tampabay.com

Jiminy Cricket! Insects are nutritious

Bugs, which are standard fare in other countries, will be on the menu during programs at two nature preserves.

By JANET ZINK
Published August 18, 2005


Termites are high in iron.

Grasshoppers? Packed with protein.

And crickets, with their high calcium content, could stave off osteoporosis.

That's the sort of useful stuff people can glean from presentations Saturday at two local nature preserves, where refreshments will include Cricket Lick-It lollipops, chocolate-covered crickets and cheddar cheese-flavored meal worms, called Larvets.

Feeling squeamish?

Well, in places like Mexico, Asia and Africa, bugs are standard fare, said Debbie Fritz-Quincy, who will lead the workshops at the Weedon Island and Brooker Creek preserves.

"Somebody there might think something we eat is gross," she said. "Like hot dogs."

And even Americans who aren't contestants on Fear Factor and Survivor ingest insects on a regular basis, she said, because the Food and Drug Administration allows small amounts of bug parts in packaged food.

"The estimate is that you and I eat about a pound of insect parts every year," said Fritz-Quincy, director of the Hobe Sound Nature Center north of West Palm Beach.

She doesn't recommend rushing out to the back yard to gather grasshoppers for dinner.

"You don't know where your bugs have been," she said. "Maybe you don't use pesticides, but what about your neighbor?"

The bugs she serves come from people who raise chemical-free insects for specialty food or for sale to owners of hungry lizards and frogs.

Nonetheless, in a pinch, knowing what bugs to munch could be useful.

"If you were starving in the woods, this workshop would give you ideas on what you would do, what not to do," she said. Don't, for example, eat a raw bug. Don't eat a bug that feeds on dung.

In general, she said, green, black and brown bugs taste good. Red, orange and yellow insects, not so good.

And everything, she said, tastes good covered in chocolate.

Jennifer Moore, environmental educator at Weedon Island, once sampled a cricket lollipop. She describes the insect center as "crunchy and salty."

So how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Cricket Lick-It? "I don't know," she said. "I always crunch the sucker."

INTERESTED IN A TASTE TEST?

Workshops are scheduled for 10 to 11 a.m. at the Weedon Island Preserve and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Brooker Creek Preserve. Sign up by calling Weedon Island at (727) 453-6500 or Brooker Creek at (727) 453-6800.

Admission is $6.