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Worldwide, over 1,000 species of insects are eaten. We tell you where and how

Lifestyle / -

Insetti nel mondo

Not in large quantities, and not usually as the main course, but people have been eating insects for a long time. For subsistence (hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa and the Amazon), because they are traditionally considered a delicacy (as with cricket snacks in Thailand or Mexican mezcal with a worm in it) or, as happens to most westerners, without even realizing they are eating them (up to about 10 ounces a year), in preserved tomato products and organic vegetables.

The use of insects for food is quite widely scattered across the world. There are 1,400 species of insects considered edible in almost a hundred different countries: no less than 36 in Africa, 23 in the Americas, 29 in Asia and even 11 in Europe, according to the National Geographic Society; and there are at least 3,000 ethnic groups in the world which consider insects a traditional food resource. 

Insects are more commonly eaten in the Tropics, because there are more of them there and they are easier to harvest. They are eaten both in the adult and the larval form. According to the different customs, they are eaten alive, roasted, fried, smothered in savory or sweet sauces, or chopped up to add protein to soups and other dishes.

The edible insect species
These are the main families of insects eaten by humans:
  • Coleoptera (ladybugs, cockroaches)
  • Orthoptera (locusts, crickets, grasshoppers)
  • Hemiptera (bedbugs, aphids, scale insects)
  • Trichoptera (caddisfly larvae)
  • Arachnids (spiders, scorpions)
  • Diptera (flies)
  • Homoptera (cicadas)
  • Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps)
  • Isoptera (termites)
  • Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths)
  • Odonata (dragonflies)
  • Mantodea (mantises)
Those most eaten worldwide are coleoptera, at varying stages of development. Locusts are a common dish in Africa. Giant water bugs are the most popular insects in Asia, as people eat them in China, Japan, India and throughout southeast Asia, from Indochina to Indonesia.

How insects are eaten in Asia
Thailand is the right destination for anyone who fancies the idea of trying insects as food. Larvae, millipedes, red ants, scorpions and butterflies are used for both sweet and savory snacks. In Japan, boiled wasp larvae are considered a specialty in the mountains, as are the larvae of many aquatic insects.

How insects are eaten in Africa
In Africa too, the ancient tribal custom of gathering insects has become part of the local cuisine.  Flying termites fried and mixed into bread dough, moth caterpillars, larvae of the red palm weevil, ants.

How insects are eaten in the United States
The use of insects as food is sporadic. Locusts, crickets and dried grasshoppers were used as currency by some tribes of Native Americans.

How insects are eaten in Latin America 
Grasshoppers are widely eaten throughout the south of Mexico, served roasted and flavored with garlic, lime juice and salt. They also eat “insect caviar”, ants’ eggs harvested from the roots of agave plants, boiled or fried in butter, either eating them in tacos or serving them in a bowl with a side of tortillas, making the popular dish called escamoles. In Taxco during the Jumil festival local stinkbugs by the same name are gathered and eaten. In Venezuela the Piaroa indigenous people consider the Goliath tarantula (or migali) a real delicacy: they can grow to the size of a dinner plate, with eight enormous legs which are enough for a large family, and are roasted over the fire. Taste: like crabs and hazelnuts. In Colombia and the Amazon leaf-cutting “bigbutt” ants are eaten toasted like a popcorn snack.

How insects are eaten in Australia and New Zealand
In New Zealand they eat huhu (a type of longhorn beetle) grubs which are harvested by digging into rotting tree trunks, both raw and sautéed. In Australia, honeypot ants, their stomach swollen with nectar to the size of a grape, are eaten raw as candy by the Aboriginal people.

Roberto Masi. The Future Factor, a seed worth growing

Economy / -

Twenty contracts from three to five years for twenty farmers under-40. This is the commitment made by McDonald’s Italia at Expo Milano 2015 and signed with the approval of Minister Martina.

It will conclude its experience at Expo Milano 2015 with 1.2 million meals served, for an average price of nine Euros, despite being one of the smallest of the fast food chain’s outlets. This is the commercial result of the McDonald’s restaurant on the Decumano. But inside Expo Milano 2015 the Italian branch of the multinational chain – with 36 fast food outlets in Italy – has recently presented a project with the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture, namely Fattore Futuro (or Future Factor), which guarantees a supply contract lasting three to five years to 20 farmers under-40 years old.
An example worth following
“For us, right from the beginning, Expo Milano 2015 has been a wonderful opportunity for consolidating discussion, relations and relationships”, explains Roberto Masi, CEO McDonald’s Italia to ExpoNet. “We wanted to be part of Expo, we wanted to show the whole world how we operate and offer concrete examples, such as Fattore Futuro, to demonstrate that we don’t just chatter, we sign contracts. This project launches a message to all institutions, which in this case have operated extremely well, because we have succeeded in creating a system involving young business operators, a private multinational company, various associations and a Ministry.”

Landscapes, our edible monuments

Sustainability / -

© Keren Su/Corbis

Culture, unique landscapes and food for 2 billion people: traditional agriculture is central to the identity and food security of entire populations. FAO has a plan to leave a legacy to future generations: the GIAHS - Globally Important Agriculture Systems. Of the 200 around the world, one is Italian: the lemons of Sorrento and Amalfi.

An agricultural landscape is like an ancient monument, it combines centuries of history. The smooth curves of a rice field clinging to a hillside, homogeneous surfaces of a mountain pasture, the straight lines of the channels of an oasis in the desert: these forms teach us about the efforts and passion of the people who designed them, stroke by stroke of spade and hoe. As an intersection between culture and nature, not to mention beauty, rural landscapes produce in large quantities, according to FAO data, with traditional agriculture feeding about 2 billion people every day. In other words, nearly a third of the world population depends on ancient farming techniques, handed down by half a billion small farmers, of whom 350 million belong to indigenous communities. In 2014 the UN has dedicated the World Food Day to this microcosm, focused this year on family farming.
FAO’s plan for traditional agriculture
The UN agency which is committed to defending ancient agricultural practices is the FAO, which in 2002 launched the program GIAHS - Globally Important Agriculture Heritage Systems. It objective: to assess, study and support those particularly important ancient rural systems; in practice to make of agriculture what UNESCO has made of culture, establishing World Heritage Sites. And in these twelve years of GIAHS, at least 200 have been catalogued, scattered across every continent. They range from carp breeding in Chinese paddy fields to oases in the Tunisian desert, from the pastures of the Qashqai nomads in Iran to the vanilla harvesting in the forests of Madagascar, from the cultivation of potatoes and tubers in the Peruvian Andes to the algae prairies in the Sea of Japan. There are examples in Europe, like the polders in the Netherlands and lemon groves on the terraces of the coast between Sorrento and Amalfi, with which Goethe famously fell in love.
An evergreen revolution
If humanity in growth cannot do without intensive agricultural production, a large part of humanity cannot give up traditional agriculture. We know that to feed the population boom of the sixties it took a "Green Revolution", a great increase in agricultural production made ​​possible by the introduction of chemistry and new high yield plant varieties. But one of its noble fathers, the Indian geneticist MS Swaminathan, for some years has spoken of the need for an "Evergreen Revolution" whereby sustainable growth takes pragmatic steps to support small rural producers, on which the food security of millions of people depends. The fundamental role of the Globally Important Agriculture Systems for this new agricultural age was recently highlighted by Parviz Koohafkan, Global Coordinator for the FAO’s GIAHS program, who spoke at the Second International Colloquium  of Laboratorio Expo, the program of Expo Milano 2015 and the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli which promotes scientific research on the theme Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life 

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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