The Human Use of Insects as a Food Resource

A Bibliographic Account in Progress

Gene R. De Foliart
Professor Emeritus

Department of Entomology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents*


Part I. Introduction, The Western Hemisphere and Europe

Part II. Africa

Part III. Asia, Oceania

Appendix Chapter 1. General Bionomics: Insect Orders and Families With Complete Metamorphosis

Appendix Chapter 2. General Bionomics: Orders and Families With Incomplete Metamorphosis

Appendix Chapter 3. Potential Hazards with Ingestion of Insects

* Chapters for which page numbers are shown are those so far posted.



            Compilation of the papers found here began in 1975 when the author started preparation of a technical paper on a subject he knew nothing about. It was to be delivered on the University of Wisconsin campus as part of what organizers were calling “A Workshop on Unconventional Sources of Protein.” More details about the workshop will be available later in a book I am preparing, titled, “Insects as a Global Food Resource: The History of Talking About it at the University of Wisconsin.”

            During the ensuing 27 years (approximately) pertinent references were gathered in fitful spurts, some in connection with research projects but others simply because they pertained to the broader subject of insects as food. From early on, it seemed that the subject warranted a book-length updating of F.S. Bodenheimer’s classic Insects as Human Food published in 1951.

            Although the goal continued to be eventual publication of a book, the growing assemblage of papers had many immediate uses. It was a resource file not only for research but for a growing outreach effort that included founding The Food Insects Newsletter, introduction of a 1-credit course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, creation of a traveling exhibit for elementary and middle school students, and responding to increasingly frequent invitations to write review articles or to speak on the subject locally or at meetings of professional organizations in this country and abroad. Mentioning all this activity, you may have guessed, is an attempt, a weak attempt, perhaps, to explain how easily one can let year after year slip away without completing a particular major goal – like finishing this book.

            In 1997 though, my wife, Louise, or “Lou,” who was adept on computers, helped me launch an intensive electronic literature search through the University of Wisconsin libraries aimed at pulling in copies of many articles that I had not seen previously. Lou’s sudden death, from cardiac arrhythmia, in February 1998 brought this particular stretch of productivity on the book to an abrupt end. After dealing with a variety of new distractions, like learning how to survive on my own cooking (which became possible, actually, by handouts from friends), I again turned attention to what had by now become THE BOOK, a monstrous piece of unfinished business. Getting it out suddenly seemed a matter of greatest urgency, and I resumed work on it early in 2002. One main concern was that all the effort made to obtain and translate numerous French and Spanish language works on the subject not be wasted by continued delay.

            By this time I had decided to publish the book on the Internet, for two reasons. One, I was thoroughly disgusted with the high price of science books; two, rather than waiting until all the final details were cleared up (which always takes longer than one expects), I could start posting a few chapters at a time, as they become ready. This more informal approach seemed the best way to ensure that the book might actually become useful to somebody, some time, somewhere. For example, I haven’t written Chapter 1, the Introduction, yet. Have you ever seen a book with no Chapter 1? Of course not. Until now. But, with our informal Internet approach, we don’t have to hold up 27 other chapters simply because we lack a Chapter 1. It’s one of the nice things about the electronic age; we can add an Introduction later, when we get around to it.

            In deciding to go with what we have, warts and all, I have tried to provide for future expansion. The title hints at that, “. . . in Progress.” Chapters are numbered independently, each chapter beginning with page 1. Tables are listed for most chapters, but, for now, readers will need to consult the original sources if they wish to see the tabular data (table numbers in the original sources are given). Eventually I hope to find time to seek permission from publishers to include the tabular data here. At the end of the References Cited in most chapters, there are additional references under the heading, “Added References.”  These are references pertinent to the chapter but not cited; it is my hope that soon after we get all existing text online we can start adding abstracts below these titles, and also start adding additional titles. Also, it is my intention, at that time, to invite readers to submit pertinent references of which they are aware but that are not yet listed, and, if possible, to furnish copies (the hills are getting steeper on the UW campus and I no longer have a stable full of young people eager to do legwork to the libraries). We may also be soliciting volunteers willing to translate papers from languages other than English. By then, we might even be soliciting for pertinent photographs, as long as accompanied by adequate data. When the time comes, potential donors should inquire first, before sending material of any kind, in order to avoid duplications. Such inputs from others will be acknowledged, of course, somewhere in the book within a reasonable time.

            There are important papers in the “Added References” sections, and readers should consult them where possible in order to be sure of having completely updated information on a country or region. The 1997 work by F. Malaisse, with chapters on the caterpillars, termites and other edible insects of Congo (Kinshaza) (formerly Zaire) is one good example. The three chapters (pp. 198-242) are also a good example of pages needing translation before this author can proceed with abstracting and future incorporation. Another good example is The Edible Insects of China, by Chen Xiaoming, 181 pp. published in 1999, in Chinese, and fortunately for some of us, with an English abstract. Chen lists 177 edible species, far more than will be found in our text on China. Another important recent source under “Added References” is the 1997 special issue of Ecology of Food and Nutrition, titled Minilivestock, edited by M.G. Paoletti and Sandra G.F. Bukkens, with chapters by various authors on a number of countries. In a chapter on Ecuador, a country for which little information was available previously, G. Onore lists 83 edible insect species.

            Following the section on “Added References” in some chapters is an additional short section titled, “Items Needing Attention.” These are mostly missing bits of information or other problems with the references already included under “References Cited.”  Here again, after all of the chapters are online, we will turn our attention to these “items needing attention.” These are the sorts of dangling details I mentioned above that always take longer to clear up than one expects. Once again, I will probably seek help from readers who have ready access to a particular paper that poses a problem.

            Finally, we welcome input from taxonomists who spot errors in our use of names or who can supply the names of species authors where these are missing. Prof. Robert Jeanne and Steven Krauth, Curator of the Entomology Department Insectarium have supplied names already of authors of some species of Hymenoptera.

            Our first task now is to finish getting the existing chapter texts up on the website. After that is done we can think about how best to handle additional references and other alterations. Maybe, with help from users we can eventually make this a quite complete collection of papers on this important subject.


            Although the main business of my laboratory was medical entomology, many individuals in the lab made a contribution to this project at one time or another, in one way or another. This was especially true of the people holding Specialist or lab assistant positions down through the years, assisting in research, doing library searches, formatting the Newsletter, etc., etc.; chronologically, three of the most involved were Marsha Lisitza, Joyce Keesey, and Catherine Howley. Postdoc Christine Merritt was also of great help, especially in rounding up literature. Howley and Merritt both put in many volunteer hours after my retirement and the termination of my medical entomology program with its associated funding. Graduate student research, of course, yielded pertinent literature. Mark Finke and Barbara Nakagaki earned PhDs, while Stephen Landry and Megha Parajulee took Masters’ degrees on this subject, before continuing on to PhDs in other entomological specialties. Wives of two graduate students made an immense contribution by furnishing translations, Dianne Landry, who is fluent in French, and Heloisa Scholl, fluent in Spanish.

            Moving up to the present time, thanks are due to my son-in-law, David Jansen of Portland, Maine who installed and has maintained this website up to now, with some help on maintenance from his daughter, my granddaughter, Cortney Jansen. I am greatly indebted to two of my Madison neighbors, Laura Herman and Jennifer Stevens, who come to the rescue when I am in trouble on the computer (which is most of the time when I am on the computer). Thanks go to Janet Deutsch, webmaster for the UW Department of Entomology who is helping put this book on the website, and will sometime in the future help shift it to the Entomology Department website or to the General Library System digital collections. I thank Lee Konrad of  the Digital Content Group, General Library System and two members of his group, Jean Gilbertson and Jean Ruenger-Hanson, for valuable discussions on handling this as an on-line work. I am indebted to my Entomology Department colleague, Prof. Robert Jeanne, for establishing the contact with the Digital Content Group.

Gene De Foliart
Madison, Wisconsin
June, 2002
Page last update 9/29/02.