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Welcome to the Creepy-Crawly Cafe!

by Elizabeth Schleichert

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No way you'd ever scarf down an insect, you say? Well, chew on this fact: In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, two and a half BILLION people regularly do just that. The Japanese often snack on fried grasshoppers. And in Columbia, South America, people toss down ants like popcorn. Besides, you already are eating insects—withouth even realizing it! That's because it's nearly impossible to keep tiny bugs out of many foods. So the government allows small bits of them in peanut butter, chocolate, and pepper, for example.

Why choose to eat insects? First, they're easy to find and catch. Worldwide, there are at least 1,000 species of edible insects, as well as some spiders and scorpions.

Second, insects are good for you—rich in nutrients and protein. And, compared to meat, bugs are low in the kinds of fats that can be bad for you.

Third, once you get past the "icky" part, many insects are delicious. As one expert says, "If people can have an open mind, it's amazing how good insects can taste."

Finally, eating bugs can be good for the environment. Keeping (or catching) insects doesn't require much, if any, land, water, or food. But raising livestock, such as cattle and sheep, takes up vast amounts of land, water, and food.

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FOOD SHOPPING
Especially in warm, tropical places, insects are everywhere—all year long. There's no need to BUY them. People just step outside and go hunting. Kids often enjoy snagging some.

But if you're interested in trying this yourself, your backyard isn't the right place to start. That's because you need to know exactly what insects are OK to eat. Some may be poisonous, for instance. It's better to try bug-eating at special nature programs or at restaurants that feature this kind of thing.

LEAF NET: In South America, the boys above nabbed grasshoppers with leafy branches before bringing them home to eat.

SAP TRAP: The Indonesian girl above right used a stick dipped in sticky sap to trap dragonfiles.

BRING ON THE GRUB: A girl in Papua New Guinea admires some freshly roasted grubs. She and her family scooped them out of a rotted palm tree (top right photo).

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DOUBLE DARE: A butterfly-faced girl at an insect festival in the Netherlands tries a mouthful of mealworms, as her giggling girlfriend looks on (above).

JOIN THE SWARM!
In the United States and Europe—where insects are not mealtime favorites—some kids are getting in the act. They're taking buggy bites at nature centers and festivals.

"Once people try bug-eating, they realize it's not as scary as they thought," says one expert.

Now that you've gotten your feelers into insect-eating, are you ready to pass the mealworms? If so, Bug Appetit! 

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