you may have to wait until early summer and harvest an initial breeding population from the wild.


Q: How do I source live BSFL?
A: There are several sources for starter colonies. We have seen them listed on Ebay as well as sites like this http://www.dipterra.com/Products—Services.html
If you are looking to get a colony up and running quickly then it probably makes sense to buy a starter population. It's important to keep in mind that BSFL need very warm temperatures to thrive (~90 degrees F). They do produce a lot of their own heat, and we have heard anecdotally that insulating the BSFL habitat with a layer of styrofoam is sufficient to maintain the necessary environment in winter with just the larvae's own heat output. However if you are attempting to start a colony in the winter you should be prepared to provide supplemental heat. You will also need a warm and well lit (sunlight is best) enclosure for the adults to breed.

Comments

  • Q: How would you suggest tracking down and obtaining collections of silverfish, mealworms or termites?
    A: Mealworms can be obtained online or in local pet food stores - www.rainbowmealworms.com is a good source if you are based in the US.

    Termites and silverfish will be harder to purchase as they are considered pest species. You could try contacting local university entomology departments, or your local agricultural extension. They may keep populations for research or know a source that does. Alternately you can collect your own starter population in the wild. Termites can be found nesting in and around rotting logs and tree stumps. You'll need a queen to start a population which might involve digging fairly deep into the colony. You could also get lucky to catch a swarm of dispersing termites depending on your location and the time of year. In California we usually experience termite swarms in the fall - usually in October.

    Silverfish are much easier to come across. They love cardboard and rotting wood and can be found in basements, garages, closets, under beds, in attics etc.. Shifting boxes around in a basement or attic will usually reveal a few individuals scurrying around. I have also frequently noticed them around refrigerators, probably taking advantage of the warmth put off by the compressor.
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