Coleoptera Beetles Weevils

Family Curculionidae (Snout Beetles, Weevils)

The larvae of palm weevils, several species of Rhynchophorus, also called palm worms, are widely eaten and greatly esteemed.

A modern cookbook on Cameroon cuisine includes a recipe describing "coconut larvae" as "a favorite dish offered only to good friends." The major species are Rhynchophorus palmarum in the Western Hemisphere, R. phoenicis in Africa, and R. ferrugineus and R. bilineatus in southeastern Asia, Indonesia, and the western Pacific. All of these species have long been semicultivated or "farmed" by indigenous peoples and are excellent examples of how harvests of edible insects from natural populations can be increased by intentional creation of additional breeding sites. Cultivation consists basically of cutting down palms and leaving the logs in the forest with the expectation that larvae will be ready to harvest from the decaying pith 1 to 3 months later. The flavor of the sago grub (R. ferrugineus papuanus) in Papua New Guinea has been described as "tender and sweet with a slightly nutty flavor." The insect not only sells regularly in local food markets and is bought by foreigners as well as Papua New Guineans, it also is the focus of annual "grub festivals."

Palm weevils are also destructive pests of palms and, in the Western Hemisphere, are vectors of the nematode Bursaphelenchus cocophilus, the causal agent of red-ring disease. Although insecticides have been used in attempts to control the weevils, emphasis is on cultural methods. With the palm worms considered such a delicacy, it has been suggested it might be possible to combine increased production with more efficient recycling of dead and diseased palms and as part of reduced-pesticide integrated pest management (IPM) programs and disease control on coconut and other palms.

Family Scarabaeidae (June Beetles, Dung Beetles, Rhinoceros Beetles)

Of the several edible groups within this family, the most interesting is probably the subfamily Dynastinae or giant rhinoceros beetles, particularly the genus Oryctes. Three species, including two that breed mainly in dead standing palms, are eaten in Africa, whereas Oryctes rhinoceros is a major pest of palm in Asia and the western Pacific. Main hosts of the adult beetles are coconut, oil, and date palms, whereas the larvae live in a variety of dead but not yet decomposed plant material, including dead standing coconut palms, stumps and logs on the ground, and other types of decaying wood, as well as compost, dung heaps, rotting straw, rotting coconut husks, coffee and cacao pulp waste, refuse from sugar cane factories, ricemills, and sawmills, and other wastes from agricultural processing. Control of rhinoceros beetles is based on sanitation and cultural practices similar to those recommended for Rhynchophorus weevils, suggesting that Oryctes might also be incorporated into palm IPM programs, recycling an endless variety of tropical wastes into animal protein and fat.

Family Cerambycidae (Longhorned Beetles)

In this family, it is the larvae, primarily, that are used as food. They are wood borers in both living and dead trees and in logs and stumps. They have long life cycles, a year or more, so would not be good candidates for mass-rearing under controlled conditions. A major genus, with edible species, is Batocera in Asia.

Family Tenebrionidae (Darkling Beetles)

Tenebrionids have a bad reputation as pests of meal, flour, and other stored and packaged cereal foods, but, despite this, the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio molitor, has been reared by zoos, aquaria, and commercial dealers as food for birds, fish, and a variety of small animals since at least the 18 th century. Their easy availability makes them one of the insects most commonly recommended for inclusion in recipes in the West. There is a problem of quinone contamination in some tenebrionid-infested food products, but this appears to be much less a problem in T. molitor than in species of the genus Tribolium.

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