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Poisonous insects

It appears that we can eat most insects. Are there insects that make us sick if we eat them? Is there a list of insects that are unhealthy to eat?



  • Hi Johnny, - Monarch butterfly (& garden Tiger Moth) lay their eggs on Milkeed & the plant steroids (cardenolides) calotropin & milky calactin are cardiac glycosides that can stop a heart. Humans are pretty big so it would take a lot of Monarchs to deliver a toxic dose. The cardenolides in the adult's wings are a bitter turn off & those in their abdomen are going to cause throwing up before would inadvertently stop your heart; females concentrate more abdomen cardenoloids than the males.

    Insect allergies are discussed elsewhere in the Forum. Of course anaphylactic episodes are serious conditions.

  • As a general rule of thumb, brightly colored insects are more likely to be toxic, either sequestering toxin like the monarchs or creating their own. Some insects such as the various species of hornworms (sphinx moth larvae) can be edible if fed an artificial diet, but are toxic if they eat their natural diets of tomato plants / tobacco. Insects that rely on camouflage for defence (black, grey, brown, green) color/patterns are less likely to be poisonous unless their food source is toxic. That said, these are rules of thumb that have exceptions. There is an extensive list of insects that are known to be edible published by the FAO or researchers at Wageningen UR (i can't remember which org) which has been referenced elsewhere on this forum or can be found on google. Even on that list, many species may be prepared in particular ways to remove toxins, whether a particular cooking method or removal of the digestive tract, or both.

  • The Jerusalem cricket has an orange/red head. Any idea if it is edible?

    How about the Mormon Cricket? Does anyone eat them?

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