The Food Insects Research And Development Project At The University of Wisconsin

As there is plenty of space in this first issue of the Newsletter, some of it is used here to describe relevant activities at the University of Wisconsin. It is anticipated that similar profiles on other programs will appear in future issues.

Current research at the UW on the nutritional value of insects began in 1978 with a small project on the protein quality of the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex: Family Tettigoniidae) when fed as the high protein source in broiler chick diets. These studies were later extended to include feeding trials involving weanling rats and the results have been published in a series of papers (DeFoliart et al. 1982, J. Econ. Entomol. 75:848 to 852; Finke etal.1985,Poult. Sci.64:708 to 712; and Finke etal.1987, J. Nutrition 117: 1740 to 1750). The cricket, Acheta domesticus (a real cricket, Family Gryllidae), and several species of lepidopteran larvae were subsequently included in the study’s high protein sources for broilers and/or rats (Landry et al.1986, J. Econ. Entomol.79:600 to 604; Nakagaki et al.1987, Poult. Sci. 66:1367 to 1371; Finke etal.1988 in press). These studies were, of necessity, kept as a small sideline project because of commitments to other research.

What is called the Food Insects Research and Development Project (FIRDP) grew out of the above work. It was organized in 1986 with the goal of bringing about wider recognition of the nutritional importance and unexplored potential of insects as human food and as animal feeds. Despite its long name, the FIRDP is, as yet, little more than a paper organization with a set of objectives. Some areas of interest, among others, are: 1) Development of a stronger global voice of advocacy by establishing better communication and mutual support among scientists and others interested in the human use of insects as food and/or animal feed; 2) Advocacy for stronger support of those in developing countries who are interested in maximizing the nutritional contribution of their indigenous food insect resources; 3) Development of economical mass harvest methods for potential food/feed insects that are attracted to light or to chemically baited traps; 4) Development of controlled mass production of food insects indigenous to developing countries; 5) Development of insect recycling systems to convert organic wastes and underused substances into high protein feed supplements for poultry, swine and pond fish production; 6) Development of mass harvest strategies for migratory locusts, grasshoppers, the Mormon cricket and other major pest species that form destructive aggregations in nature; 7) Education of the American public as to the palatability and nutritional quality of insects and their importance as food in much of the rural developing world; 8) Development, as small farm enterprises, of controlled mass production methods for certain insects as snack items on the U.S. market, 9) Conduct in-depth studies on the food quality

and safety of select insects; and 10) Insects as food for long-term space flight.

Several research projects, some of them cooperative with researchers outside the UW, have been initiated under the above objectives. One tangible educational accomplishment so far is the initial offering this past spring semester of a one credit course, “The Human Use of Insects as Food and as Animal Feed,” here at the UW. Another educational highlight was a series of three seminars presented during a six weeks stay on the Madison campus in 1986 by Dr. Julieta de Conconi who directs the large research program on edible insects at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The seminars proved highly interesting to students. Also visiting from the Mexican program was Mr. Jose Pino in 1987. Both visits were sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The FIRDP has no long-term base funding, but resources include a food insects laboratory in the Department of Entomology and approximately 25 faculty and research staff members in various other university departments who are kept informed as to Project objectives and developments and are available as advisors in their areas of special expertise. They are also potential research collaborators when and as funding opportunities arise.