Feasting on insects


Kenichi Nonaka, Department of Geography, Rikkyo University, 3-34-1 Nishi-Ikebukuro Toshima, Tokyo 171-8501, Japan. Email: nonaka@rikkyo.ac.jp


Insects are an important natural resource, both for self-sufficiency and as commercial food products in many parts of the world. The use of edible insects reflects regional preferences and socio-cultural significance, which can be described in terms of regional differences. This study describes some edible insects in three regions: Japan, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa, and focuses on systems of traditional practices as the socio-cultural implications of people's preferences regarding edible insects. The case studies presented here describe such insect-related customs as the continuation of the traditional practice of insect eating in Japan, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa. These case studies describe the uniqueness or special characteristics of the custom, and the significance of its existence in the social sphere. Edible insects are regarded as cultural resources reflecting a rich biodiversity. They represent an alternative source of natural food resources in remote or mountainous areas. People who eat insects have established a broad variety of methods for collecting and cooking the rich diversity of edible insect species that are available. However, increases in demand could lead to competition and overexploitation, resulting in the future decline of these resources. In areas affected by overdevelopment, insect habitats are also likely to decline. It is necessary to raise people's awareness of the importance of the use of insects for food in order to ensure that insects are used in a sustainable manner, and to promote their proper use and conservation.