Two billion people in cultures around the world include insects as a part of their diet, and there are lots of stories about it in the news right now. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has recently recommended that we eat more insects, National Geographic recommends 8 bugs to try, this Washington Post video profiles a D.C. resident that cooks and eats cicadas, BBC News has a video about how insect-farming can combat hunger, and The Guardian has reported on what a healthy and sustainable food source they are:
The cost of meat is rising, not just in terms of hard cash but also in terms of the amount of rainforest that is destroyed for grazing or to grow feedstuff for cattle. There is also the issue of methane excreted by cows. The livestock farming contribution in terms of greenhouse gas emissions is enormous – 35% of the planet’s methane, 65% of its nitrous oxide and 9% of the carbon dioxide.
Edible insects emit fewer gases, contain high-quality protein, vitamins and amino acids, and have a high food conversion rate, needing a quarter of the food intake of sheep, and half of pigs and chickens, to produce the same amount of protein. They emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than cows and can be grown on organic waste.
In the KQED Quest video above, meet Monica Martinez, a San Francisco artist and proprietor of Don Bugito, the nation’s first edible insect food cart.
Amazing Cicada Life Cycle, presented (and bewitched) by the amazing Sir David Attenborough in this clip from the BBC’s Life in the Undergrowth.
“Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground 8” down is a steady 64°F,” reports Radiolab in this excellent Cicada Tracker DIY project page. And why 17 years underground? From Scientific American:
The curious phenomenon of the cicada’s periodical life cycle is the subject of much debate among scientists, who are limited to no small extent by the infrequency of the insect’s visits to the surface. Most agree, however, that climate shifts — notably the rapid warming following the end of the last ice age — have played a role.
There are seven species of periodical cicadas in North America, four bound to a 13-year cycle, three in a 17-year cycle. All are characterized by black and orange bodies, and males woo their mates with species-specific choruses that can be deafening in large numbers.
The genetic similarity of these seven species suggests a common ancestor in the last 8,000 years. And because emergence seems closely linked to soil temperature and moisture, it is likely that climate has played a role in both regulating their life cycles and cueing their appearance.
Cicadas don’t sting or bite. After a few weeks making noise up in the trees (measured at 94 decibles), eggs will be laid and will hatch. After feeding on sap, these hatchlings will drop down to burrow and live underground, next seen in the year 2030.
Part one of the award-winning nature film Microcosmos: Le peuple de l’herbe, directed by French biologists Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou.
One hour and fifteen minutes on an unknown planet: Earth, rediscovered on a scale of centimetres. The inhabitants are incredible creatures: insects and other animals living in the grass and in the water. The landscape: impenetrable forest, tufts of grass, drops of dew as big as balloons… A land where the animals walk on water, stroll with their head down and fall without fear from over a hundred times their height, slowed down only by the resistance of the air. In this world the hourglass of time moves faster: one hour equals one day, one day equals one season, one season equals one lifetime. This is a voyage from the inside, leading the spectator to the heart of the action, as though he/she was the size of an insect. In making the spectator forget their human condition - within the framework of film - he/she can better delve into this marvellous reality, normally inaccessible.
The kid should also see part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6. And/or find it on Amazon.
Stuart Hind, Identification and Advisory Service Manager at the Natural History Museum in London, spends his days identifying the bugs that people bring in to the museum. Jars, match boxes, shoe boxes, and even jewelry boxes have transported creatures to his desk. Often Stuart doesn’t know what kind of insect or arachnid to expect until he peeks inside.
In this video, he introduces a Stag Beetle, a Long-horned Beetle and a Tube Web Spider. You can read more about all three of them at the Natural History Museum’s site.