Wasps – the good, the bad and the downright irritating

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A wasp taking a break from foraging to have a drink. Flensshot via Pixabay

Whether trying to cajole one out of your office or running for cover after it seems a little too interested in your food we have likely all encountered the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) more than once during this particularly wasp-heavy summer.  But did you know that this is just one of 9000 species of wasp found in the UK and without a microscope you’re unlikely to ever see the vast majority of them. You might also not know that they provide us with great ecological services including pollination of both our crops and wildflowers as well as controlling insect populations which spread human and agricultural diseases.

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Farming tropical insects to feed the world in 2050

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  Deep-fried locust kebabs.CC BY 2.0

Many non-western cultures already eat insects [entomophagy]: in Thailand  & China its a common streetfood as you can see in the picture, but its an unusual  and frankly unheard of cuisine in the UK.  AS you will see though, CABI staff have an interest in entomophagy AND we have blogged about global entomophagy before [Roasted grasshopper with a sprinkling of termites].

On 18th November 2015, studio guests, and listeners, of BBC Radio 4 – Midweek were treated to the experience of eating insects as food!  Dr Sarah Beynon, an entomologist was a guest: she is on a mission to both educate the UK public on the importance of insects (including wasps and spiders) and to provide sustainable food by farming tropical insects. 

She had brought in samples of insect protein  which is on the menu at her café, The Grub Kitchen. The café  is the latest venture for her Bugfarm in Wales, which functions as  a research & education centre as well as providing dungbeetles for UK farmers to convert dung into compost! 

Guests sounded wary but chef Michel Roux Jnr pronounced the chocolate cookie made with ground cricket flour, sugar and chocolate, as “very nice” and described it as both chocolatey and having a novel “meaty” taste.  Another description was “marmity”: hardly surprising considering marmite was developed from yeast as an alternative to meat extract. 

Weight for weight, we were told, cricket flour is higher in protein than beef. 

Other delicacies available at the café include grasshoppers (taste like tea), mealworm hummus, and gourmet bug burgers containing mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers. By customer request coming soon will be burgers containing crunchy intact mealworms!

Food security for 2050: using insect protein will take the pressure off agricultural land

“WE need to look at new ways of producing food and we think this [tropical insect farming] is one of the ways of doing it” declared Dr. Beynon.

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