More than 1000 species of insects that are edible at a certain stage of their life cycle have been identified worldwide. The orders Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Orthoptera represent the highest number of species, the first two being mainly consumed in immature stages of their life cycle. Nutritional value and population size of some of these species represent two advantages, which mean they should be considered as an alternative source of food for the human diet, mainly in developing countries. Some species of Coleoptera, Orthoptera and Lepidoptera that are considered as pests are at the same time used for human consumption in different parts of the world. These species can be controlled if management techniques specially oriented to the sustained maintenance of the crop as well as of the insects are applied. On the other hand, some other species of insects with small population sizes and that are overexploited in their pre-reproductive phases show serious demographic problems, including extinction risk. For these species, it is necessary to apply management methods in order to conserve the natural populations and to develop culture or breeding techniques. For many countries with economical and social problems, owing to a deficiency in food supply or production, such strategies could be considered by their governments as priorities. In this work, the economic and social potential of the sustained exploitation of some insect species are analysed. Also, the ecological advantages of this type of management in agricultural and natural systems are reviewed.
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