How many species of edible insects are there?

Knowing which insect you can eat can be difficult, but the problem is solved. The new list of edible insects has been published. After a lot of work, the entomophagy expert of Wageningen published the updated list of all the species of insects eaten around the world.

The update list of edible insects

The Wageningen University in the Netherlands is one of the world’s leader science research center about edible insects and entomophagy. They publish and update the list of “edible insects in the world” on a regular basis. On the 1st of April, they published the new list of “edible insects in the world. That’s crazy, there are now 2111 species of insects considered as edible!

Entomophagy is really a broad term !

Entomophagy or the practice of eating insects is a very broad term. Insects are the most diversified and numerous creature on the planet. We have discovered more than 1 million species and we don’t know yet how much remain to be discovered! With this large variety, speaking about edible insects as a whole is quite broad. The practice of entomophagy, the species considered as edible change among continents, countries and even tribes. How is it possible to know which species of insects are edible?

Listing the edible insects, a tough job

The number of edible insects species is growing at every update. For example in 1990, we considered that “only” 1400 species of insects were edible. How do they proceed to find new species of edible insects? In fact, it’s more a paper research upon old studies than a deadly insect banquet! Collecting all the ancient data, combining them with the new discoveries is a complicated work. Scientists need to match the latin binomial name of insects with all the different names given in each country. Moreover, edible insects were out of the scope of research for many years. Therefore, I believe that this list will grow

Which insects are the most eaten?

Can you believe that 2111 of insects are eaten in the world? Here are the most popular families :

edible insects list entomophagy livin farms

Credit : Livin farms

  • Beetles: There are more than 500.000 species of beetles (Coleoptera) that have been discovered. They are not only the biggest insect family but the biggest family in the animal reign. It is, therefore, normal that we find them in the first place, they are more often eaten at the larval stage. As an example of a beetle larva, there is the mealworm that can be farmed at home.
  • Caterpillars: Caterpillars are the larvae of a large group of insects the Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. It is in this family that we find the most eaten insect in the world : the silkworm.
  • Wasps, bees, and ants: We know bees for the honey, propolis and royal jelly but you can also eat bee larvae. Wasps larvae are ancient Japan emperor favorite food.
  • Crickets, grasshoppers and locusts: Cricket powder is now popular and they are called the “Gateway bug”. They are farmed from Thailand, to US, Africa and Europe. Grasshoppers and locusts are one of the Bug Chef favorite insect!
  • True bugs: True bugs are trully delicious insects! I’ve been grateful to try some of them gathered by my friend Paul in Detroit. A true delicacy!
  • Dragonflies : Those big insects are mainly eaten in Bali where children catch them with a sticky wood and roast them on the fire.
  • Termites : Termites are among the most highly nutritive insects. All the castes of termites are eaten, from the soldiers high in protein, to the delicate queen high in fat.
  • Flies : Diptera are one of the largest family of insects but few species are eaten. Even if the black soldier fly larva is more well known as feed for fish than an edible insect for human, Katharina Unger with her FARM432 created a way to raise them as food.
  • Cockroaches : They are surely the last insect you wanna eat. They are considered as pest but the vast majority of them are perfect clean animals living in nature. In 2016, Internet got crazy about the “cockroach milk” “a true super food of the future”
  • Spiders : Spiders with their 8 legs are not insects but also belong to the big family of arthropods. Tarantulas have been gathered by children in Cambodia for decades. But they got a lot of attention these past months for another reason… You surely saw Angelina Jolie cooking some tarantulas in the news; she love eating them!

Flo

Formerly I’m an environmental engineer, personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist and “Entotarian”.
In the edible insects industry for five years, I’ve been consultant for an insect farm in France, free-lance writer and international speaker. After developing the world’s first table-top farm, I’m now in Paris with Jimini’s where we are developing and selling delicious insects. I would say that my life revolves around eating insects.

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