WBEZ | insects http://www.wbez.org/tags/insects 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 One of world's 'most feared pests' keeps showing up at customs http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-24/one-worlds-most-feared-pests-keeps-showing-customs-91029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-25/khapra_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This headline from the <em>Chicago Tribune </em>got our attention:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-khapra-beetle-found-in-rice-shipment-from-india-at-ohare-20110823,0,5481867.story" target="_blank">'Most feared' pest found in shipment at O'Hare</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>According to the story, "a cast skin and larva" later identified as Khapra beetles were discovered in two 10-pound bags of rice last week.</p><p>As we looked around to learn more about this destructive bug, we discovered that <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/national/04182011_6.xml" target="_blank">U.S. Customs and Border Protection says</a>:</p><p>-- "The Khapra Beetle, Trogoderma granarium Everts, is one of the world's most destructive stored-product pests. It is difficult to control once introduced into a region because it feeds on a variety of dried materials, is resistant to insecticides, and can go long periods without food. Infestations can result in up to 70 percent grain damage, making products inedible and unmarketable."</p><p>-- It "originated in South Asia and is now present throughout much of northern Africa and the Middle East, with a limited presence in Asia, Europe, and southern Africa."</p><p>-- By April this year, "agriculture specialists [had] made 44 Khapra Beetle interceptions. This is more than the total interceptions in calendar year 2010."</p><p>Indeed, in recent weeks there have been stories <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-customs-inspectors-20110808,0,640573.story" target="_blank">from Baltimore</a>, <a href="http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/127409353.html" target="_blank">Washington, D.C.</a>, <a href="http://njtoday.net/2011/07/29/customs-officials-catch-invasive-insect-in-rice-shipment/" target="_blank">New Jersey</a> and other ports of entry into the U.S. about Khapra Beetle discoveries.</p><p>And the number of interceptions has continued to rise. "This year, CBP agriculture specialists have made 100 Khapra beetle interceptions at U.S. ports of entry compared to three to six per year in 2005 and 2006, and averaging about 15 per year from 2007 to 2009," <a href="http://www.hpj.com/archives/2011/aug11/aug1/0725KhapraBeetleGuideliness.cfm?title=Keeping%20the%20Khapra%20beetle%20out%20of%20the%20U.S." target="_blank">reports the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-customs-inspectors-20110808,0,640573.story" target="_blank">The<em> Baltimore Sun</em> adds</a> that Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspector David Ng told the newspaper the beetle's destructive ways are so serious that inspectors don't need to find a live one to reject an entire shipment of rice or any other product. All they need is to find evidence that the bug's been there. Ng said no other species is treated that way.</p><p>Beatle mania is one thing. This beetle apparently isn't something we want to welcome.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Wed, 24 Aug 2011 10:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-24/one-worlds-most-feared-pests-keeps-showing-customs-91029 Developing your pain palate http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/developing-your-pain-palate <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/3413019726_3e99befc37.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img width="500" height="351" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-01/3413019726_3e99befc37.jpg" alt="" title="" /></p><p style="text-align: center;"><sub><strong>The bullet ant is not to be messed with -- unless you want &quot;pure, intense, brilliant pain.&quot; (Jerry Oldenettel)</strong></sub></p><p>&ldquo;Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.&rdquo; &ldquo;Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.&rdquo;</p><p>You could certainly be excused if these descriptions sound like they come out of <a href="http://www.winespectator.com/ ">Wine Spectator</a>. But in fact they&rsquo;re not describing the subtle notes of a good cabernet &ndash; rather, they are trying to communicate what it feels like to be stung by a Paper Wasp and a Sweat Bee.</p><p>They&rsquo;re taken from the <a href="http://insects.about.com/od/antsbeeswasps/tp/schmidt_sting_index.htm">Schmidt Sting Pain Index</a>, invented by entomologist <a href="http://www.notesfromunderground.org/archive/vol101/members/schmidt.html">Justin O. Schmidt</a>. Each sting has a corresponding number, on a scale of one to four, indicating the degree of pain. But without doubt, it&rsquo;s the more subjective descriptions that make this (semi-) scientific instrument so interesting. And yes, he says they all come from firsthand experience.</p><p>As part of our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/clever-apes-6-show-me-where-it-hurts">exploration of pain</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/cleverapes">Clever Apes</a> chatted with Justin Schmidt about stinging insects. He explained not just what it feels like to be on the business end of a Bullet Ant (&ldquo;Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.&rdquo;), but also why stinging insects tell such a <a href="http://www.entsoc.org/pubs/periodicals/ae/ae-2003/summer/Buzzwords.pdf">fascinating story of chemistry and evolution. </a></p><p>Incidentally, if you have a strong stomach, you might enjoy this <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGIZ-zUvotM">clip of a coming-of-age ritual involving bullet ants. </a>This is how one Amazonian tribe marks passage into manhood. I feel that my bar mitzvah involved similar sensations.</p></p> Thu, 02 Dec 2010 04:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/developing-your-pain-palate