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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: insects (9)

Bugs for Brunch

Author
by Adrienne Leith
Publish date
28 March 2012
Comments
Comments (5)

Adrienne creates and presents public programs at Melbourne Museum.

What do you eat when you are having bugs for brunch?

Well, scorpions for starters, followed by BBQ-flavoured mealworms. Or perhaps you prefer your mealworms simply roasted with a dipping sauce? And would you like crunchy crickets with that?

A plate of roasted mealworms and crickets. A plate of roasted mealworms and crickets.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

More than 3,000 ethnic groups in 113 countries eat insects and other invertebrates, and in many places they are preferred over beef, pork and lamb. Producing insects generates fewer greenhouse emissions than for other forms of meat production and you get more for the same effort: less feed produces more protein. This means a high-protein and low-fat food source that leaves a smaller environmental footprint. While eating insects makes environmental sense, it's pretty confronting to many of us.

Developed as a children's program for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, the Bugs for Brunch events ran over four days and tickets sold out fast. Surprisingly, there were just as many young adults as children (with their parents) who came along learn about – and taste - edible bugs. They wanted to do something different, something fun, something with their friends and family. But were they ready to eat bugs?

Most declared they were slightly squeamish and only a few had ever eaten a bug. After being shown how many bugs are already in our food, they were even more grossed out.

But with tastes of bug vomit (delicious honeycomb from Mount Dandenong) to sweeten them up, and up close and personal viewings of all kinds of edible bugs from Bogong Moths and bardy grubs to scorpions, grasshoppers and Chilean Rose tarantulas (Grammostola rosea), people's opinions shifted.

Woman holding beetle grub A bardy grub (beetle larva) at Bugs for Brunch.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

After seeing lots of images of people eating bugs, looking through bug recipe books and watching a Pad Thai being made with mealworms, they were ready to eat! Lollypops with bugs in them and mealworm chocolate chip cookies gave them a soft approach to the "whole bug in mouth" experience. But by the end, those roasted toasted whole bug snacks were being scoffed. They couldn't get enough and every plate was empty by the end.

Pad Thai with mealworms. Pad Thai with mealworms.
Image: Tom Pietkiewicz
Source: Umkafoto
 

The Bugs for Brunch program was developed and delivered by Patrick Honan and Rowena Flynn from the museum's Live Exhibits team and Adrienne Leith from Education and Community Programs. The insects at the Bugs for Brunch event came from one of the country's few consumable insect producers and were bred under hygienic conditions that comply with Australian Food Standards.

Links:

Edible Forest Insects, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

A moth flurry on the Murray

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
15 December 2011
Comments
Comments (1)

Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

There was a flurry of excitement among our moth team over the diversity of moths and some exciting new records for the region and state. Members of the Entomological Society of Victoria, Marilyn and Dean Hewish, Grace Lewis, Ken Harris and Josh Grub, set up night light stations with bright mercury vapour lamps in front a large white sheet. They run all night, as different groups of moths arrive at different times of the night. They clocked up over 120 moth species.

Two Neds Corner moths Left:Sceliodes cordalis | Right: A perfectly camouflagued Convolvulus Hawk Moth, Agrius convolvuli.
Image: M. Hewish
Source: M. Hewish
 

There are several theories on why moths come to human light sources. The generally accepted theory is that moths use points of light in the night sky (such as the moon) to orient their flight paths. They keep the brightest light at a particular angle to their flight direction in order to fly straight. As they go past our electric lights they keep turning inwards to maintain the correct angle until they spiral into the porch light or the light station sheets.

The arriving moths came in all shapes and sizes. Two of the weirdest were the Twisted Moth and the plume moths. The Twisted Moth contorts its body as part of its camouflage to look very not-moth-like. The plume moths have long narrow wings with the rear pair hidden under the front pair. They get their name from the feathery tips to their wings.

Two Neds Corner moths Above: Twisted Moth, Circopetes obtusata looks just like a dry eucalyptus leaf. | Below: A plume moth, Stenoptilia zophodactylus
Image: M. Hewish
Source: M. Hewish
 

Colour patterns ranged from the excellent camouflage of the hawk moths that perfectly match the grey tree bark to brightly coloured forms including some with false eye spots, known as ocelli.

Two brightly-coloured Neds Corner moths Two brightly-coloured Neds Corner moths. Left: Pale Spotted Tiger Moth, Amata aperta | Right: Grammodes ocellata with beautiful eye-spots, or ocelli.
Image: M. Hewish | D. Hewish
Source: M. Hewish | D. Hewish
 

The wood moths (family Cossidae) caused the most excitement. These beautiful moths are not particularly common and the three species found included two ornately-patterned species and a third smaller species that is a new record for Victoria. The males of these moths (and many other moth groups) can be recognised by their large feather-like antennae. These are the chemosensory organs of the males, used to 'smell' the pheromones released by the females. By contrast, females have much narrower, less-feathery antennae.

two wood moths Two wood moths. Left: Endoxyla sp. | Right: Endoxyla neuroxantha representing a new Victorian record for this species.
Image: M.Hewish
Source: M. Hewish
 

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Cute creepy crawlies

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
3 December 2011
Comments
Comments (3)

Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

The range of invertebrate animals that we found at Neds Corner was spectacular. At the robust end of the scale were the Rasping Crickets with their big jaws and impressive biting powers. We encountered pairs of these large crickets, the females having the long egg-laying ovipositor off the tip of their tail.

Rasping Cricket Rasping Cricket
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We also found the delicate pottery brood chambers built by potter wasps. They build these perfect small chambers to contain their young and then bring food to the developing grubs.

Potter wasp adult and nest Above: Adult potter wasp | Below: The nest of the potter wasp.
Image: Patrick Honan | Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Grace Lewis from the Entomological Society of Victoria witnessed the life and death tug-of-war between a spider wasp and meat ants over a paralysed wolf spider. The ants won.

Antlion larva and adult Above: Antlion larva in its conical pit | Below: Winged antlion adult
Image: David Paul | Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The ants were not so lucky in the many antlion pits we found scattered in the red sand. Antlions are the juvenile stage of an insect related to the lacewings (order Neuroptera). The young antlions with their big jaws dig a conical pit in the sand and sit in the bottom waiting for ants to slide in. The flying adults were attracted to our night lights. We also saw another related insect known as a mantis fly or mantispid – it has a lacewing body with the attacking front end of a praying mantis.

Mantispid Mantispid or mantis fly
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The centipedes were beautiful and fast, with lots of legs for running. We also found small red-eyed cicadas everywhere and saw them emerge from their wingless cases.

Colourful centipede Colourful centipede
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dr John Stanisic of the Queensland Museum was pleased with his tally of ten land snail species including some of the smallest animals imaginable. Our photographer David Paul has perfected photographing "gliding sand grains".

Tiny land snail Tiny land snail
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Every day we found more radical colours, shapes and sizes amongst the invertebrate fauna than the day before.

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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