Volume I Number I February (2012) pp. 112-15 The Clarion ISSN: 2277-1697

Nutritional value of some edible insects in Baksa District, BTAD, Assam

Jayanta Kumar Das1 and Arup Kumar Hazarika

Department of Zoology, Cotton College, Guwahati-781001

Email: [email protected]1


The paper explores the diversity of edible insects’ collection, pattern and temporal availability in the Baksa District, BTAD, Assam, India. This district is in mainly habituated by the Bodo tribe, an ethnic tribe of Greater Assam. The study reveals that the community consumes a total of 10 (ten) species of edible insects belonging majorly to Hymenoptera, Hemiptera,  Orthoptera and Coleoptera orders. The nutrient values were also found out. As regards the consumption is concerned the study showed that 60% are at larval stage followed by mature 25% and 10% adult and rest live respectively. These insects are also pest of certain crops at developmental stage of their life. Despite this, they constitute a significant component of diet among the Bodo people of Baksa District of Assam.

Key words: Edible Insects, Bodo Tribe, Nutritional value, Baksa District.


Insects have played an important part in the history of human Nutrition in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Bodenbeimer, 1951). Hundreds of insects species have been used as human food, some of the more important groups include grass hopper, caterpillars, beetle grubs and grubs and sometimes adults, winged termites, wasp and ant brood (Larval and pupae) as well as winged ants, cicadas, and variety of aquatic insects. Ordinarily insects are not used as emergency food during shortages, but as a planned part of the diet throughout the year or when seasonally available. The edible insects have been reported to have more nutritional content than the other conventional foods. Studies on nutrient analysis for various insects were conducted by many authors in different countries. Tribal people especially Bodo people of Assam has chosen to take entomophagy as a suitable source of food as it has been a practice since ancient times.

It is worth mentioning that the Bodo community of Baksa District of Assam, India has rich knowledge on ethno zoology, in which use of insects as food supplement is one example. The edible insects are immensely important for the villagers to serve as source of additional nutrients, particularly fats and proteins. Edible insects can play a unique role in nutritional need of the traditional people and help them to meet nutritional deficiency in certain cases. There may be many more edible insects in the Baksa District for which proper scientific investigation is strongly suggested. Further, the indentified species may be analyzed for detailed understanding of nutrient constituent and commercial viability.

The development of chemistry has made it possible to define the composition and of food in rather precise terms (Fennema, 2008). As a result of chemical analysis, it has been found that really all foods as they occur in nature contain protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals salt water (Coultate, 2009).  Proteins due to its importance as human nutrient have become the main concern of food technologist and nutritionists (FAO/WHO, 1973). Proteins responsible for nitrogen supply represent 16.5% of an adult body (Hudson, 1991 and Virginia et.al., 2011). Insects are widely spread all over the world (Melo et. al., 2010), many of them well known and appreciated for their organoleptic characteristics (Dumont, 1987). Thus insects when well accepted by consumers can be use to improve human nutrition.

The main objective of this study is to determine some of the nutrients compositions of the commonly eaten insects in Baksa District of Assam by the Bodo Community.

Materials and Methods

Insect specimen previously determined as edible insects were collected using entomological nets by hands and suction pumps in different parts of the study areas. This study was conducted for a period of 12 months. The adult stages samples were preserved dry while the immature stages of insects were kept in vial containing 70% alcohol. The collections were done following the standard method (Ghosh and Sengupta, 1982). The specimens were identified using valid character (Arrow, 1949 and Atkinman, 1974). Some of the specimen was identified and confirmed by comparing with the specimen in Zoological survey of India (ZSI).

Chemical Analysis

The specimens were oven dried and grinded for analysis at laboratory.  Each insect sample was analyzed chemically according to the official methods of analysis recommended by the Association of official and Analytical chemists (A. O. A. C. 2000). Analyses  were done  for water content, crude fiber, structural Carbohydrate, fat, free nitrogen extract and mineral salts. The crude proteins were determined by using Kjeldahl technique. Determination of B2 was performed using the method reported by Association of official Analytical Chemists (2009).

Table 1: Insects commonly eaten by the Bodo people of Baksa District, Assam

Order Family Scientific Name English Name Consumption Stage
Lepidoptera Notodontidae Anaphe Infracta Caterpillars Larvae
Lepidoptera Notodontidae Anaphe Reticulata Caterpillars Larvae
Lepidoptera Notodontidae Anaphe spp Caterpillars Larvae
Lepidoptera Notodontidae Anaphe Venata Caterpillars Larvae
Lepidoptera Saturniidae Cirinaforde Caterpillars Larvae
Isoptera Termitidae Macrotermes Bellicosus Termites Wing Adults, Queen
Isoptera Termitidae Macrotermes notelensis Termites Wing Adults, Queen
Orthoptera Pyrgomorphidae Zonocerus variegatus Grasshopper Adult
Orthoptera Acrididae Cytacanthacris naeruginosus unicolor Shorthorn grasshopper Adult
Orthoptera Gryllidae Brachytrypes spp Cricket Adult
Coleoptera Scrabaedae Analeptes trifasciata Rhinoceros beetle Larvae
Hymenoptera Formicidae Atta spp Ant Adult
Unidentified Unidentified Not known Not known Larvae
Unidentified Unidentified Not known Not known Adult

Table 2: Proximate analysis (%) of commonly eaten dried insects in Baksa District of Assam

Insects Crude Protein Ether extract Crude fiber Nitrogen free extract
Macrotermes bellicosus 20.04 22.2 2.72 45.5
Macrotermes notalensis 21.1 25.5 2.29 41.24
Brachytrypes spp 5.25 1.5 2.23 90.5
Cytacanthacris aeruginosus unicolor 11.4 3.5 1.29 56.5
Zonocerus variegatus 24.5 3.96 1.9 69.9
Analeptes trifasciata 30.4 17.23 1.0 45.4
Anaphe infracta 21.1 16.29 1.94 68.9
Anaphe recticulata 22.22 9.8 2.26 59.6
Anaphe spp 17.9 17.29 2.9 49.44
Anaphe venata 24.6 24.56 2.56 51.6
Cirina forda 20.2 11.67 1.54 70.5
Apis mellifera 23.0 14.5 3.0 62.6
Analeptes trifasciata 21.1 3.2 4.56 67.7
Oryctes boas 29.0 1.23 5.60 42.5
Rhynchophorus phoenicis 27.39 29.99 2.85 50.5

Results and discussion

Edible insects’ collection data revealed 14 species (Table.1). Among the insects collected five species of Lepidoptera, two species of Isoptera, three species of Orthoptera, one species of Coleoptera, one species of Hymenoptera and two unidentified species were found. Further, the Table.2 shows the chemical composition of each insect. The highest crude protein was found in Coleopteran order in species Analeptes trifasciata (30.40%).Another 12 species belonging to different orders have protein content 20% or more. On the other hand R. phoenicis have highest value of ether extract (29.99%). The least value was found in O. boas. Almost all theinsects have Nitrogen extract more than 50% or so.

The present study revealed that though some of the insects which are pest have got high nutritional qualities. Protein contents of insects especially caterpillars have been studied from Central Africa (Richards, 1939), South Africa (Quin, 1959; Dreyer, 1982) and South America (Dafour, 1987). The results of the proximate analysis of Analeptes trifasciata of this study corroborate the study of Aduku, (1993). There are wide ranges of protein content in these insects found in the present study. These differences may be due to variations in the dietary habits of the insects or as a result of different ecotypes. Differences may also be due to the age of the insects. The results of this study confirm the fact that insects are indeed a good source of protein and other nutrients.


The consumption of non-toxic insects therefore, should be encouraged. Insects are traditional foods in most cultures, playing an important role in human nutrition and have much nutrient to offer. They can be reared for their high nutritional qualities and sold to the populace that may be regarded as delicacies. Edible insects constitute an important part of the daily diet of a large proportion of the population in Baksa District of Assam, India. These insect provide high quality of proteins and supplements (minerals and vitamins) even when dried. Some of these sought after species, especially those with high nutritional content, ought to be cultivated with modern techniques to increase their commercial values and availability.


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Published by Centre for Environment, Education and Economic Development (CEEED), Assam.