Bug Bites – New Hampshire Magazine

Meet Dr. Istvan Miko, manager of UNH’s Collection of Insects and other Arthropods

Bugs. Vicious, razor-sharp jaws, saucered eyes, and far too many legs dragging you to places where dark Kafkaesque nightmares are seeded and plump larvae emerge. Meet Dr. Istvan Miko, manager of UNH’s Collection of Insects and other Arthropods, a swarm of about 700,000 pinned specimens. He’s unfazed by these images and finds beauty in the facts. Bugs are also part of his diet. Istvan is a strong advocate of consuming them; a cheap and eco-friendly protein source. Yup. Grubs as grub. With maybe seven million species on the planet, you can create quite the menu. Perhaps some air-fried crickets over rice tonight?

  • I am an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity researcher whose research is centered around insects.
  • The collection had 250,000 specimens before the arrival of Donald Chandler, professor emeritus, who increased the number to 700,000.
  • He organized massive collecting trips in New England and applied numerous different insect-collecting methods, including sweep nets, Malaise traps, pitfall traps, flight interception traps, litter sifting, etc.
  • My collection trips are focused on small, mostly unknown, but both ecologically and economically important parasitic wasps.
  • We don’t even know how many species of these insects can be found in North America, but I personally have found undescribed species not only abroad and in the tropics but also in New Hampshire in our own College Woods.
  • People don’t understand insects because they are too small and too complex-looking without a microscope.
  • And, yes, less than 1% of the entire species are actually pests.
  • Insect diversity is just enormous and serves as an endless resource
    for horror movie makers.
  • On the other hand, this morphological diversity and mechanical solutions are not only inspiring movie makers but also engineers
    of the growing field of biomimicry (bioinspired applications).
  • There are about one million insect species described (at least four million yet to be described) and insects might represent 80% of all living species. Unfortunately, most insect species likely will remain
    unrecognized before they go extinct.
  • They don’t have a central nervous system, so the way they observe and convey stimuli and process information must be cardinally different from ours.
  • When a praying mantis couple mates, the female often starts eating on the head and anterior body region of the male, sometimes eating half of it, but because they have multiple neura and mating movements and ejaculation is controlled by those that are located in the back of their body, males can just perfectly finish their job even though they lose their upper body, including their head.
  • The nutritional value of insects is just amazing.
  • The main thing with insects as a food source is that they are way more sustainable than any other stock animals and therefore would be the most “planet friendly” food source for humans.

Ever Eat a Bug? (Ask a Dumb Question, Get a Smart Answer.

Creepy Crawlies Deadly Mantis

Photo Courtesy

“I have eaten insects in Thailand and really enjoyed that. Also, when I was younger, I ate June beetle grubs back in Hungary. Recently, I used cricket powder in my keto muffins and plan to eat Japanese beetles this coming summer. According to many sources, they are actually quite delicious.

“I am teaching entomology this semester and will have an insect kitchen at the last class in which we will try multiple things with my students. Back at NCSU and Penn State, I was involved in their bugfests, where the organizers invited chefs from local restaurants to prepare insect-containing dishes, and they always were very delicious.
I personally like their taste and even their crunchiness does not bother me (I usually eat shrimp without cleaning them perfectly — tail on).

“I understand people might have a problem with that, but then again, we process chicken and other animals before we eat them (like clean off feathers and scales and hairs), so we also don’t have to eat insects as they are. ” — Dr. Istvan Miko

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