Grasshoppers Anyone?

The Masaka area in southern Uganda is a major grasshopper harvesting area.  Grasshoppers are to Ugandans what snails (escargot) are to the French:  a delicacy.

Grasshopper harvesting is a very interesting activity.  It is done at night, and the harvesting areas remind me a little of what hell might be like (if I believed in hell).  There are lights to attract the grasshoppers (I suspect the wiring is subcode), smoke to disorient them, corregate metal panels to direct them (using gravity) to open-topped, 55-gallon rusting drums.  The latter are used to collect and store the little green devils.

After they are collected, their legs and wings are removed, and they are then fried and sold by street vendors.  Yum, Yum.

One day in Masaka, a member of our group bought a bag of grasshoppers and gave them to the cook at our hotel to prepare.  They were served with our evening meal.  While most of us only tasted the “delicacy,” the hotel owner came over and ate the majority of the grasshoppers using both hands.  What was left over, was given to the waitresses.

A Delicious Plate of Grasshoppers (Photograph Thanks to Jeremiah Stettler

There are multiple benefits to eating grasshoppers.  You get rid of pests, and at the same time, diversify your diet.

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15 Responses to Grasshoppers Anyone?

  1. roger hansen says:

    The following two letters appeared in NG (Jan 2011) about eating insects:

    “Your article detailing promotion of insects as a worldwide food source by FAO is a disgusting example of the demagoguery fueled by globalism. Most societies where people already consume insects are either impoverished or composed of indigenous people, and to expect developed nations to embrace such a concept is outrageous. Insects are food for birds, reptiles, and fish, not humans! Call me closed-minded; I’ll keep my red meat, pork, chicken, and wild-caught fish.” Gregory Zoll, West Park, Florida.

    “When I did a research report on farming and consuming insects for a high school program, I was stunned at how little information I could find on the topic. But China already uses insects to feed fish, poultry, pigs, and even mink. I myself have eaten crispy, deep-fried silkworm pupae in Beijing, and I can testify that Western culture is missing out on something very tasty (and low fat). I’m glad the UN is finally catching on to something that already sustains millions around the world and could feed many more.” Jason Chen, Wexford, Pennsylvania

  2. roger hansen says:

    Title: “Commercialization of Ruspolia nitidula in central Uganda”
    in African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, Sept, 2008 by Jacob Godfrey Agea, Dickson Biryomumaisho, Mukadasi Buyinza, Gorettie Nsubuga Nabanoga


    Trade in Ruspolia nitidula commonly known as grasshopper and locally known, as Nsenene is becoming a valuable source of income for many poor people in central Uganda, which although modest in terms of monetary value, could nonetheless form a significant proportion of their annual income. Though eaten by a large proportion of the population in the central Uganda, there is much less documented information on its commercialization and income potential. A study was, therefore, conducted to document consumers’ perceptions about eating these R. nitidula; marketing chain, market locations, and the people trading in R. nitidula; the average price, income generated and the challenges and opportunities for marketing it in central Uganda. Two divisions (Central and Kawempe) of Kampala City and one sub-county (Nyendo-Ssenyange) of Masaka district with high concentration of R. nitidula business were surveyed. Seventy R. nitidula traders and 70 consumers were interviewed. Data were edited, coded, entered and analyzed using Statistical Packake for Social Sciences (SPSS). Results show that R. nitidula is a delicacy and cultural food eaten by the majority of the people in central Uganda. The average retail price per kilogram of R. nitidula was Uganda shillings 5,000 ([approximately equal to] $2.80), which compares favourably with that of goat meat, which retails at approximately Uganda shillings 4,000 (approximately equal to] US $2.13) per kilogram in Kampala districts. The trade was dominated by men and characterized by wholesalers who buy R. nitidula from collectors and sell to retailers. The average price per kilogram of R. nitidula increases from collectors to wholesale traders and to retailers. Collectors charged the lowest price although their profit margins remained the highest. Several barriers, such as high market dues, hamper the trade in R. nitidula. There is a need to streamline the trade in R. nitidula so as to protect traders from high taxation by the market administrators. The possibility of adding value to the R. nitidula should be investigated because it is mainly being sold in fresh form and yet it has a short shelf life.


    Insects are good source of protein, with high fat contents (and thus energy) and many important minerals and vitamins [1]. Malaisse gives a good overview of the nutritional values of various caterpillar species and confirms scientifically what local people knew empirically [2]. The average percentage of proteins and fat as well as the average energy value of 24 investigated fresh caterpillar species was found to be 63.5 [ or -] 9.0 % for proteins and 15.7 [ or -] 6.3 % for fat. This results in an energy value of 457 [ or -] 32 kcal per 100 g (numbers based on dry matter). Compared to meat or fish, caterpillars have higher protein and fat contents and provide more energy per unit. Depending on the species, caterpillars were reported to be rich in different minerals (e.g. K, Ca, Mg, Zn, P, Fe) and/or vitamins (e.g. thiamine/B1, riboflavin/B2, pyridoxine/B6, pantothenic acid, niacin). Research shows that 100 g of cooked insects provide more than 100 % of the daily requirements of the respective contained vitamins/minerals [1]. Malaisse reveals that consumption of 50 g dried caterpillars meets the daily human requirements of riboflavin and pantothenic acid as well as 30 %of the requirement of niacin [2]. There has been increased interest by scientists and governments in some countries in recent years in harvesting insects as food and for sale. In 1983, farmers in Thailand began collecting grasshoppers for sale. Grasshoppers rose in price from US $0.12 per kg in 1983 to US $2.80 per kg in 1992 [3]. A small farmer could earn up to US $120 per half acre–twice as much as he could from corn and the trade in grasshoppers averages about US $6 million per year. During recent grasshopper outbreaks in southern Mexico, an extension specialist from Mexico City demonstrated grasshopper recipes [4], and freshly-prepared Sphenarium could be purchased in local markets for 4000 pesos, or about US $1.25 per 454 g. The grasshoppers are collected in sweep nets and placed in water for 24 h. After being drained, they are placed in boiling water for 30 min with added salt and garlic.

    In Africa, the consumption of insects is part of the tradition of many communities, with many species being consumed either as delicacies or as important components of the daily diet [5]. Eating insects is particularly more important in Africa due to necessity than to choice because the climate and small-scale nature of animal husbandry reduces the amount of animal protein and the diet has to be broadened to include insects [6]. In addition, the consumption of insects is not only a coping strategy in times of food crisis but as the explorer-missionary David Livingstone noted, insects, such as termites and grasshoppers, were often regarded as a favoured delicacy by many African tribes [7]. Banjo et al [8] also reported that some of these insects which are even regarded as pests such as termites also have high nutritional qualities. Owen noted that in Uganda, the insect species used as food are those that are seasonally abundant, and that people who are no longer dependent on wild foods still collect insects [9]. Widely eaten insects in Uganda include termites, crickets and cone-headed grasshoppers (Ruspolia nitidula).

  3. roger hansen says:

    Previous article continued:

    The cone-headed grasshoppers (Ruspolia nitidula) occur in immense swarms with the onset of the rains [10]. In Central Uganda, the species is locally known as R. nitidula and the Abdim’s stork (Ciconia abdimii) as the R. nitidula-bird because it tends to follow the swarms. Flights of the birds’ (Ciconia abdimii) herald arrival of the R. nitidula [9]. These birds (Ciconia abdimii) migrate north from about November to March, passing through east Africa during the heaviest rains, and they end up in north Africa in April or May when the rains come there. The arrival of the storks with the rains has led to native folklore giving it the title of rain-bringer, in an area where the people depend on the rains for the success of their crops. Superstition demands that the bird be free from any type of disturbance. There is little information on the commercialization and income potential of R. nitidula. There is also a dearth of information about consumers’ perceptions and actors involved in the R. nitidula trade. This study assessed consumers’ perceptions about eating R. nitidula; marketing chain, market locations and the main actors involve in the trade; the average price and income generated from the trade in the local markets; and the challenges and opportunities for involved marketing R. nitidula in central Uganda. The potential for generating revenue for local and central government and incomes for the poor people justifies this study.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    The following is a quote from Yfur Porsche Fernandez on

    “Population booms remain a phenomenon in many parts of the world. One of its repercussions is the decline in possible food sources. Being one of the basic needs for humans to survive, studies which probe other possible food substitutes have increased over the past years.

    In September 2010, the National Geographic (Health, Vol. 218, No. 3) included a feature on insects that can be eaten by the increasing global population. The UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO) has an initiative to create a policy that will endorse “insects as food worldwide.”

    Food Security Issue

    The World Health Organization defines food security as “existing when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” The organization stresses that food security also includes “both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences.”

    In response to the pressing problems of food security, FAO says insect farming is a possible solution. In an article by Jennifer S. Holland entitled Crawly Cuisine (National Geographic, Vol. 218, No. 3, September 2010), she writes, “the FAO sees insects as a move toward food security – a subject for its upcoming conference on entomophagy, the practice of insect eating.”

    Insects to the Human Diet

    Yes, they now recognize the contributions of forest insects to the human diet. Aside from insects’ nutritional value, insects can be farmed easily and may only require a lesser amount of land when compared to raising poultry, piggery and other traditional food sources.

    In an article entitled Beastly Bugs or Edible Delicacies (published February 2008, accessed August 2010), the FAO Newsroom reports insects as human foods are highly nutritious. “Some insects have as much protein as meat and fish. In dried form, insects have often twice the protein of fresh raw meat and fish, but usually not more than dried or grilled meat and fish.”

    Nutrition Facts of Edible Insects

    With the base measurement of 100 grams per serving, the giant water bug leads the list of insects with the most nutritional value. The bug contains 19.8 grams of protein, 8.3 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of carbohydrate, 43.5 milligrams of calcium and 13.6 milligrams of iron.

    Meanwhile, a serving of small grasshoppers may offer as much as the same protein values as regular ground beef. Red ant eggs may provide 6.5 grams of carbohydrate while crickets may dish out 76 milligrams of calcium per serving. A congregation of data collected by Florence Dunkel and May Berenbaum reveals the “nutritional value of various insects per 100 grams,” which is presented in a tabulated form.”

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    According to Sharon Guynup and Nicolas Ruggia (, 15 July 2004):

    “The ancient Romans and Greeks dined on insects. Pliny, the first-century Roman scholar and author of Historia Naturalis, wrote that Roman aristocrats loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine.

    Aristotle, the fourth-century Greek philosopher and scientist, described in his writings the ideal time to harvest cicadas: “The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat, but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs.”

    The Old Testament encouraged Christians and Jews to consume locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers. St. John the Baptist is said to have survived on locusts and honey when he lived in the desert.

    In the mid-19th century Maj. Howard Egan, a superintendent of the Pony Express in Nevada, observed a Paiute Indian hunt where the quarry was neither bison nor rabbit, but rather the wingless Mormon cricket.

    Major Egan later described how the Paiute dug a series of large trenches, covered them with straw, then drove hordes of crickets into the excavated trap. The Indians set the straw on fire, burning the crickets alive.

    Paiute women then gathered bushels of the charred bugs and brought them back to camp to make flour for bread—an important seasonal source of protein.

    Insect Cuisine

    Many types of insects appear on menus today. Bugs remain a traditional food in many cultures across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, DeFoliart said.

    In Ghana during the spring rains, winged termites are collected and fried, roasted, or made into bread. In South Africa the insects are eaten with cornmeal porridge.

    In China beekeepers are considered virile, because they regularly eat larvae from their beehives.

    Gourmands in Japan savor aquatic fly larvae sautéed in sugar and soy sauce. De-winged dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger and garlic are a delicacy in Bali.

    Grubs are savored in New Guinea and aboriginal Australia. In Latin America cicadas, fire-roasted tarantulas, and ants are prevalent in traditional dishes. One of the most famous culinary insects, the agave worm, is eaten on tortillas and placed in bottles of mezcal liquor in Mexico.”

  6. roger hansen says:

    According to Jennifer S. Holland writing in NG (Nov 2010) in a short article called “Crawly Cuisine”:

    “Don’t bug out, but the FAO is working on a policy to promote insects as food worldwide. Turns out beetles, crickets, and many other types are rather nutritious. A serving of small grasshoppers, for instance, packs nearly the same protein punch as ground beef. And insects can be farmed more cheaply and on much less land. At least a thousand species are already part of the human diet: Mexicans liquefy stinkbugs for sauces. Thais deep-fry giant water bugs, and Australian Aobrigines chew ants that have a lemony flavor.

    As the global population nears seven billion, the FAO sees insect farming as a move toward food security–a subject for its upcoming conference on entomophagy, the practice of insect eating. Getting skittish diners in the West to swallow this idea poses the biggest challenge, said entomologist Gene DeFoliart, who has a penchant for termites. “It’s time to take this seriously,” he says. Once we do, a fly in your soup could come with the chef’s compliments.”

  7. roger hansen says:

    From NG (Nov 2010) concerning the nutritional aspects of eating small grasshoppers (100 grams):

    Calories: 153
    Total Fat: 6.1 g
    Phosphorous: 238 mg
    Iron: 5 mg
    Calcium: 35 mg
    Carbohydrate: 3.5 mg
    Protein: 20.6 g

  8. susan says:

    By writing this article with 7 comments, it takes that many words to justify eating a grasshopper? You could write the article twice as long, you could twist my arm, you could give me $100 cash (or more) and I’m still not eating a grasshopper, lol.

  9. rogerdhansen says:

    My father, R. Gaurth Hansen, gave the following response in the “New Era,” Sep 72, p. 28, in an article titled: “A Conversation with Gaurth Hansen on Diet, Foods, and Nutrition”:

    Question: If you have to be so careful at the grocery store in choosing what you buy, how did John the Baptist ever survive on wild locusts and honey?

    Answer: You can get the required nutrients from a number of sources. Honey is a good one. It is high in calories, and it contains some important nutrients. Insects are not bad; many cultures have adapted themselves to eating insects. That makes more sense nutritionally than it does aesthetically! No matter what culture you live in, you can get good sound nutrition by choosing a wide variety of foods. To me, this is the most important thing we have discussed.

  10. roger hansen says:

    Robert Kirby in his column in the Sunday SLTrib (8 Jan 2011) :

    ” . . . I’m not sure the biblical diet would put me in a more spiritual frame of mind.

    If all I had for breakfast was an ounce of millet husks, a locust and a dab of honeycomb, chances are I’d be pretty irritable. . . “

  11. Kevin Greer says:

    Humans possess the enzymes necessary to digest the exoskeletons of insects. This means that we evolved to eat them. BTW, we don’t possess the enzymes necessary to digest the phytates in grains (unlike chickens which do), so the reader above who suggested that we should be saving the bugs for the livestock, perhaps had it reverse and we should be giving the livestock the grains and eating the insects ourselves.

  12. rogerdhansen says:

    According to the “Smithsonian” magazine (Dec 2010) in an article about orangutans:

    ” . . . with DNA that is 97 percent the same as ours . . . ”

    “Galdikas (who runs an orangutan rehab center in southern Borneo) has catalogued about 400 types of fruit, flowers, bark, leaves and insects that wild orangutans eat. They even like termites. . .”

  13. rogerdhansen says:

    According to Nigel Holmes writing in the NG (May 2011):

    “There will soon be seven billion humans on the Earth, but how does that number compare to other species on the planet? We are certainly outnumbered by ants. Harvard biologist and ant expert Edward O. Wilson has estimated that there are a thousand trillion to ten thousand trillion ants at any one time (And they’re edible. Ants are a good source of protein and are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.) That would be about a million ants for every one of us. And doesn’t it seem like that when they invade our kitchens?”

  14. roger hansen says:

    The most infamous bug eaters in the Star Trek franchize were the Ferengi. According,

    “That a Ferengi would in the first instance associate insects with food is amusingly illustrated in [DS9: Second Sight] when the human youth Jake Sisko tells his best friend, the young Ferengi male named Nog, that his girlfriend Mardah is studying entomology:

    Nog: “What is entomology?”
    Jake: “The study of bugs.”
    Nog: “Oh, you mean she wants to be a chef!”

    . . . the Ferengi diet includes numerous insectoid foodstuffs eg. for breakfast puree of beetle, Slug-o-cola, and the delicacy tube grubs (eaten alive). . . “

  15. Pingback: Which Bugs Should You Eat? | Tired Road Warrior

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