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It’s a Sad, Sad World Atlas Moths Live In

When I was on a historical tour in China, I visited an antique silk factory in Fujian, China. Inside, there were swaths of unfinished silk rolls and a small shop selling a multitude of silk products. One of the main attractions was the beauty cocoons, as women grabbed as many as 10 bags while excitedly boasting the cocoons’ anti-aging and skin firming effects. Detailed instructions on using beauty cocoons can be found here.

Silk Beauty Cocoons. Photo Credit: Me!

The Bombyx mori, or the domesticated silkmoth, is part of the order Lepidoptera. Silkworms primarily eat mulberry leaves and their silk cocoons feed the booming demand for silk in the textile manufacturing industry. Perhaps alluded to by the tragic tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, where the gods stained the fruits of mulberry trees red to honor their star-crossed love, the silkmoth is also cursed with an ill-fated life.

Despite their proclaimed skincare benefits, silk beauty cocoons are obtained by boiling the cocoons of silkworms, killing the larvae inside. In fact, even if silkmoth caterpillars are allowed to live past their pupal stage, silkmoths emerge blind and have become so dependent on human captivity that they can no longer fly. However, misery loves company, and the Attacus atlas, better known as the Atlas moth, also succumbs to a similar tragic fate.

The Atlas moth looks like a small bird from the distance, with a record wingspan of 262 mm. The Atlas moth is a Lepidopteran with the largest known wing surface area, though not the longest wing size. While the unbroken white silk of B. mori is highly prized, the light brown silk cocoons of A. atlas is also widely used and harvested. These two types of silk have comparable physical properties, but differ in their chemical composition. The cocoons of A. atlas larvae are composed of broken strands of brown Fagara Silk, a durable silk used in clothing and purses.

Brown Silk Cocoon. Photo Credit:

The A. atlas does not only share its beautiful silk cocoon with the B. mori, as the Atlas moth also lives an unfortunate life. Although the Atlas moth does not emerge from its cocoon blind, its adult form lacks mouthparts, preventing it from eating. Instead, the Atlas moth feeds off its larval fat supply and consequently lives for only 1-2 weeks. Their extremely large size is also a disadvantage, and they must spend their short lifespan evading predators whilst trying to reproduce before they die.

Wingtips of the Atlas moth are similar in appearance to a snake's head. Photo Credit:

Despite the slew of misfortune the Atlas moth faces, they also have heavy defense mechanisms. When in danger, the Atlas moth will drop to the ground and fan its wings, using its wingtips to imitate the appearance of a snake’s head. The A. atlas larvae will also secrete a defensive irritant when its hemolymph pressure increases, as when it is attacked by predatory ants or birds.

Although we can sympathize the plight of the Atlas moth, the parallels between A. atlas and B. mori foreshadow future complications from human interference with insects. Like the harmful domestication effects on the silkmoth, I can only hope the Atlas moth will not meet the same end.

Texas vs. Ants, Who Will Win?!

Picture of a “little black ant”

“We can’t live them; we can’t live without them!” This is probably one of the most appropriate quotes when applied to ants.

This year I live on the 1st floor of Martel, which basically means that my “unofficial” roommates are from the class Insecta.  I have seen my fair share of spiders, dandy long legs, and cockroaches! Well, recently, I have come across the infamous ants!  I was enjoying a nice shower after a long, cold day at school, when, all of a sudden, a line of ants appeared on my shower wall!  Being the irrational coward that I am, I freaked out and ran straight out of the bathroom! Luckily, I didn’t see the ants for a few weeks, but now the ants started reappearing out of nowhere! UGH!

The little black ants that you see around campus are most likely Monomorium minimum.  They are rather harmless and play a huge role in our ecosystem.  They are scavengers that feed on bird droppings, dead insects, and leftover food.  Unfortunately, those aren’t the only insects that inhabit Houston. In fact, there has been an increase in the diversity of ants in Houston!  Particularly, a new invasive species you may know as the “tawny crazy ant” or formerly the “Rasberry crazy ant”, have made its way to Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi! It’s rapidly spreading across the southern region of the United States.

Photos taken by the Joe A. MacGown/Mississippi Entomological Museum

The “tawny crazy ant” is originally from South America, specifically Argentina and southern Brazil.  Due to the increase in trading with South America, a few of these tawny crazy ants were able to get into America.  The scientifically accepted name of the “tawny crazy ant” is Nylanderia fulva and it is known to be the most aggressive invasive species in the world! (You really don’t want to mess around with them) From electrical wires to livestock, they have a niche for everything.  The “tawny crazy ants” damage electrical equipment by forming bridges between the electrical currents, which in turn, causes it to short out.  One good thing about Nylanderia fulva is that they don’t sting.

Photo of a "tawny crazy ant"

The “tawny crazy ant” is successful for multiple reasons.  Firstly, they are highly competitive and adaptive.  They can easily turn foreign land into their home. UT researchers studied the invasion of tawny crazy ants in a fire ant dominated location and saw that the tawny ants were able to completely eliminate the fire ants in that region.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that they have secrete a very potent chemical for defense and offense.  Like other ant species, Nylanderia fulva produces formic acid in their poison glands, but they produce more than two orders of magnitude of formic acid compared to other species. Thus, they can easily kill off other species in the same area, making them a very strong competitor.

 Clearly, this is an issue because the tawny crazy ants are rapidly reducing the diversity and abundance of insects.  In addition, it is very difficult to get rid of these pests! The tawny crazy ants do not readily ingest the poison bait that we often use to control fire ant mounds. They also don’t form the same type of colonies as other ants, making it difficult to kill a population. They take up a large amount of space and they are not particularly organized; they spread out randomly and have loose trails.   

In short, we find ways to stop this invasive species from spreading becaues they are not only harming us, but they are also harming our fellow Earth residents!

Check out this video showing the aggressive behavior of the tawny crazy ants!!

Insects and Cold Temperatures

When I was at home in Dallas over this Thanksgiving breaking, I noticed that the weather was unusually warm, or at least not as cold as other Thanksgiving weekends I have experienced in the past. I also saw an unusually large amount of insects for this time of the year, and I imagine that it is partly because of the unusually warm temperatures.

Having done a bit of research into the matter, it is not surprising, then, that insect abundance and distribution are partly regulated by abiotic factors, chiefly temperature and humidity ( Both of these factors were noticeably well above average for this time of year in Dallas.

A study by E. Muller and E. Obermaier observed the effect of daily exposure to a variety of temperatures on the beetle species Galeruca tanaceti, with results indicating that average temperatures close to or below the developmental threshold retard development and in many cases increase mortality ( I saw an unusual abundance of insects for the time of year, but the insects did not look very healthy at all. I hypothesize that this warm front ‘tricked’ the insects into thinking that spring was already here, and the lack of consistent, sustained warm temperatures along with predictable undernourishment caused the larvae to result in unhealthy adults.

Another study led by E. Penarrubia-Maria explored how long into winter the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, would persist. Results indicated that this species of insect was unable to withstand temperatures once they dropped below freezing ( I find it fascinating that the presence of insects in the later months of fall can be used to determine how cold of a fall a habitat endured, even if one has not even been in the habitat. Based off of my observations, I can predict with confidence that Dallas has had a warmer fall than usual with temperatures failing to fall below freezing. I checked a history of Dallas weather, and I was almost right. The temperatures had fallen below freezing only once ( Ceratitis capitata, the model insect used in the study by Penarrubia-Maria, thus may exhibit slightly higher threshold temperatures than the insects in Dallas, Texas, but the general relationship of insects with cold temperatures seems to hold true.

My most notable encounter with an insect over break occurred when I observed a noticeably malnourished wasp crawling on a window in my house. I took this as an opportunity to add to my insect collection for the lab portion of this class, but unfortunately, I did not have a kill jar at my disposal. So I was forced to make a makeshift kill jar:

Makeshift Kill Jar

This particular wasp, I believe, is a polistine paper wasp. Because food resources are particularly scarce for wasps once late November and December roll around, it was not surprising that this wasp was visibly low in energy, as it exhibited little ‘fight’ once caught.

Paper Wasp



“Stink, stank, stunk!” A closer look at the chemical defense of stink bugs

On Thanksgiving Day, I was playing outside with my cousins when one of them noticed a cool looking bug crawling on the side of the house. I rushed on over to examine it, and noticed that it was in fact a true bug (order Hemiptera, suborder Heteroptera), and recognized it as a stink bug. I did not agitate this bug to test this hypothesis, but from my experience I believe it to be the case (it is always possible that it was a mimic). It is generally safe to assume that if you live in a wooded area, you have run across stink bugs at some point. It is just as safe to assume that if you have run across a stink bug and have made the mistake of picking it up (since it is pretty cool looking after all), you can imagine the horrible smell as you are reading this. The potent odor is something not quickly forgotten, so I decided to do a little research about it.

I was mainly curious about the odor’s components, when it’s released by the bugs, and its effectiveness in warding off predators. Luckily, it did not take me long to find a paper that addressed exactly those three topics (although it discussed a different species of stink bug than the one I found in my cousins’ backyard). A study published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology tested a variety of aspects of the chemical defenses of the stink bug Cosmopepla bimaculata through a range of methods, some of which were rather…unorthodox (like sticking the bugs on their tongues, for instance).

Chemical Composition

Using the paper mentioned above as well as a section from the Encyclopeda of Entomology, I found that the components of the chemical odor consisted primarily of long chain alkanes, aldehydes, and esters (which is to be expected as esters especially are the primary components of many odors).

Some of the organic compounds found in stink bug secretions. Source: Encyclopedia of Entomology

Since what I remembered of stink bug odor reminded me of the classic smell of a skunk, I did some research into the chemical composition of skunk odor to see if there were any common components. I was surprised to find that, at least according to this paper that studied the components of spotted skunk spray, stink bug secretions and skunk spray do not share any chemical components. Rather, the skunk spray contains primarily sulfurous compounds as opposed to esters. The evolutionary significance of this difference would be an interesting topic for further study.

When is the odor released?

The original paper I cited from the Journal of Chemical Ecology had some interesting findings relative to when the stink bugs actually use their chemical defense. Firstly, it seems that they are more reluctant to use it than one might think. Generally, when provoked by prodding, the bugs will simply walk in the other direction or try other evasive techniques rather than secrete their foul odor. The experimenters found that it was not until actually picked up that the bugs secreted a significant amount of the odor. Perhaps this is due to the energetic costs of secreting the odor, or even the detrimental effect of secreting the odor too often and actually attracting predators. It would be interesting to research the various pressures affecting this behavior.

Additionally, the researchers found that while undisturbed females generally did not secrete any pheromones, 3 of the 4 undisturbed males did secrete one of the compounds. It is possible that this is evidence of the use of sex pheromones similar to the ones studied in an experiment conducted by Ho and Millar. In their experiment, Ho and Millar found male stink bugs to be the sole sex pheromone producers and suggest that this may be due to the benefit in having males signal to females once they have found a good habitat for mating or  because the shorter average lifespan of males makes the risk of actually attracting predators amount to a smaller cost than it would be for the females.

Success in Deterring Predators

As I alluded to earlier, the experimenters in the first experiment  tested the effects of the chemical secretions on potential predators both by examining the behaviors of various birds and lizards as well as by tasting the bugs themselves. All of the birds and lizards that were tested by being given the choice of stink bugs or control prey (either crickets or houseflies) exhibited an aversion to eating the stink bugs which demonstrated the success of the chemical defense method of preventing predation. Not only would they spit out or run away from the bug that was currently emitting the odor, but they oftentimes would also avoid any subsequent stink bugs that were placed in the cage. In either an act of dedication to their field or sheer madness, the experimenters actually placed the stink bugs on their tongue and even chewed them in order to ascertain the exact sensation that would be experienced by a predator. Doing so caused an “instantaneous burning sensation and chemical taste that lingered for up to 20 minutes…followed by a slight localized numbness of the tongue, which lasted 1-2 hours.” Not only does the stink bug produce an stench and unpleasant taste, but it also causes prolonged pain in the mouth of its predators.

Given the effectiveness of this defense, it is interesting that it is not employed by more prey. Determining the costs of producing chemical defenses would be an interesting future study.

A Valid I.D.

Unless you live in some modern, high-tech studio apartment, chances are your home has some kind of arthropod lurking around. That creeper could be anything from a cockroach in your garbage, to a spider in the attic, or a fly on the wall.  I, however, had the experience of meeting a much larger nemesis.

Allow me to set the scene. I walk into my room and plop myself onto my bed, ready to avoid life, but the second my body hits the bed, I hear a loud buzzing noise coming from beneath me. Seconds later, I’m panicking in my sheets as some winged beast from the fiery depths of hell comes flying at me. Moments later as my stomach sunk back into place, I noticed it had landed on my window, and I could see that it was some kind of bug.

The Monster

Although my usual response is to run away and find someone large to crush it for me, instead, I took a surprising interest in the creature. It doesn’t seem to have any stingers, obvious chewing mouthparts, or scary coloring, so I started observing it from a comfortable distance. I figured that I’ve spent way too many hours studying insect anatomy to not get a closer look.

Using what I’ve learned about arthropods so far, I was able to perform a process of elimination to figure out what I was looking at.

The first clue was that the arthropod had six appendages, which could only mean it was an insect. The second clue was that the insect had flown at me—a sign that it had to be winged. My years of skimming Nancy Drew books, however, caught up to me as I couldn’t be sure of any of my other guesses. Luckily, I had my camera nearby so I was able to get closer, without getting nearer. I noticed that I couldn’t see its wings despite the fact that it had just flown at me. This could mean that is was an endopterygote, with what seemed to be elytra. My best guess for its morphology was that it was part of the order Coleoptera, in other words, a beetle. I had my doubts, however; although Coleoptera is the most diverse insect order, I had yet to see this distinct shield-like shape on its back.

brown stink bug durham 101806

Heteroptera Morphology

As my last step, I used the internet to help me solve this puzzle. It turns out the monster under my bed was a stink bug. Stink bugs, as the name implies belong to the “true bug” order, or Hemiptera; this meant my initial guess of Coleoptera was incorrect. I still found this to be strange, however, considering how dense the outer layer on its winged region looked. As a matter of fact, stinkbugs, belonging to the sub-family Pentatomidae, are actually characterized by this hardened, shield-like layer. Additionally, as the name also implies, these bugs defensively release a foul smelling chemical that makes them unappealing to nearby predators. The puzzle piece I was missing here was the view of the haustellate, an anatomical trait that would’ve been a dead giveaway since beetles have mandibles.

Its—unwelcome—presence in my house is actually quite a common occurrence during winter times. It is speculated that this need for warmer shelter is the reason they were first introduced to the states, but also makes them household pests. Additionally, they tend to be pests due to their destruction of crops; because they were fairly recently imported, for a long time these bugs had no natural predators and were becoming a severe problem in the states.

While my experience may not necessarily change lives, solve scientific mysteries, or produce cures, it does demonstrate that my perspective on “bugs” has changed. Instead of simply cowering away from this tiny threat, I was able to use logic and deduction to identify and figure out whether this insect posed a threat at all. You won’t see me touching bugs any time soon, but I can now regard them as interesting and dynamic members of our world.

Mosquitoes Bite Everything Except My Toes


I recently made a trip to Spring Creek Greenwayfor an insect collecting trip for my insect biology lab.  This nature center contains bottomland hardwood forest alongside a spring-fed water way.

With such a large body of water present, the mosquito presence was quite strong.  I made it a point to wear long pants, and a long sleeved t-shirt, and covered any revealing skin with DEET.  However as the day progressed I found myself getting new bites, what seemed like every ten minutes, with mosquitoes penetrating both my shirts and pants.  I found myself frustrated and irritated with countless spots on my body itchy as can be.

I did everything in my power to resist the urge to itch, but it was almost unbearable.  As mosquitoes pierce the skin, they inject their saliva, which contains pharmacologically active compounds which inhibit our body’s initial immune responses causing anti-inflammatory activity, anticoagulation, and impaired platelet formation.    The action results in a irritated, itchy area.  A video of this can be seen here.

I returned home covered in bites, I asked myself if there was anything I could do to reduce the irritation and itchiness. I began to look into some home remedies to combat these symptoms.  I wanted to explore treatments that were readily available from every day household items.

I asked myself if there was anything I could do to reduce the irritation and itchiness and began to look into home remedies.  Using ice on the bite provides a shock of cold therapy, reducing swelling, and actually numbing of the nerves that are causing the irritation and itching.  Apple cider vinegar is also known to be a good initial treatment because of its acidity to combat the off balance pH of the itchy skin. Baking soda can also neutralize the pH balance of the skin as a mild alkaline compound. Cooled tea bags are also known to ease the swelling with the tea’s tannins acting as an astringent, attracting the extra fluid out of the bite.  Aloe is also known to have a soothing effect and can assist in reduction of itchiness and swelling.

So next time you find yourself covered in bites, itching from head to toe, I recommend you try some of these options as a quick fix.  I wish I had known about them a lot sooner.


Overly Aggressive Mosquitoes Wreak Havoc on Insect Collecting Trips

It is safe to say that mosquito bites have been a nuisance for humans ever since the early days of our species, both in terms of the itchy and sometimes painful reactions we get and in terms of the vector transmitted diseases caused from such bites, ranging from malaria to yellow fever. But recent insect collecting trips to the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center and Brazos Bend State Park for the lab portion of this course exposed me to a higher density of mosquitoes (and thus mosquito bites) than I am accustomed to living in the big city.

Our first collecting trip took place at the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center, and for the three hours we were there, I did not notice a single Diptera species bite me. This was odd, not only because I did not apply any insect repellent, but also because many of my peers were complaining about how much they were getting bit. I began doing some research about this discrepancy, and found out that there are an abundance of factors that influence the reason why mosquitoes bite some people more than others.

According to an article published on the Smithsonian magazine’s website (, factors that are thought to play a role in mosquitoes’ preference on whom to bite include blood type, the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled, metabolism, skin bacteria, blood alcohol content, pregnancy, clothing color, and other genetic factors.

For whatever the reason, however, our next trip to Brazos Bend State Park did not have the same result for me. I did not put on repellent, a decision that perhaps was a bit arrogant because I returned home bite-free the previous week. But boy, was I mistaken. Not only was I being bitten, but my shirt did not even serve as a barrier for the particular mosquito. It felt as if I was being eaten alive!

Although I did not capture and properly identify the species that was biting me through my shirt, I began to research what mosquito could have been overwhelming me at Brazos Bend when I returned to Rice – I could simply not stop itching, eventually draping my exterior into a slough of scabs. According to a World Health Organization pamphlet on mosquito biology and control measures (, I learned that horseflies (Tabanidae) have the rare ability to bite through clothing. But I knew that I wasn’t being bitten by Tabanidae simply because the bites were not like the characteristically painful horsefly bites.


Aedes sollicitans pictured above

So I continued to read about the subject and realized that Fort Bend and Harris Counties have succumbed to an invasion of salt marsh mosquitoes, or Aedes sollicitans, over the past few weeks. After the recent drought of 2011-2012, a few years’ worth of salt marsh mosquito larva were lying dormant. The ground must flood for these larvae to grow, so windy conditions that led to an elevation in tide level in early September allowed for ideal conditions for a mosquito population explosion ( This is the critter that I believe is to blame for incessantly biting me, even through my shirt. The salt marsh mosquito is known to be such a prevalent mammal bloodfeeder that this species was used to study the first mosquito repellents’ effectiveness (;jsessionid=BA9AD7A67B4FD49A7200B474444C42AF#). This study was published in 1940, so we know that salt marsh mosquitoes have been annoying us to the point of forcing us to create a repellent specifically against them.

Oh yea, and it certainly did not help that I was wearing a red shirt, the perfect color to attract any species of bloodthirsty mosquito.


Is Your Head in the Clouds?


If you have ever been biking or walking outside during the summer in Texas, then you probably have experienced running into what appears to be “clouds” or groups of tiny gnats. Unexpectedly, you get them all in your mouth, hair, nose and eyes, and no matter what amount of coughing, swatting, or waving of the arms you do, a few blocks later you receive another face-full of gnats. At least that is what occurred to me for the past month. On my way to school each morning I would run into on average 3 clouds of gnats a day. Why they seemed to gravitate towards people’s heads, and why there were so many of them in the same location everyday, I did not know. It wasn’t until I went on my first insect biology field trip that I learned more about them.

Earlier this month, Dr. Solomon’s Insect Biology lab went to Spring Creek Greenway to collect and study insects. One of the first observations I made at the site was a very large cloud of tiny flies. This cloud of insects was much larger than those in the city, and amazingly, they moved in unison. Dr. Solomon informed our class that these insects were most likely “eye gnats” of the order Diptera and genus Liohippelates; and the clouds they formed were called leks.

Liophippelates photo credit:

Male eye gnats, which are about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch in size, gather together in large groups to attract female mates. Because they are so small, finding a mate on their own would be difficult. In order to further increase their visibility, these gnats often hover over tall objects, which is called “hilltopping”.  In leks the males impress females by rapidly flying in perfect formation. On the down side, these leks make easy targets for predators. This is why oftentimes at the park I noticed dragonflies flying through and around these leks taking bites from the group.

Eye gnats are true flies; they have only two wings and two halteres. Their halteres support them in making quick turns and stops while flying in unison. There can be hundreds and even thousands of eye gnats in one lek. One reason for their large numbers is due to their fast generation times. Eye gnat eggs hatch within 2 weeks and become sexually mature in about 3 weeks. These gnats undergo holometabolous metamorphosis. Eggs are laid in shallow layers of soil or and once they hatch, the larvae feed on decayed plant matter. Eye gnats get their name from the fact that as adults, they drink the moisture from animals’ eyes and sweat. This also explains why they gather around people’s heads. Although eye gnats are mostly harmless, one species, Lioppelates flavipes, is known to transmit pink eye through a bacteria they carry inside of their bodies.  Other species can transmit yaws, a skin disease common in South America.

Eye gnats are interesting flies that are greater together in number. The next time I find my head in a cloud of gnats I will remember that the little guys are only trying to find a mate.


Invisible Sex Tornado

Now, I’m usually no fan of mosquitoes, cockroaches, or really any creepy crawlies that can be considered pests, but I have quite a beef with one group—gnats.

            Whereas most insects somewhat seem to learn their lesson after being shooed away, gnats are persistent buggers—pun incredibly intended—that have no regard for consent. If you’re enjoying a sweet afternoon in the park, you’ll find them hovering over your head and even if you move away, they’re still there. Not alone, I might add! They tend to form these clouds around your head and kind of make you like Pig-pen from the Peanuts comics.

            If that’s not annoying enough try getting a mouthful of these barely visible guys while biking or running along a trail, which I may or may not have done (I did).

            As a dedicated pretend scientist, however, I was really curious about why they tend to surround me and also how they choose their fixed positions to swarm.

            It turns out that the term “gnat” is a group name for specific insects belonging to the order Diptera, sub-order Nematocera. Because of the eclectic term, gnats can be quite diverse. There are even some biting gnats that can be parasitic pests whose bites may lead to severe allergic reactions. I’m more interested in the non-biting type, though.

            One of these types is the fungus gnat, which can belong to the families Sciaridae or Fungivoridae, which I will use as examples of gnat behavior.


Fungus gnat males actually tend to assemble into those cloud shapes in order to increase their chance of mating; these clouds are appropriately called ghosts. So while my title may be a bit of a violent image, it isn’t necessarily inaccurate, now is it?

Well, that answers my question of what they’re doing (or who), but how do they choose their location? As the name suggests, fungus gnats tend to seek damp, humid areas where fungus might grow, or more generally areas of decaying organic matter. After copulation, the females will seek these areas for their larvae which can only burrow and eat, due to their holometabolous life cycle. This cycle, however, has earned gnats the title of pests from farmers and gardeners. This mostly has to do with the fact that the larvae will destroy plants by eating away at the plant roots. Consequentially, the male gnats swarm near any green, moist environment suitable for their offspring.

Awesome, but with all the plants about, why follow me?

There seem to be two explanations for this. One of them is quite simple actually. Sitting outside on a hot summer day, I, and every other human, tend to sweat and become hot—in effect, becoming a warm, humid environment. This (literally) sexy combination causes the gnats to surround my face as it has become the hot new bar in town. This is further visible, if you’ve ever seen them surrounding a dog’s or cat’s eye as they are attracted to the wet environment of the eyeball. Additionally, breathing out carbon dioxide at a higher concentration also attracts them. There is a third explanation, though I couldn’t find much more evidence, from Lori Eberhard that suggests gnats are attracted to sweet smells and considering how many products are needed to maintain this hair, I might just be their Willy Wonka!


  As I promised last time, I tried out something that is everyday but fun at the same time. That is, I decided to prepare myself a dish made out of real insects. If my last blog was simply about tossing crickets into my mouth, (those I purchased from a vending machine with 1 dollar), this time it is more serious. In this blog, I will guide you through a new world of homemade insect dishes with a legitimate food recipe. 🙂

  I hope you remember my last blog. In my previous blog I talked about how important it was for the global community to find a new source of food that can meet the growing calorie demand of the world. And my answer was “Bugs might be the bites!” Bugs are a wonderful source of healthy proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Silk Worm Pupae alone contain 9.6 grams of protein, 5.6 grams of fat, 2.3 grams of carbohydrate, 41.7 milligrams of calcium and 1.8 milligrams of iron. This is shockingly nutritious. The same amount of beef contains only 27.4 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of iron (Berendaum). You see what I am talking about?  

  Perhaps the only barrier that prevents many of us from enjoying insect meals is psychological, not physiological. Insects aren’t necessarily gross if we open our minds! Believe it or not, even lobster was considered as cockroaches of the sea and for a long time it was food for prisoners. Perceptions can change when food taste delicious. They can be gourmet cuisines!!!

  To change these perceptions I went out shopping to purchase ingredients for my home-made traditional Korean insect dish. The insect I used for my dish is called Bundaegi.

  Bundaegi are the pupae of the domesticated silk moth, Bombyx mori. Bombyx mori originally existed in the wild throughout Asia. However as the silk industry thrived in this region; there are only domesticated ones around us. The larvae of Bombyx mori are caterpillars that are normally 4 cm long with their horned cerci. A normal adult of Bombyx mori has a pair of 4 cm wings (Katie Clay). And we normally eat them when they are in their pupae stage.

 Bombyx mori more commonly known as silkworm has been treasured by many Asian cultures as a nutritional supplement and traditional treatment for diabetes. According to the Science Daily, Bombyx mori indeed are rich with healthful Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Studies confirm that Conjugated Linoleic Acid has beneficial effects, including stimulation of the immune system, protection against cancer and heart disease, reducing body fat and controlling diabetes (Science Daily). Doesn’t this sound too good to be true? J

  Traditionally, Bombyx mori have been a crucial component of textile industries. Believe it or not, these Bombyx mori were considered so valuable, there were cases where people got punished with death penalty for smuggling them. Also, because Bombyx mori have been cultivated for so long for sericulture, they cannot survive on their own but instead they always must be fed by humans (Lepidopetra Part 2).

             Now back to business.

 Once I purchased a can of pupae of Bundaegi, I searched the internet for the best recipe, which I can ACTUALLY try. Quite honestly cooking wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. After some hodgepodge of chopping, slicing and boiling, I discovered that I would need onions, soy sauce, bell pepper, chili along with other numerous marinating techniques to make the perfect dish.



In sum? My first insect dish was a total failure. 🙁