So You Want to Eat Chocolate-covered Bugs…

July 12, 2011

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Secrest Arboretum’s Night Insect Walk this Saturday (7/16) includes a free snack if you want it -- chocolate-covered mealworms.

“They’re fried and are crunchy and of course taste like chocolate,” said event co-organizer Luis Cañas, an associate professor of entomology at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), the arboretum’s home. “The experience is similar to eating chocolate-covered peanuts.”

Cañas said the purpose -- of both the program and odd dessert -- is to teach about insect diversity. Most bugs around us are good, he noted. They’re part of a healthy ecosystem.

And some aren’t just good but good-tasting.

“Insects are eaten in various parts of the world. In some places, they’re considered a delicacy. In Mexico and Guatemala, some very big ants are fried and sold to be eaten. The queens are the ones that are eaten, and they’ve been used for food from before the Spaniards colonized these regions,” Cañas said.

“In South America, also, there are ants that are eaten. There are countries in Asia and Africa as well that use insects as food. So their use is widespread,” he said.

“They’re considered very nutritious food.”

In fact, according to one study, insects can be up to 60 percent protein.

Fueled by that protein or otherwise, the walk goes from 8-10:30 p.m. It starts at the arboretum’s Seaman Orientation Plaza, which is about 1.7 miles from OARDC’s main entrance at 1680 Madison Ave. in Wooster. Signs on campus will direct you there. Admission is free and open to the public.

Scheduled are a bug zoo with live specimens, cockroach races (8:30-8:45 p.m.), “walk like an insect” races (8:45-9:15 p.m.), firefly collecting (9:15-9:45 p.m.), free washable insect tattoos, and, starting at 9:45 p.m., the walk itself. Small guided groups will visit light traps and other attractants on the arboretum grounds for close looks at nighttime bugs: moths, beetles, spiders and more.

The program should be “a lot of fun for kids and their parents,” Cañas said. Insect-focused OARDC scientists and graduate students will lead it.

Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes, and bring a flashlight and collection jar if you can.

For more information, call 330-263-3818. Call ahead, too, if the weather looks iffy. The rain date is the next day, July 17, at the same time and place.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Cañas holds an appointment as well with Ohio State University Extension, which is the college’s statewide outreach arm.

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Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch
Source(s): 
Luis Cañas