<They sell skewered grasshoppers and giant waterbugs as street vendor food
<in Thailand! Mighty tastey too. I wondered about pesticide accumulation
<in the little critters as I munched them though?! Harvesting grasshoppers
<is a great idea. They use big nets suspended over teh rice fields to
<catch them in Thailand. How to avoid catching birds woiuld be a puzzle.
<Alternately, attracting birds that eat grasshoppers would be a good
<control mechanism, or toads on a small scale patch of mint, for example.
This reminded me of a talk on the threat of pesticides to food uses of
insects at the last Entomological Society of America annual meeting [Dec.
1994 in Dallas, TX]. I made some notes, which by the magic of block copying
from one computer file to another, I'd like to share with SANET-mg:
Pesticides Imperil Culinary Insects
"Reduction in the use of insects as food in countries where pesticides are
used" was the title of a position paper by Florence Dunkel [Montana State
Univ., Bozeman, MT 59717], who laments the fact that groups of European
background or origin ignore or have forgotten the cultural role of insects
in human diets. Grasshoppers and silk moth pupae, a by-product of silk
production, are the most common insect foods in the world. Silk moth pupae
have 150% more protein and 16 times more iron than an equivalent amount of
beefsteak. A 3 ounce serving of grasshoppers has 300% more protein than a 3
oz broiled steak, says Dunkel, noting that seasoned rice grasshoppers were
a valued economic foodstuff widely sold in Korea before the days of
spraying rice fields with pesticides. Grasshoppers were also harvested by
Utah settlers in the 1800s to avoid famine when grain crops failed, and
were also sometimes sold as an economic crop. The Ute Indians even had a
recipe using grasshopper flour and currants to make fish stick size
fruitcakes. For much of Africa, grasshoppers are good high-protein and
mineral snacks for children. In Algeria, grasshoppers are gathered, dried
in the sun and eaten like dates.
Though documentation on insects as food is scanty, says Dunkel, practices
have changed with the use of pesticides, as the insect food sources have
become scarce and people worry about pesticide residue contamination. In a
series of interviews with village elders, women and young men in the
African nation of Mali in 1994, all interviewees claimed that they ate
fewer grasshoppers since a recent increase in pesticide use. In the African
nation of Zambia, warnings have been issued not to eat invading locusts,
because of pesticide contamination. Similarly, in Bali, where dragonflies
were once widely eaten, consumption has declined with increased pesticide
use. Interestingly, in the Phillipines, pesticide-induced locust
infestations have stimulated a revival of locust recipes. In Korea, R.W.
Pemberton [=Pan Pacific Entomologist 70(4):324-7] documented that the
decline in consumption of rice field grasshoppers in the 1950s to 1970s has
been reversed by public demands for pesticide-free rice that allowed a
resurgence of the grasshopper food industry. In Botswana, Africa, canning
factories for mopane worms, as well as sales of fresh and dried mopane are
cash crops grown for profit on insect game ranches.
Use of insects as food needs to be taken into consideration when
formulating IPM policies for developing countries, says Dunkel. Instead of
asking farmers =if they use insects as food, ask farmers =how they use
insects as food, medicine or income sources, and do sociological studies.
Collection of hard data on pesticides, residues and insect food, medicine
and cash crops could produce outcomes different from past policies, such as
spending U.S. AID money to encourage collection, salting and distribution
of migratory locusts as food, instead of continent-wide pesticide-spraying