Why raise insects?
People may have all kinds of motives, ranging from simple curiosity to mass production for commercial purposes. Whether you want to raise insects by yourself, as a family, at school or in a laboratory, there are plenty of reasons to do so:
- To learn more about insect biology.
- To see an insect’s larval stages and complete life cycle.
- To learn more about the diet, locomotion, reproduction and life cycle of a particular species.
- To make a group of children responsible for the tasks involved in raising insects (care and feeding, cleaning, etc.).
- To use live examples to illustrate different parts of the school curriculum (characteristics of living creatures, life cycles, etc.).
- To obtain perfect specimens for scientific collections, without having to collect insects from the wild.
- For institutions, to be self-sufficient in terms of the insects they present to the public, without having to collect insects from the wild.
- To raise large numbers of insects for insect tastings.
- To ease people’s fears and phobia by having them handle insects.
- To organize fun activities where people can draw, photograph and observe insects.
- To produce insects for biological pest control of insect pests.
Raising insects as human food
Another excellent reason to raise insects is to produce high-quality and inexpensive protein. While people here are often turned off by the idea of eating insects, it is quite common in many Asian and African countries. Grasshoppers, locusts, ants and caterpillars have been part of peoples’ diets for a very long time, and scientists today say there are many benefits to adding them to the menu.
Kilo for kilo, edible insects are as nutritious as meat, if not more so. In addition, raising these little creatures is more environmentally friendly and less expensive than raising cattle.
There are all kinds of commercial insect raising operations springing up around the world, often at low cost. This helps to improve the availability of nutrients in countries where malnutrition is a problem, while giving a boost to the local economy.
Raising insects made easy
You can make your own “insect farm” with just a few supplies. In general you will need a vivarium, appropriate food and the equipment required to maintain the right temperature, light and humidity. Some insects are easier than others to raise at home or at school. You can buy them from pet stores, catch them outdoors or take part in special activities offered by scientific institutions.
Here are a few tips for raising and observing a variety of insects from different orders:
- House crickets
- Mealworms (darkling beetles)
- Praying mantids
- Monarch butterflies