Reduce greenhouse gases by eating insects?

Instead of shooing away or squashing those pesky bugs around your home, you could be collecting them as a "greener" food source.

Other countries have been engaging in entomophagy (a fancy word for "eating bugs") for centuries: — caterpillars, larvae, grasshopper and crickets are popular food sources in parts of Africa, Japan and Mexico. Insects provide a source of protein and they require a small amount of resources to raise.

Dennis Oonincx, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and his fellow researchers have been comparing the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle and pigs to that of five species of insects.

"The suggestion that insects would be more efficient has been around for quite some time," said Oonincx, and the results are,"really are quite hopeful."

Oonincx compared existing data on the emissions of carbon dioxide and ammonia (a pollutant) of pigs and cattle to that of mealworms, house crickets, migratory locusts, sun beetles and Argentine cockroaches. He found that the insects produced less methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia both per unit of body mass and per unit of mass gained than pigs or cattle.

Greenwala writes:

Cattle produced the least carbon dioxide per unit of body mass. However, the picture changed once growth rate was considered. The data indicated that insects grow more rapidly, and they emit less carbon dioxide per unit of weight gained than do cattle and pigs. The cockroach was the clear winner in this latter category; meanwhile, cattle produced the most carbon dioxide per pound (or kilogram) gained.

"It proves the hypothesis that insects can be a more efficient source [of protein], and I definitely believe there is a future for edible insects," said Oonincx. "It may not be as the animal as such, but regarding protein extraction there is a lot to be learned and a lot to be gained."

Read more here from Greenwala.

Information via Greenwala; photo via pbs.org