Insect farming

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Insect farming is the practice of raising insects as livestock. Insects may be farmed for the commodities they produce, or for them themselves; to be used as food, as a dye, and otherwise.

Farming of popular insects[edit]


Silkworms, the caterpillars of the domestic silkmoth, are kept to produce silk, an elastic fiber made when they are in the process of creating a cocoon. Silk is commonly regarded as a major cash crop and is used in the crafting of many textiles.


Commodities harvested from honeybees include beeswax, bee bread, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, brood, and honey. All of the aforementioned are mostly used in food, however, being wax, beeswax has many other uses, such as being used in candles, and propolis may be used as a wood finish. In recent years, wild populations of honeybees[verification needed] have declined significantly.

Lac insects[edit]

Lac insects secrete a resinous substance called lac. Lac is used in many applications, from its use in food to being used as a colorant or as a wood finish. The majority of lac farming takes place in India and Thailand, with over 2 million residential employees.


Made into a red dye known as carmine, cochineal are incorporated into lots of products, ranging cosmetics, food, paint, fabric, etc. About 100,000 insects are needed to make a single kilogram of dye. The shade of red the dye yields depends on how the insect is processed. France is the world’s largest importer of carmine.


Among the hundreds of different types of crickets, the house cricket (Acheta domesticus) is the most common type used for human consumption.[1] The cricket is one of the most nutritious edible insects, and in many parts of the world, crickets are consumed dry-roasted, baked, deep-fried, and boiled. Cricket consumption may take the form of cricket flour, a powder of dried and ground crickets, which is easily integrated in to many food recipes. Crickets are commonly farmed for non-human animal food, as they provide much nutrition to the many species of reptiles, fish, birds and other mammals that consume them. Crickets are normally killed by deep freezing, where they feel no pain and are sedated before neurological death.


Waxworms are the larvae of wax moths. These caterpillars are used widely across the world for food, fish bait, animal testing and plastic degradation. Low in protein but high in fat content, they are a valuable source of fat for many insectivorous organisms. Waxworms are popular in many parts of the world, due to their ability to live in low temperatures and their simplicity in production.[2]


Cockroaches are farmed by the million in China, and became an area of growth in the early 2000s.

As food[edit]

Insects are farmed to be eaten in a practice referred to as entomophagy. Entomophagy has lasted for as long as, as some sources suggest, 30,000 years.[3] Insects are becoming increasingly viable as a source of protein in the modern diet, as conventional meat forms are very land-intensive and produce large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas.[1] Insects bred in captivity offer a low space-intensive, highly feed efficient[citation needed], relatively pollution-free, high-protein source of food for both humans and non-human animals. Insects have a high nutritional value, dense protein content and micronutrient and probiotic potential. Insects such as crickets and mealworms have high concentrations of complete protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin and vitamin A.[1] Insects offer an economical solution to increasingly pressing food security and environmental issues concerning the production and distribution of protein to feed a growing world population. Hundreds of species of crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, moths and various other insects are farmed for human consumption.[1]


Purported benefits of entomophagy include:

  • Significantly less amounts resource and space use, less amounts of waste produced, and emissions of very trace amounts of greenhouse gases.[4] Cattle typically need about 3290 liters of water to be converted into 100g of meat, while crickets require 2000 times less to produce the same amount.[5] [6]
  • They include many vitamins and essential minerals, contain dietary fiber (which is not present in meat),[7] and are a complete protein.[8] The protein count of 100g of cricket is nearly equivalent to the amount in 100g of lean ground beef.[9]
  • As opposed to meat, lower costs are required to care for and produce insects.[1]
  • Faster growth and reproduction rates. Crickets mature rather quickly and are typically full-grown within 3 weeks to a month,[1] and an individual female can lay from 1,200 to 1,500 eggs in three to four weeks. Cattle, however, become adults at 2 years, and the breeding ratio is four breeding animals for each market animal produced.[10]
  • Unlike meat, insects rarely transmit diseases such as H1N1, mad cow disease, or salmonella.[11]

Reduced feed[edit]

Cattle use 12 times the amount of feed that crickets do to produce an equal amount of protein.[1] Crickets also only use a quarter of the feed of sheep and one half the amount of feed given to swine and chicken to produce an equivalent amount of protein.[1] Crickets require only two pounds of feed to produce one pound of finished product.[1] Much of this efficiency is a result of crickets being ectothermic, as in they get their heat from the environment instead of having to expend energy to create their own body heat like typical mammals do.

Nutrient efficiency[edit]

Insects are nutrient efficient compared to other meat sources. Locusts for example contain between 8 and 20 milligrams of iron for every 100 grams of raw locust. Beef on the other hand contains roughly 6 milligrams of iron in the same amount of meat. Crickets as well are very efficient when you compare nutrients. For every 100 grams of substance crickets contain 12.9 grams of protein, 121 calories, and 5.5 grams of fat. Beef contains more protein containing 23.5 grams in 100 grams of substance, but also has roughly 3 times the calories, and four times the amount of fat as crickets do in 100 grams. So, per 100 grams of substance, crickets contain only half the nutrients of beef, except for iron. High levels of iron are implicated in bowel cancer[12] and heart disease.[13]

Greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

The raising of livestock is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gases emitted.[1] Alternative sources of protein, such as insects, replace protein sourced from livestock and help decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from food production. Insect raising has negligible emissions compared to livestock, since no farmed insect species besides termites release methane,[1] and none create ammonia.

Land usage[edit]

Livestock raising accounts for 70% of agricultural land use.[14] This results in a tremendous amount of land-cover change which destroys local ecosystems and displaces people and wildlife. Insect farming is minimally space intensive compared to other conventional livestock,[14] and can even take place in populated urban centers.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Joost,, Van Itterbeeck,; Harmke,, Klunder,; Nations,, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United. Edible insects : future prospects for food and feed security. ISBN 9789251075968. OCLC 893013301.
  2. ^ Martin, Daniella (2011-07-18). "What Do Bugs Taste Like, Anyway?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of entomology. Springer. 2006-01-01. ISBN 0792386701. OCLC 964770230.
  4. ^ name="Huffington Post" title=Here’s Why You Should Start Eating (More) Bugs
  5. ^ Walsh, Bryan (29 May 2008). "Eating Bugs". Time. Archived from the original on 26 September 2012.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ name="Huffington Post" title=Here’s Why You Should Start Eating (More) Bugs
  9. ^ name="Huffington Post" title=Here’s Why You Should Start Eating (More) Bugs
  10. ^ Capinera, John L. (2004). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-8670-1.
  11. ^ name="Huffington Post" title=Here’s Why You Should Start Eating (More) Bugs
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b van Huis, A.; Dicke, M.; Loon, J.J.A. van. "Insects to feed the world". Journal of Insects as Food and Feed. 1 (1): 3–5. doi:10.3920/jiff2015.x002.


See also[edit]