Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Leland . Leland Wonders, “Why do people eat insects?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Leland !

When you get home after school, what’s the first thing that you do? Maybe you break out the books and get started on your homework. Or perhaps you decide an after-school snack is in order. Many kids head straight to the refrigerator after school!

Does that sound like you? What after-school snack do you enjoy? Do you look for fresh fruit and vegetables? Or do you seek out a sugar rush from candy? How does a big, juicy bug sound? 

Are you thinking “Yuck!” right now? If so, you probably live in an area of the world where eating insects is not common. In fact, you might not even realize that insects are edible. After all, there aren’t many pizzerias in the United States that serve pizza with dragonflies and grasshoppers.

Eating insects is a practice called entomophagy. And in many places, it’s very common. Research shows that over two billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their diet. And there’s no shortage of selection to choose from. In fact, there are over 1,900 species of edible insects on Earth.

With so many foods available, why would people turn to insects for a meal? The Earth’s human population is constantly growing. Experts say there could be 9 billion humans on Earth by 2050! Worldwide food production isn’t keeping up with that growth. Alternative food sources become more and more necessary each year.

Growing more crops and raising more animals isn’t always an option. There is only so much land that can be farmed or used to produce animals for food. Insects, on the other hand, can often be raised easily and cheaply compared to other types of foods.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has also reported many health benefits of entomophagy. It turns out, insects are a good source of protein and healthy fats. In fact, mealworms contain protein, vitamins, and minerals in amounts similar to fish and meat. Likewise, grasshoppers can provide as much protein as lean ground beef with lower levels of fat. 

Today, more and more people around the world are warming up to the idea of eating insects. But can every insect be eaten? Not quite! Experts warn that you shouldn’t just head to the backyard for a buffet. Make sure you know what you’re eating and that it’s safe.

How do you know a bug is safe to eat? There’s no surefire way to tell  just by looking. There are a few guidelines you can use to avoid bugs that might be dangerous. For example, experts recommend you stay away from insects that are brightly-colored, especially smelly, or hairy. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of insects that bite or sting. Those that carry diseases, such as flies, ticks, and mosquitoes, should also stay off the menu.

So what bugs are good to eat? Some of the most popular edible insects around the world include beetles, caterpillars, ants, cicadas, locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, and dragonflies. Which of these would you have for your next after-school snack?

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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Say “aaaahhhhh” and show us those pearly whites! Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will leave you hanging by a thread…