WBEZ | Insectophobia http://www.wbez.org/tags/insectophobia Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EcoMyths: Why eating bugs is good for your health and the environment http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/ecomyths-why-eating-bugs-good-your-health-and-environment-100700 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/XtremeBugs-Chef.jpg" title="Got insectophobia? So did Kate Sackman...until she took the plunge and tried these crunchy crickets. (Courtesy of the Xtreme Bugs chef)" /></div></div><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F77426389"></iframe>What would it taste like to eat a cricket?&nbsp;That&rsquo;s what I wondered recently while watching a mother bird feed its fat, hungry babies.&nbsp;As it happens, Chicago&#39;s Brookfield Zoo has an insect chef serving crickets on the weekends this summer, so I had the chance to find out!</p><p>While at Brookfield&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.brookfieldzoo.org/CZS/xtremebugs">Xtreme Bugs exhibit</a>, I tasted crickets prepared two ways: toasted with Cajun spices (tastes like crunchy sunflower seeds) and in sweet banana-cricket pancakes.&nbsp;No legs and no antennae tickled my tongue &ndash; just crunchiness.&nbsp;I could not bring myself to eat the mealy bug larvae cookies.&nbsp;But talking with the chef who prepared the bug delicacies gave me confidence, as she is also a trained entomologist (insect scientist). With her expertise, I knew she would only serve up safe and tasty bug food to a wary public.</p><p>Raising animals, especially cattle, to fulfill the human demand for meat, is costly both financially and environmentally (as explained further in our&nbsp;<a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/myths-explored/">latest EcoMyths article</a>).&nbsp;According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html">livestock now use 30 percent of the earth&rsquo;s entire land surface</a>&rdquo; and are a major source of deforestation around the world.&nbsp;The livestock sector also produces significant levels of greenhouse gases, mostly from manure, including 65 percent of human-produced nitrous oxide, a much more damaging greenhouse gas than even CO2. So, could eating bugs replace some of our craving for meat?&nbsp;We think so.</p><p>Even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/angelina-jolie-and-kids-love-to-eat-crickets.html">Angelina Jolie</a>&nbsp;and her kids enjoy crickets as snack food. So what is holding us back from relying more on insects as a food source?&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ecomyths-bugs mealworm medley.jpg" style="height: 247px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Yum! Mushroom Mealworm Medley. (Courtesy of the Xtreme Bugs chef)" />For our latest <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">EcoMyths</a> segment, we talk about fear and loathing of bugs. Westerners just don&rsquo;t eat bugs like other cultures around the world do.&nbsp;Our fears are based on experiences of biting and stinging, or the perception that bugs are ugly.&nbsp;And we tend to be unaware of the essential role of bugs on our planet.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think they are missing the boat because, really when people learn more about them they discover that bugs are actually really cool and do all sorts of interesting things,&rdquo; says&nbsp;<a href="http://fieldmuseum.org/users/margaret-thayer">Dr. Margaret Thayer</a>, a curator in the Division of Insects in the Field Museum of Natural History&#39;s Zoology Department.&nbsp;And she reminds us that bugs are essential elements of our earthly food chain: &ldquo;If they all suddenly disappeared, everything would collapse.&rdquo;</p><p>Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager at Brookfield Zoo agrees. &ldquo;Bugs are responsible for aerating soil, pollinating crops, and providing food to many animals.&nbsp; Many vertebrates &ndash; reptiles, birds, and mammals &ndash; wouldn&rsquo;t survive if not for arthropods.&rdquo;</p><p>So, what about humans eating bugs? Well, insects are part of the animal phylum called arthropods, which are all invertebrates that have external skeletons (&ldquo;exoskeletons&rdquo;) and jointed limbs, which includes insects, spiders, and crustaceans.&nbsp; In the U.S. we already eat many arthropods, such as lobster, crab, and crayfish. So we are already happily eating animals closely related to insects. Thayer reminds us that insects are &ldquo;a concentrated source of protein and fat&rdquo; which is why they are such a valuable food source in so many cultures.&nbsp;&ldquo;If you live in a village where termites are flying from a giant mound, thousands of them flying around, you can just pick them up and eat them, or roast them.&rdquo;</p><p>Margaret&rsquo;s words rang in my ears as I crunched the Cajun-spiced crickets at the Zoo last week and asked myself, &ldquo;could I get used to this?&rdquo; If I close my eyes while chewing and block out the visual, I think I actually could.&nbsp;Care to join me for a termite taco?</p></p> Mon, 09 Jul 2012 11:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/ecomyths-why-eating-bugs-good-your-health-and-environment-100700