Snacking on crickets, caterpillars, termites, and beetles seems like something out of an episode of Bizarre Foods but eating bugs, also called entomophagy, is growing in popularity, according to Change.org. In truth, bug eating is nothing new, but to Westerners it can still make our stomachs a bit unsettled. But insects are good eats in other parts of the world: Filipinos snack on crickets, Columbians like ants, and the Japanese crave wasps and rice.
But it’s not just a taste for the weird that’s changing the tide for bug eating, bugs are naturally nutritious and easy on the planet. Bug eating has minimal impact on the planet because there’s a large population of the little buggers just waiting for the taking. They take no extra energy to cultivate and produce minimal pollution-causing waste. Eating bugs makes the use of pesticides less necessary.
According to an article on Change.org, Arnold van Huis, a consultant to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), recently touted bugs as a nutritious and eco-friendly meal.
But it’s not just their microscopic impact that has bug enthusiasts raving, bugs are loaded with nutrients. According to HowStuffWorks, 100 grams of crickets contains 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 75.8 milligrams of iron, and only 5 gram of carbohydrates. Caterpillars have 28 grams of protein per 100 grams as well as iron, thiamine, and niacin. They have more protein pound per pound then even traditionally healthy foods like fish.
Research carried out at the National Autonomous University of Mexico found that 1,700 species are eaten in at least 113 countries across the world, usually as a substitute for meat. So there are many tastes for the taking. Still not appetizing? Start off with the chocolate covered variety. Mix some salty crickets in with your popcorn, pretzels, or potato chips. But no, I still can’t stomach wasps and rice.
By Peter Loftus
The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to the airline on April 13, saying: “We believe a recurrence is likely without adequate preventive measures in place.” The letter was posted on the FDA website this week.
The FDA conducted an inspection of a Delta aircraft between late January and early February to determine whether it complied with requirements that food-preparation areas remain clean and free from flies, rodents and other vermin.
According to the FDA letter, the agency found numerous “rodent excreta pellets” near areas of the plane where food is prepared by flight personnel. Some of the pellets were located above door panels in the forward galley and above passenger seats.
Another finding cited in the letter: “Rodent excreta pellets (too numerous to count) in three areas in ceiling panels located in the middle cross over galley G2, which is directly over places where food and drinks are stored in the aircraft.” The FDA also found “mammalian urine” on ceiling panels of the plane.
Delta told the agency in late January it was taking actions to exterminate the rodent infestation on the aircraft, according to the FDA letter. But the agency said the Delta response didn’t include actions the airline “is taking to prevent future rodent infestations.”
The agency instructed Delta to take prompt actions to correct the violations. It must respond within 15 working days of receiving the FDA letter, the agency said.
Rodent waste can transmit to humans a virus that causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare but potentially deadly disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a written statement, Delta called the rodent-waste discovery “an isolated incident and we cooperated with the FDA immediately to resolve it earlier this year.” The company said it has an established routine servicing program to inspect its aircraft. Delta said the health and safety of customers and employees are its top priority.
Bugs emerge to bug us, and a few pose health risks
It’s that time of year when the bugs emerge to bug us.
Some can pose real threats — Lyme disease from tiny ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitoes or life-threatening allergic reactions to bee stings. But most bug bites in this country are an itchy nuisance.
How itchy or big the welt depends, in part, on your skin and how much of the chemical histamine it harbors. Yes, some people really are mosquito magnets. And no, most of the bites people blame on spiders aren’t from them at all.
In fact, chances are you won’t be able to tell the culprit unless you catch it in the act. Yet doctors and entomologists alike field calls asking, “What bit me?”
“People call up really bummed out,” says spider expert Jonathan Coddington of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, who points to just two worrisome types in the United States, the black widow and brown recluse family. Spider phobia, he says, is “out of all proportion to actual risk.”
It’s not uncommon to have a large skin reaction to any bite or sting, and Dr. Reid Blackwelder, a family physician from East Tennessee State University, sees a couple of them a week in the early spring and summer.
“Most of the time, what people need is reassurance,” he says.
To explore the most bothersome biters, Coddington offered a behind-the-scenes look at some of the millions of specimens in the Smithsonian’s entomology collections that scientists use to identify and study insects and arachnids.
Mosquito bites probably are the most common. Sure we’ve been told to watch out for them at dusk and dawn. But the Asian tiger mosquito — a fairly recent immigrant that has spread to 30 states since arriving hidden in some tires in Texas — bites all day long. It’s a more aggressive, harder-to-swat version than native species, Coddington says.
If it seems every mosquito is after you, well, there are about 3,500 species around the world and Coddington says most don’t bite humans, preferring other animals instead. But those that do can be attracted by sweat, alcohol, perfumes and dark clothing.
Bedbugs are the latest headline-maker. Scientists can’t explain why they’ve suddenly rebounded in many U.S. cities after all but vanishing during the 1940s and ’50s. But once they’re in a building, they’re famously hard to eradicate. You won’t feel their needlelike bite, but you might see a line of red dots in the morning.
Not so with horse flies and black flies. They cause painful welts, and they’ll chase any blood meal. And yellow jackets may be a bane of summer picnics, but they’re most aggressive in the fall, the reproductive mating season, Coddington notes.
Most people face no risk other than infection from scratching, but there are some important exceptions:
• Blacklegged tick species, commonly called deer ticks, that are as small as poppy seeds can transmit Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 35,000 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme in 2009, the latest data available. These ticks are most active from May through July, and are most common in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and Pacific coast.
If a tick’s been biting for less than 24 hours, chances of infection are small. So do a daily tick check. And the CDC recommends using insect repellent with DEET.
Antibiotics easily cure most people of Lyme. But other than Lyme’s hallmark round, red rash, early symptoms are vague and flulike. People who aren’t treated can develop arthritis, meningitis and some other serious illnesses.
Different tick species across the country can transmit additional diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tickborne relapsing fever and STARI or Southern tick-associated rash illness.
• West Nile virus is the main mosquito concern in the U.S. Although cases have dropped during the last decade, the CDC recorded 45 deaths from West Nile last year. Severe symptoms fortunately are rare but include high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, muscle weakness and paralysis, and the neurological effects sometimes are permanent.
To avoid mosquitoes, the CDC advises wearing insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Empty standing water where mosquitoes breed.
• At least 40 people a year die from allergic reactions to stings from bees or other insects, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Potentially life-threatening reactions occur in fewer than 1 percent of children and 3 percent of adults. But seek care quickly for signs of an emergency, Blackwelder stresses: swelling on the face or neck, shortness of breath or feeling dizzy. People who know they’re allergic should carry an EpiPen.
• Bites from a black widow or brown recluse can require medical care, although fatalities are incredibly rare. You may not feel the black widow’s bite, but within about an hour pain spreads through the abdomen, with cramping or rigid abdominal muscles. Poison centers stock antivenom, but most people do fine with muscle relaxants and other care, says Blackwelder, a spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians. A brown recluse bite eventually forms an ulcerlike lesion that can get fairly large but usually requires just good wound care, he says. But other infections can be mistaken for these bites, so Coddington says bringing in the suspect spider helps identification.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The lack of legal ways to eliminate fish lice is frustrating for goldfish and koi enthusiasts, but a University of Florida study in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health reports that a cure is in the works.
Fish lice, which are actually crustaceans, use their mouths to attach to fish and feed on blood and bodily fluids, causing tissue damage, anemia and sometimes fatal wounds.
Lice infestations are a problem for goldfish and koi owners as well as producers in Florida’s approximately $33 million tropical fish industry. A single pet koi can be valued as much as $100,000, depending on color, pattern and size, and products that keep them healthy are in demand.
Roy Yanong, an extension veterinarian at UF’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin and principal investigator on the study, said there are a few products that control fish lice, but they are either no longer being manufactured or illegal.
“The aquarium fish industry as a whole does not have a lot of legal drugs for use in aquarium fish,” said Yanong, a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “That’s not a very good situation for any livestock or pet to be in where there are diseases that are not actually legally treated.”
In the study, Yanong’s postdoctoral intern, Shari Hanson, tested a medicated feed on goldfish and koi and found the product effectively controlled lice on the fish. The results are being used to support the release of a medicated feed for koi and goldfish lice treatment.
Medicated feed offers an environment-friendly alternative to past methods of fish lice control that required treating water instead of fish.
“The nice thing about having a feed, an oral medication, is that it’s much more targeted and so less drug is needed,” Yanong said. “Fish that are infected will be specifically the fish that are going to be given the drug.”
Joe Pawlak, president of Eustis, Fla.-based Blackwater Creek Koi Farms Inc., said pests such as fish lice and anchor worms can do significant damage. To better compete with international fish importers, he said, Florida producers need to breed the healthiest fish.
“The more therapeutics that we can utilize in ornamental species, the better economic impact we can have in competing against foreign markets where they have a lot better access to treatments,” Pawlak said.
Pet owners and producers can get fish lice and other parasites by bringing contaminated water, objects or fish into their systems. To avert that risk, Pawlak said he employs strict quarantine measures and stopped importing fish nearly a decade ago.
Future research is needed to determine the long-term effectiveness of the medicated feed as well as its effectiveness at controlling anchor worms and other, related parasites, Yanong said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service funded the research.
by Linda Florea
For three years, Tarre Beach had lived in her 6-year-old Ocoee home with confidence in the termite baits the original owner had placed around the house.
Only she didn’t realize the “traps” needed to be checked at least once a year – until she returned home some weeks ago and found insects in the living room.
“I moved the couch and there were a ton of bugs – I didn’t know they were termites,” she recalled recently. “I sprayed along the window sill and outside – they were dying, and I cleaned them up, but more came out. They filled up about a 6-foot windowsill completely.”
Ideal conditions have triggered an unusual number of early-season termite “swarms” this year in Central Florida after several years of relative peace. Even during an average year, Florida’s climate is an ideal incubator for termites, which is why it’s one of the top U.S. states for infestations.
Roberto Pereira, an associate research scientist at the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, said this year’s quick post-winter warm-up and heavy March rains are to blame for the surge in swarms. Among those hit: the institute’s building in Gainesville.
“Swarms have to have the right temperature at the right time,” Pereira said. “This year we did have the right combination.”
“In the last few years, there have been a lot less in terms of swarms than normal,” he added, in part because of drought conditions at the time. Pest-control operators complained about the dearth of business during the February and March swarming season for “native” subterranean termites, one of three types active in Central Florida.
But this year, swarm reports for native subterraneans were up about 50 percent, said Brian Keane, branch manager for the Terminex International Co. branch in Orlando.
“This is a real problem, and I think a lot of people take it lightly,” Keane said. “People tend to see a swarm in their house and don’t see the damage and kill the swarm and think they’re safe. Meanwhile, [termite] workers are behind the drywall tearing down their house. They don’t sleep, and they eat around the clock.”
The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites cause $5 billion in damage a year across the country. In Central Florida, the native subterranean usually swarms in February and March, during the day and usually after a rain; the Formosan subterranean, an invasive species referred to as a “super termite,” swarms on hot, humid evenings from April through May; and the drywood termite, which lives above ground and doesn’t need moisture but is not as prevalent as the subterranean, swarms in the evenings in May and June.
So is your home protected?
Gary Stanford, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which oversees pest-control operators, says the agency recommends that every home have a termite contract – preferably one with coverage that pays for any retreatments or repairs that may be required and covers subterranean and drywood termites.
Building codes require that a home be treated before a slab is poured, either with chemicals in the ground or bait stations in the topsoil for subterranean termites, but it’s up to the homeowner to extend that initial protection with something such as a termite contract.
When purchasing a previously owned home, the buyer should ask the seller for an active, assumable termite contract with a guarantee to keep the house termite-free or to re-treat and repair any damage. If such a contract isn’t in force at the time of the sale, the buyer should require a termite inspection and some form of treatment, along with a new contract.
Homeowners should obtain price quotes from several licensed companies before choosing one. Owners can check for problems with a pest-control operator by calling the Agriculture Department in Tallahassee at 850-617-7997.