Just listening to the radio, there was again the claim that two billion people eat (daily) regularly insects. After having lived in a few parts of this world, I do not believe that anymore.

Some sources for this claim: The Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education has a page titled:

Expert: More than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day

Some scientific citations go back to: FAO's "Edible insects" publication (which doesn't explain how they end up with that number). In its Executive Summary it says:

It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people.

In chapter 3 it's added that

insect consumption is commonplace in the tropics, while in temperate zones it is often absent

So is it true or not? Sometimes people claim countries like Thailand, etc, but from my understanding people not originating from Isan province do not do that. This is 20 Million people (and my suspicion is, that in the wild 2 billion claim they just include the whole country). Also, e.g. in China, while sometimes insects are eaten, this is a rare occurrence, and not a source of protein. (You wouldn't count the worm in the tequila bottle, would you?)


2 billion is far too low an estimate.

If you've ever eaten anything that contains red die (e.g. maraschino cherries, red candy, soft drinks, apple cider), unless the container is marked Vegan or Kosher, there's a good chance you were eating deliberately added insects. This can include products that say "natural color".

For more information, see: Red Dye: A Moment in Science - YouTube


I originally submitted this answer, perhaps deliberately misinterpreting the intent of the question, in order to present a possibly interesting but not well known fact.

I certainly didn't and don't think it's worthy of the bounty it received by virtue of being the only answer.

If someone ever submits an answer that the OP accepts, let me know and I'll offer a bounty and regift it to that answer.

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    I think the question is about eating insects as a main item and not as an addition to something else. – Joe W Feb 2 at 16:29
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    If you want to think about unknowingly eating insects as part of food there are actual limits to how many insects can be in it. greenqueen.com.hk/… – Joe W Feb 2 at 16:39
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    Why would "Kosher" matter? According to Leviticus, it is allowed to eat locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. See bbc.com/news/magazine-21847517 – GEdgar Feb 2 at 21:38
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    @GEdgar. A very small number of insect species are considered kosher. But all other insects, in particular cochineal, are not. My kosher comment referred to cochineal only. – Ray Butterworth Feb 3 at 1:50
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    Somebody please provide a (even) slightly better answer. I do not want to give the bounty to this one. Compared to this one even a list of countries where a non neglectable amount of people (lets say more than a million) are know to regularyly eat insects will get the 50. – lalala Feb 3 at 17:12

According to The psychology of eating insects: A cross-cultural comparison between Germany and China Food Quality and Preference Volume 44, September 2015, Pages 148-156:

Based upon a survey conducted by this research,

67.7% of Chinese and 13.3% of Germans have consumed insects.

However, only 12.9% of Chinese and 0% of Germans consume insects "regularly".

Regarding Laos, according to Insect Consumption to Address Undernutrition, a National Survey on the Prevalence of Insect Consumption among Adults and Vendors in Laos

A total of 1025 (96.8%) lay people were currently insect consumers, 135 (13.0%) daily or weekly consumers, and 322 (31.1%) consumed several times per month. For the majority (575, 55.6%) the consumption was infrequent (less than a few times per year) and only 22 (2%) had never eaten insects.


Lets consider some of the OP's claims.

insect consumption is commonplace in the tropics, while in temperate zones it is often absent

This just seems to be factually incorrect. Regardless of what you consider a 'temperate climate' insect have been consumed by many civilizations throughout mankind's history and in many climates.

Entomophagy or the eating of insect among humans is not entirely bound to certain geographies.

Indonesian botok tawon, spiced bee larvae steamed in banana leaf package Many cultures embrace the eating of insects. Edible insects have long been used by ethnic groups in Asia,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31] Africa, Mexico and South America as cheap and sustainable sources of protein. Up to 2,086 species are eaten by 3,071 ethnic groups in 130 countries.[9] The species include 235 butterflies and moths, 344 beetles, 313 ants, bees and wasps, 239 grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches, 39 termites, and 20 dragonflies, as well as cicadas.[32] Insects are known to be eaten in 80 percent of the world's nations.[8]

The leafcutter ant Atta laevigata is traditionally eaten in some regions of Colombia and northeast Brazil. In southern Africa, the widespread moth Gonimbrasia belina's large caterpillar, the mopani or mopane worm, is a source of food protein. In Australia, the witchetty grub is eaten by the indigenous population. The grubs of Hypoderma tarandi, a reindeer parasite, were part of the traditional diet of the Nunamiut people.[33] Udonga montana is a pentatomid bug that has periodic population outbreaks and is eaten in northeastern India.[34]

Traditionally several ethnic groups in Indonesia are known to consume insects—especially grasshoppers, crickets, termites, the larvae of the sago palm weevil, and bee. In Java and Kalimantan, grasshoppers and crickets are usually lightly battered and deep fried in palm oil as a crispy kripik or rempeyek snack.[35] In Banyuwangi, East Java, there is a specialty botok called botok tawon (honeybee botok), which is beehives that contains bee larvae, being seasoned in spices and shredded coconut, wrapped inside a banana leaf package and steamed.[36] Dayak tribes of Kalimantan, also Moluccans and Papuan tribes in Eastern Indonesia, are known to consume ulat sagu (lit. 'sagoo caterpillar') or larvae of sago palm weevil. These protein-rich larvae are considered as a delicacy in Papua, eaten both roasted or uncooked.[37]

In Thailand, certain insects are also consumed, especially in northern provinces. Traditional markets in Thailand often have stalls selling deep-fried grasshoppers, cricket (ching rit), bee larvae, silkworm (non mai), ant eggs (khai mot) and termites.[38][39]

The use of insects as an ingredient in traditional foodstuffs in places such as Hidalgo in Mexico has been on a large enough scale to cause their populations to decline.[40]

On the eating of locusts

Locusts are edible insects. Several cultures throughout the world consume insects, and locusts are considered a delicacy and eaten in many African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. They have been used as food throughout history.[58]

They can be cooked in many ways, but are often fried, smoked, or dried.[59] The Bible records that John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey (Greek: ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον, romanized: akrides kai meli agrion) while living in the wilderness.[60] Attempts have been made to explain the locusts as some ascetic vegetarian food such as carob beans, but the plain meaning of akrides is the insects.[61][62]

The Torah, although disallowing the use of most insects as food, permits the consumption of certain locusts; specifically, the red, the yellow, the spotted grey, and the white are considered permissible.[63][64] In Islamic jurisprudence, eating locusts is considered halal.[65][64] The Islamic prophet, Muhammad, was reported to have eaten locusts during a military raid with his companions.[66]

Locusts are eaten in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia,[67] where consumption of locusts spiked around Ramadan especially in the Al-Qassim Region in 2014, since many Saudis believe they are healthy to eat. The Saudi Ministry of Health warned that pesticides they used against the locusts made them unsafe.[68][69] Yemenis also consume locusts, and expressed discontent over governmental plans to use pesticides to control them.[70] ʻAbd al-Salâm Shabînî described a locust recipe from Morocco.[71] 19th century European travellers observed Arabs in Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco selling, cooking, and eating locusts.[72] They reported that in Egypt and Palestine locusts were consumed.[73] They reported that in Palestine, around the River Jordan, in Egypt, in Arabia, and in Morocco that Arabs ate locusts, while Syrian peasants did not eat locusts.

In the Haouran region, Fellahs who were in poverty and suffered from famine ate locusts after removing the guts and head, while locusts were swallowed whole by Bedouins.[74] Syrians, Copts, Greeks, Armenians, and other Christians and Arabs themselves reported that in Arabia locusts were eaten frequently and one Arab described to a European traveler the different types of locusts which were favored as food by Arabs.[75][76] Persians use the Anti-Arab racial slur "Arabe malakh-khor" (Persian: عرب ملخ خور‎, literally Arab locust eater) against Arabs.[77][78][79]

Locusts yield about five times more edible protein per unit of fodder than cattle, and produce lower levels of greenhouse gases in the process.[80] The feed conversion rate of orthopterans is 1.7 kg/kg,[81] while for beef it is typically about 10 kg/kg.[82] The protein content in fresh weight is between 13–28 g / 100 g for adult locust, 14–18 g / 100 g for larvae, as compared to 19–26 g / 100 g for beef.[83][84] The calculated protein efficiency ratio is low, with 1.69 for locust protein compared to 2.5 for standard casein.[85] A serving of 100 g of desert locust provides 11.5 g of fat, 53.5% of which is unsaturated, and 286 mg of cholesterol.[85] Among the fatty acids, palmitoleic, oleic, and linolenic acids were found to be the most abundant. Varying amounts of potassium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc were present.[85]

Expert: More than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day

At the very least you could say that countries with at least 2 billion people in them consume insects. How often or how many they eat would be hard to estimate with any real amount of certainty.

(You wouldn't count the worm in the tequila bottle, would you?)

Actually According to Anthony Dias Blue's Complete Book of Spirits, that "worm" is actually a larva from one of two types of moths, known as maguey worms, that live on the agave plant. These larvae are called gusano and bottles of mezcal that contain the creepy critters are referred to as con gusano.

A larvae of an insect is not a worm. The worm in tequila is not a worm at all and very much an infant insect.


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    Please provide some references to support your claims. – Oddthinking Feb 11 at 18:45
  • "Expert: More than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day - This claim seems to be impossible to corroborate or refute." This is the core claim, and you fail to address it. Why would you say it is impossible to corroborate or refute? – Oddthinking Feb 11 at 18:47
  • The parts of this answer where you consider whether it is halal and kosher, whether they were eaten in biblical times, you opinions on whether insects are a "great" source of protein, and even whether the tequila worm is actually a worm are all irrelevant to the question. – Oddthinking Feb 11 at 18:49
  • I have made edits as per your requests. – Neil Meyer Feb 11 at 19:18

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