Insect Farming – Growing Bugs For Food And Stuff

The World Needs More Protein!

Worldwide rapid population growth.

With the world’s rapid population growth, the demand for protein-rich foods is out surpassing the supply of red meat, poultry, and fish.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, bugs are full of protein!  Matter of fact, as a substitute for traditional meats, chicken, and fish, they are easier and less expensive to grow, harvest, and process.

For a more in-depth look at the bugs we can eat, head on over to my article, “Chowing Down On Bugs” – it’s a real hoot!

Besides being an important food source, insects are valuable in the making of many other products that we use every day – some of which you may be shocked to know about!

 

Popular Insects For Farming

 

Honeybees

Honeybees make good honey.

Bees are, by far, the most popular insect to grow.  There are at least 100 million domesticated hives producing honey worldwide.

In the U.S.A. alone, there about 3 million hive colonies.  North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, and Montana are first, second, third, and fourth – as the largest honey making states – totaling close to 100 million pounds of the sticky stuff.

Beekeeping, or “apiculture”, is becoming commonplace as more and more people see how easy it is to maintain beehives and produce their own honey right in their own backyard!

Beekeeping - pulling hive plate.Beekeeping - holding hive plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honey is just one thing that the bees provide.  Some of the other products are:

Beeswax – Used by bees to make their honeycombs, it is also used in food as a coating for blocks of cheese providing an air tight seal to prevent mold growth.  You will also find it in lip balm, hand creams, moisturizers, and cosmetics like blush, eye liner, and eye shadow.  And, don’t forget beeswax candles!

Propolis – Also called bee glue, it’s a mixture of bee saliva and beeswax with anti-inflammatory and healing properties.  Bee glue has also been used as a wood finish.

Bee pollen – Used to treat inflammation, menopause, stress, and speed healing from wounds.

Royal jelly – Secreted by the bees to feed their larvae, royal jelly as been marketed as a dietary supplement – though its success is more than slightly questionable by the scientific community.

Here are a couple of books that will give you insight into the rewarding world of beekeeping.

Beekeeping For Dummies
Beekeeping For Dummies
The Backyard Beekeeper Book
The Backyard Beekeeper Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time you finally get the yearning to try your hand at beekeeping, you will be able to head on over to my Beehive Reviews article – currently on my drafting table – for the best beehives – for both beginner and expert beekeepers.

Silkworms

Silkworm farming

Raising silkworms – sericulture – is a massive enterprise in China, the largest global producer of raw silk.  The Chinese have been silkworm farming as far back as 3500 B.C.

India comes in at a close second.

One silk moth can lay 500 eggs.  Farmers feed the hatchlings mulberry leaves – new growth leaves less than an inch wide because, at this point, the leaves are soft and easily eaten by the weak jawed hatchlings.

Each cocoon can produce as much as a thousand yards of silk – when soaked in hot water to loosen the threads.  Then, the delicate threads are spun together to produce a sturdier, finished silk thread used to create a variety of textiles.

And, once the pupae are removed from the cocoons, they are food candidates for animals, lizards, fish – and humans.

Silkworm farming is still a rarity in North American – but, lately, it has been gaining in popularity.

A good book on the subject is The Art of Rearing Silk-Worms.

The Art of Rearing Silk-Worms

 

Lac Insects

Lac insects, or kerriidae, are farmed mostly for the waxy resin, or lac, that they secrete.  Lac is used to make lacquer, shellac, enamel, insulation, medicine, gaskets, adhesives, polishes, abrasives, seals, etc.  The waste water used during the processing of lac is ideal as a coloring dye for cloth, drinks, jellies, and jams.

India’s lac insect farms are the major producers of lac globally.  Thailand is the second largest manufacturer.

 

Cochineal Insects

Prickly Pear Cactus

Farmers in Central and South America grow a special kind of cactus called, the Prickly Pear.

Why?

Because, cochineal insects thrive on the Prickly Pear – and, the farmers concentrate on attracting these insects – harvesting them in the millions to smash and produce a red dye called, carmine.  To get one pound of the red dye, 70,000 insects are crushed.

Cochineal insects on a prickly pear cactus.

Peru is the champion exporter of carmine – with an output of over 200 tons per year.

This red dye is found in almost any food, paint, fabric, or cosmetic that is colored red.  That’s right!  Red lipstick is only red because of the smashed cochineal insects mixed in to make it red.

Labeling won’t tell you that these insects are used in various goods – but, now that a new label law was recently passed for food products, the label has to, at least, read, “carmine.”  So, if you see “carmine”, or “carminic acid”, or “cochineal extract” on any label, you’ll know that the groceries contain cochineal insects.

 

Crickets

Cricket farming

Of the 900, or so, species of crickets, the house cricket used to be the type most likely to be farmed.  Roasted, baked, boiled, or deep fried, this cricket had a superior taste and texture for consumption.

Southeast Asia is still the biggest market for cricket consumers but, the U.S.A. has recently been coming on strong – consistently adding cricket farms focused on providing a food source for humans!

Not only are crickets highly nutritious for humans, they are a beneficial food for many animals – reptiles, birds, fish, etc.

Crickets make good bait for fisherman, too!

Due to the house cricket being extremely susceptible to cricket paralysis virus – which decimated huge populations of them – the Jamaican field cricket, having a strong resistance to the virus, became the logical alternative for cricket farmers.

Although whole crickets are consumed in Southeast Asia, other people prefer their crickets dried and ground into powder.  Cricket flour, being high in protein and gluten-free, is a healthier alternative to wheat flour.

TRIVIA

It takes 5,000 crickets to make a pound of cricket flour.

Even though crickets have a very short lifespan of about 3 months, they are highly valued as pets in both China and Japan.

Did you know that a group of crickets – is called an orchestra?  Makes sense, doesn’t it – because of the chirping sounds they make using their legs as a violin!

Take a look at How To Raise Your Own Crickets for a peek into the wonderful world of cricket farming.

How To Raise Your Own Crickets

 

Waxworms

Waxworm farming

Waxworms are mainly farmed to feed animals – or, as bait (“waxies”) for fishermen angling for pan fish.  The worms get their name because they dearly love honey covered beeswax – which makes them a pest to beekeepers worldwide.

Because of their penchant for chewing up bee hives, waxworms have an almond-y sweet taste – making them a natural ingredient for many sweet and sour Asian recipes – especially in Thailand – high in fat content – low in protein.

If the Western world ever gets past the “yuck” factor, these delectable little caterpillars may become exceedingly popular – which is what the waxworm farmers of the world are hoping for!

Research shows that another favorite food that these worms enjoy eating is plastic – specifically polyethylene plastic film – which is not biodegradable.  The waxworm’s unique digestive system metabolizes the plastic into ethylene glycol which is very biodegradable.  This would create a huge market that would benefit all the waxworm farmers while decomposing the world’s plastic trash!  A win – win situation!

 

Cockroaches

Cockroach farming

Cockroach farms are really big in China.  There are humongous buildings there – dedicated to domestically cultivating cockroaches.  Some of the larger farms produce billions upon billions upon billions of these insects every year!

The American cockroach is the most popular variety for farming – especially for medical sales.  An ethanol extract from them is used in China to heal wounds and repair skin tissues.

Besides being a nutritious food and loved by lizards, they are increasingly being used as a human food source.  But, the major demands come from cosmetics and medical companies.  The cosmetics industry values cockroach wings for their cellulose quality – and, the medical manufacturers use cockroaches to research new cures for AIDS and cancer because of their anti-carcinogenic characteristics.

The Pacific beetle cockroach – the only variety that gives birth to live babies – produces a type of milk that researchers in India tout as a super food.

Cockroaches are vacuumed out of their dark nests – and first boiled – then dried.  It is common for dried roaches to sell for as much as $20 per pound.

A quick Google search offers an unending list of companies selling “how to grow cockroaches” kits and instructions.

The big drawback is the stigma of having a cockroach farm.  Would you like to be living next to a neighbor that grows millions of cockroaches for profit?  I wouldn’t!  What if there is a “great escape?”  I could envision a horrific onslaught on my house and property of waves of cockroaches!

Thus, most cockroach farmers refer to their trade as “special farming.”

Almost everyone is familiar with the song, “La Cucaracha – La Cucaracha.”  Did you know that this song is about a dancing cockroach?  Here’s the song with an English translation…

 

Ladybugs

Ladybug (ladybird) farming

Coccinellidae, known as ladybugs in North America – and ladybird beetles in the UK – are beneficial insects grown for their ability to help farmers and gardeners control pests that attack their crops.

These cute little red backed, black spotted critters lay their eggs on plants close to harmful aphids and other plant parasites because both the adult and hatched larvae will chow down on these destructive insects.  Ladybugs can eat up to 50 aphids a day!

There are only a handful of ladybug farms in the United States.

There are kits available to grow ladybugs on a small scale – mostly geared towards being a hobby for children – such as the Insect Lore Live Ladybug Growing Kit.

Insect Lore Live Ladybug Growing KitFor anyone growing veggies, ladybugs are easily and cheaply purchased through a commercial vendor.  Some excellent resources are:

Bazos 1500 Live Ladybugs
Bazos 1500 Live Ladybugs
Bug Sales - 1500 Live Ladybugs
Bug Sales – 1500 Live Ladybugs
Double Order 3000 Live Ladybugs (2 Packs of 1500)
Double Order 3000 Live Ladybugs (2 Packs of 1500)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Couple Of Centipede Jokes

Centipede has a whole lotta legs!

  1. What’s worse than an alligator with a toothache?  A centipede with athlete’s foot, of course!
  2. A man had a pet centipede named, Clyde.  He said, “Clyde, go outside and bring me the newspaper.”  Half an hour later Clyde had not returned.  The man walked outside and said, “Clyde, what’s taking you so long?”  Clyde said, “Well, I had to put on my shoes first, didn’t I?”
  3. What goes 99 thump – 99 thump – 99 thump?  A centipede with a wooden leg.

 

There You Have It

There are other bugs being farmed – not only for food but, for use in other products.  These are the most popular.

Have you thought about farming insects?  Have I piqued your interest?  Leave a comment or email me – let me know what you think about it.

 

Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com

2 thoughts on “Insect Farming – Growing Bugs For Food And Stuff

  1. Eugen Reply

    Ahah you got me there..

    Honest question for you…

    Do you really think that people in Europe or US who are actually a biggest consumers of meat, will be ever able to eat insects instead?

    I mean, obviously you give it a go on your holiday, but I just cannot imagine the situation where you go to the restaurant and instead of medium rare steak, you would be like… “Can I have one of these cockroaches,please?”

    What is your opinion about the future of this in developed countries?

    Eugen

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Eugen,

      To answer your question honestly, “YES” – I see movement toward bug eating in both the United States and Europe.  See for yourself:

      United States – Top Restaurants Serving Insects – These restaurants serve anything from scorpions to crickets to worms to just about any bug you want to munch on!

      Europe – New EU Rules Put Insects On The Menu – Next time you’re in Italy, try bee larvae on toast!  Yum!

      Thought you had me there, didn’t you?  🙂

      I think that within 10 to 15 years, human consumption of insects will explode in both the U.S.A. and the European Union.

      Jim

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