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Comadia redtenbacheri (Lepidoptera: Cossidae) and Aegiale hesperiaris (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), two important edible insects of Agave salmiana (Asparagales: Asparagaceae): a review


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This review focuses on the characteristics of the life-cycle, and the nutritional properties, preservation, and marketing of Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (red agave worm) and Aegiale hesperiaris (Walker) (white maguey worm) as alimentary options with nutritional benefits for humans. These insects are widely consumed in Mexico, the highest-ranking country worldwide in terms of insect diversity, and a place where entomophagy has been practiced for thousands of years, with the red and white maguey worms standing out as two insect pests of the Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck. These insects are consumed in their larval stage in various culinary dishes by local people and foreign tourists due to their exquisite, exotic flavor, high protein and fat content, easy digestion, and high content of essential minerals for food metabolism. These properties make them a food source that offers consumers significant health benefits, but their production is seasonal and knowledge of their life-cycle scarce, so production under greenhouse conditions is unfeasible to date, though studies are ongoing to generate mass reproduction strategies under sustainable greenhouse conditions that would promote the incorporation of these insects into functional foods. For maguey worms to become a viable food option, consumers must be informed of the benefits of adding them to their diet and learn how best to integrate them into their foods. Legislation is also required to regulate their production, consumption, and health benefits.
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1 23
International Journal of Tropical
Insect Science
e-ISSN 1742-7592
Int J Trop Insect Sci
DOI 10.1007/s42690-020-00396-1
Comadia redtenbacheri (Lepidoptera:
Cossidae) and Aegiale hesperiaris
(Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), two important
edible insects of Agave salmiana
(Asparagales: Asparagaceae): a review
Aracely Molina-Vega, Edna María
Hernández-Domínguez, Matilde Villa-
García, et al.
1 23
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Comadia redtenbacheri (Lepidoptera: Cossidae) and Aegiale
hesperiaris (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), two important edible insects
of Agave salmiana (Asparagales: Asparagaceae): a review
Aracely Molina-Vega
&Edna María Hernández-Domínguez
&Matilde Villa-García
&Jorge Álvarez-Cervantes
Received: 29 May 2020 /Accepted: 26 November 2020
#African Association of Insect Scientists 2021
This review focuses on the characteristics of the life-cycle, and the nutritional properties, preservation, and marketing of Comadia
redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (red agave worm) and Aegiale hesperiaris (Walker) (white maguey worm) as alimentary
options with nutritional benefits for humans. These insects are widely consumed in Mexico, the highest-ranking country
worldwide in terms of insect diversity, and a place where entomophagy has been practiced for thousands of years, with the
red and white maguey worms standing out as two insect pests of the Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck. These insects are
consumed in their larval stage in various culinary dishes by local people and foreign tourists due to their exquisite, exotic flavor,
high protein and fat content, easy digestion, and high content of essential minerals for food metabolism. These properties make
them a food source that offers consumers significant health benefits, but their production is seasonal and knowledge of their life-
cycle scarce, so production under greenhouse conditions is unfeasible to date, though studies are ongoing to generate mass
reproduction strategies under sustainable greenhouse conditions that would promote the incorporation of these insects into
functional foods. For maguey worms to become a viable food option, consumers must be informed of the benefits of adding
them to their diet and learn how best to integrate them into their foods. Legislation is also required to regulate their production,
consumption, and health benefits.
Keywords Lepidoptera .Larvae .Life-cycle .Agave .Edible insects
Insect consumption in Mexico dates back to pre-Hispanic cul-
tures such as the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Mayan, which gathered
them for their exquisite, unique flavor and used them to elab-
orate various foods. Their use from ancient times to the pres-
ent places Mexico as the nation with the greatest number of
species consumed (549), followed by China with 200 (Van
Huis et al. 2013). In recent years, the taste for consuming
insects has increased in Mexico due to the broad variety of
native edible species, especially in the states of Oaxaca,
Guerrero, Chiapas, Campeche, Puebla, Hidalgo, and
Tlaxcala, where entomophagy is a common practice (Hurd
et al. 2019). The species consumed include Chorthippus
brunneus (Thunberg) (Orthoptera: Acrididae), Tenebrio
molitor (Linnaeus) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), Atta
mexicana (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Liometopum
apiculatum (Mayr) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), and the lar-
vae of Aegiale hesperiaris (Walker) (white maguey worm)
and Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (red agave
worm) (Melgar-Lalanne et al. 2019). These insects can be
consumed in their natural state due to their pleasant flavor,
but cooking (toasted, roasted, or as a condiment) enriches that
flavor. These delicacies have begun to appear on restaurant
menus and in ethnic festivals and markets, where they have
gained popularity among middle-and upper-class urban tour-
ists, and enjoy demand in foreign markets that recognize their
commercial and food value (Miranda-Perkins et al. 2013).
Given these attributes, A. hesperiaris and C. redtenbacheri
*Jorge Álvarez-Cervantes
Maestría en Biotecnología, Universidad Politécnica de Pachuca,
Carretera Pachuca-Cd. Sahagún km 20, Ex Hacienda de Santa
Bárbara, CP-43830 Zempoala, Hidalgo, Mexico
Cuerpo Académico Manejo de Sistemas Agrobiotecnológicos
Sustentables, Universidad Politécnica de Pachuca, Carretera
Pachuca-Cd. Sahagún km 20, Ex Hacienda de Santa Bárbara,
CP-43830 Zempoala, Hidalgo, Mexico
International Journal of Tropical Insect Science
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have the potential to be commercialized in European markets
under the denomination new foodsthat the European Union
and its council established in recent regulations (EU,
2015/2283) and which include the category of insects, or parts
of insects, as foods with nutritional benefits (Garofalo et al.
Specifically, these two insects have gastronomic impor-
tance due to their ancestral use and exquisite flavor. They
are consumed as main dishes or as garnishes, and can be
prepared as snacks, powders, or condiments, fried or grilled
to be eaten with nixtamalized tortillas, or incorporated into
sauces. Their salty taste and crispy texture place them in the
flavor range that consumers deem exotic(Ramos-Elorduy
2006; Ramos-Elorduy et al. 2011; Melgar-Lalanne et al. 2019;
Van Huis et al. 2013;Pomaetal.2017). But these larvae are
also famouslyadded to the traditional Mexican alcoholic
beverage, mezcal (Van Huis et al. 2013;Pomaetal.2017).
They are processed to produce worm salt, a condiment made
from dried, roasted and ground maguey worms mixed with
common salt and chili powder (typically chili de árbol or
guajillo). The result is a fine powder with a concentrated fla-
vor in yellow and red tones that is considered a unique ingre-
dient worldwide (Ramos-Rostro et al. 2016).
The objectives of this review, therefore, are to establish the
main morphological characteristics, life-cycle features, nutri-
tional importance, and value of agave worms, and to describe
the aspects of food safety, preservation, and commercializa-
tion to enrich our knowledge of these larvae as a food source
with nutritional benefits for humans.
Comadia redtenbacheri
Commonly known as the red magueyworm in its larval stage,
this insect makes its gallery inside the stem of agaves where it
completes its life-cycle. The main host species are the
pulquero maguey Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck,
A. mapisaga Trel., and A. atrovirens Karw. ex Salm
(Camacho et al. 2003; Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2010;
Delgado-Tejeda et al. 2017). In this stage, it is used as a food
in traditional gastronomy and is exploited as a source of sea-
sonal income for people in communities in arid and semi-arid
regions of several states in central Mexico, especially the
states of Hidalgo, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Querétaro, San Luis
Potosí, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and even Mexico City
(Granados 1993), where wild populations are gathered inten-
sively (Miranda-Perkins et al. 2013).
Comadia redtenbacheri is a ditrysia lepidoptera that be-
longs to the family Cossidae, sub-family Chilecomadiinae,
also called gusano rojo de maguey, chinicuil, or chilocuil in
Spanish, from the Nahuatl words chilo =pepperandocuilin =
worm; hence, the chili worm. During infestation of agave
plants, the female moth deposits masses of soft-textured eggs
at the base of the plants leaves, usually around 118 eggs that
will incubate for 3035 days. Observations show that females
that have not mated may deposit infertile eggs. She will die
just a few hours after depositing her eggs (Camacho et al.
2003; Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2007). The morphology of the
eggs shows a surface ornamented with polygons of near con-
stant size, whose color changes from white to brown due to a
secretion that the female generates during deposition which
may provide strategic adherence, a physical barrier to parasit-
oids and predators, or absorb water and reduce evaporation
(Castro-Torres and Llanderal-Cázares 2016). Hatching pro-
duces larvaethat settle in the rhizome of the agave,where they
complete their development (Granados 1993). The first instar
larva measuresaround 2 mm in length and is colorless, though
it acquires a reddish color as it matures that becomes intense in
the final instar. It also begins to secrete a characteristic odor
that remains on any surface that comes into contact with it.
The head is partially-retracted into the thorax, and the body is
slightly flattened dorsoventrally. This worm has six pairs of
well-developed stemmata arranged in the shape of a 2.Its
body is covered with primary and secondary setae. The final
segment has a chitinous projection shaped like a hornor
thorn. Dark in color, it protrudes from the center of the tenth
abdominal tergite. The thoracic legs are small and composed
of coxa, femur, tibia, tarsus, and a simple tarsal nail. The
abdominal legs are very small and present in segments III-
VI and X. The square brackets are uni-ordinal and arranged
in transversal bands, except in segment X, where they are
absent (Fig. 1) (Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2017).
The red coloration of the larvae is similar to that of other
cossids, such as Cossus cossus, and other species of the genus
Comadia. It is the only species of the Cossidae family whose
larvae develop in agaves instead of tree trunks or branches
(Vergara et al. 2012; Castro-Torres and Llanderal-Cázares
2016). The larvae leave the rhizome between September and
October and dig into the soil to a depth of 3 cm, where they
remain while weaving cocoons for pupation with silk threads
and particles of the substrate (Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2017).
They complete their life-cycle there, passing through the pupa
stage when their light brown color darkens progressively until
turning almost black when the adult larva is about to emerge.
Two rows of thick spines line the dorsal region and pleura,
inclined towards the pupas rear. They are used to break out of
the cocoon. This worm can be distinguished from other lepi-
doptera associated with maguey plants by the underground
location of the larvae and the type of cocoon (Fig. 2)
(Castro-Torres and Llanderal-Cázares 2016). The body of
the adult larva is light brown with two whitish marks that form
an inverted Vonthe rear wings. They are veryevident when
the insect is at rest. It also has a dense covering of spatulated
scales on the surface of the wings with phylliform ones on the
thorax and abdomen. Males have bipectinate antennae, while
those of females are slightly serrated. Females are generally
larger, though size varies greatly (Fig. 3)(Castro-Torresand
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Llanderal-Cázares 2016; Cardenas-Aquino et al. 2018).
Females may have eight ovaries typical of most
lepidopteraof the polytrophic type; another basic character-
istic of all members of this Order. Their reproductive system is
of the ditrysia type, marked by the union between the
copulatrix bursa and the oviduct through the ductus seminalis
(Kristensen 2003; Ramírez-Cruz and Llanderal-Cázares
2015). Males characteristically transfer one spermatophore
during copulation, which has led to the assumption that be-
cause of their short life-cycle these insects copulate only once
(Miranda-Perkins and Llanderal-Cázares 2013;Ramírez-Cruz
and Llanderal-Cázares 2015; Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2017).
During colonization of the agave, these insects form colo-
nies of 4060 worms in the center of the stem near the union
with the fleshy leaves. Normally, all larvae are in the same
stage of development and of similar size because they come
from the same oviposition (Hernández-Livera et al. 2005;
Espinoza-García et al. 2018). Gathering them requires remov-
ing the leaves and the entire stem, so it kills the plant. In fact,
harvesting the red grubs often means destroying the whole
Fig. 1 aMorphology of the larva;
bparts of the thorax; ccrochets of
false legs; dspiracles
Fig. 2 Stages of C. redtenbacheri:ared worm larva; brecently-emerged pupa; cpupa on day 52; dpupa on day 107; epupa on day 137; fpupa on day 187
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plant because they usually dwell in the neck of the stem and
the base of the leaves. If they are not removed, however, the
damage they cause also ends up killing the plant (Fig. 4)
(Esparza-Frausto et al. 2008; Espinoza-García et al. 2018).
Aegiale hesperiaris
This insect is also called the maguey worm, butter worm,
maguey moth, and peca (in Spanish) (CONABIO 2019). Its
larvae develop mainly in the months of April to July in the
lower leaves of such agave species as Agave salmiana, Agave
mapisaga and Agave tequilana. They pierce the abaxial side
at the base of the agave leaves and enter the tissues there to
form their gallery (Jaimes-Rodríguez et al. 2019;Vargas-
Zuñiga et al. 2019). An evident change of coloration, wither-
ing, and slight deformation (Fig. 5) of the plant occur because
this worm feeds exclusively on maguey shoots that provide it
with all the nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vita-
mins, macro- and micronutrients) it requires for adequate
physiological and productive development. Males can reach
a length of 7.5 cm, but females may be larger (Vargas-Zuñiga
et al. 2019).
The State of Mexico, together with Hidalgo, Tlaxcala,
Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Oaxaca, Jalisco, and Puebla, reg-
ister the highest incidences of the wild form of these larvae.
They are white except for the head and extremities, which are
brown. These worms are extracted for both local consumption
and export at attractive prices, an activity that complements
the income of the families that collect them (Ramos-Rostro
et al. 2013).
Few studies of the life-cycle of A. hesperiaris exist, but the
descriptions available suggest that the female deposits up to
14 eggs near the base of the agave leaves in October to
November. They form white, conically-shaped clusters of 2
5eggs(Fig.6) that measure 3 mm wide by 2 mm high and
hatch after 1540 days, producing larvae that are collected
between May and July. Harvesters identify infected agave
plants by wilting and yellow coloration, cut them open, and
determine the depth at which the gallery is located. The worms
are then extracted using a hook. Generally, 13 are found per
leaf (Fig. 7) (Jaimes-Rodríguez et al. 2019; Vargas-Zuñiga
et al. 2019). Mature larvae can measure up to 7 cm long and
1.5 cm wide after passing through 5 larval stages. Pupae may
be up to 50 mm long by 15 mm wide. Upon reaching the final
instar stage, the larvae perforate the shoot and seal the hole
with silk where the butterfly will later emerge.
Fig. 3 Pupa and moth of
C. redtenbacheri:afemale pupa;
bfemale moth; cmale pupa; d
male moth
Fig. 4 Agave plant with the presence or infestation of C. redtenbacheri
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Metamorphosis develops inside the gallery, where the lar-
vae attach to the cremaster with their heads positionedtowards
the opercle to generate the pupa, which matures and is trans-
formed into the butterfly between August and September. The
wings of mature butterflies ofboth sexes are dark in color with
light spots (Fig. 8). The estimated life expectancy in this stage
of their life-cycle is 20 days (Higgins and Riley 1980;Vargas-
Zuñiga et al. 2019; Jaimes-Rodríguez et al. 2019). Female
butterflies are larger because they carry an agglomeration of
perhaps 50 eggs adhered and compacted by a sticky substance
that allows them to conserve moisture and protects them from
parasites and pathogens (Vargas-Zuñiga et al. 2019;Jaimes-
Rodríguez et al. 2019).
Nutritional importance and value of agave
These worms are used in traditional gastronomy to prepare
diverse dishes that are now attractive to both native and for-
eign diners (Fig. 9). Since they are consumed, it is necessary to
conduct analyses of their chemical composition in order to
determine the proportions of macro- and micro-molecules
they contain and that contribute to their nutritional quality
(Ramos-Rostro et al. 2012)., which varies in insects in relation
to diet, stage of development, sex, species, growth environ-
ment, and the methods used to determine their chemical com-
ponents (Van Huis and Oonincx 2017). Researchers generally
agree, however, that they are extremely rich in protein (35
65% dry basis), fat (1333%), and vitamins (B1,B2, B6, C, D,
E, K), and contain iron, zinc, calcium, copper, phosphorus,
magnesium, and manganese (Rumpold and Schlüter 2013b;
Schluter et al. 2017;deCastroetal.2018; Kim et al. 2019).
On average, the protein content of edible insects ranges from
35 to 60% in dry weight or 1025% in fresh weight (Melo
et al. 2011; Schluter et al. 2017). These values are higher than
those of such sources of vegetable protein as cereals, soy-
beans, and lentils (Bukkens 1997). In the larval stage,
A. hesperiaris and C. redtenbacheri can provide high-quality
proteins, fatty acids, calories, and polyunsaturated fatty acids
(PUFA), which represent the second-largest portion of nutri-
ent composition in their bodies (Rumpold and Schlüter
The fatty acids of insects are generally comparable to those
of poultry and fish in terms of their degree of unsaturation, but
Fig. 5 A. salmiana with
symptoms of white worm
infestation: aaleafofA. salmiana
with symptoms of white worm
infestation; bonset of the gallery
with waste substances from
A. hesperiaris
Fig. 6 Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck (Asparagales: Asparagaceae)
with A. hesperiaris eggs
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Fig. 7 Maguey white worm
gathered from Agave salmiana in
the municipality of Singuilucan,
Hidalgo: amaguey worm hosted
in an agave leaf; bmaguey white
worm in a gallery
Fig. 8 Stages of the life-cycle of
A. hesperiaris:awhite maguey
worm in the eighth instar; blower
part of the larva of A. hesperiaris;
clarva in the latent stage about to
enter the pupa stage; dpupa of
A. hesperiaris;epupa in meta-
morphosis with presence in the
upper part of the head and wings;
fbutterfly of A. hesperiaris in a
state of putrefaction after attack
by fungi and bacteria in the
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contain more PUFA. The mean average fat content is 41.7%,
while the caloric count is 6776kcal/kg; levels which show that
red and white agave worms have a high energy content. In
fact, they contribute 370 kcal/kg, which is 50% more than
soya, 63% more than beef, 70% more than fish, 84% more
than vegetables, and 100% more than chicken. Regarding the
nutritional and mineral composition of these two insects, both
have a high percentage of protein and fat (Ramos-Rostro et al.
2012; Rumpold and Schlüter 2013a). Their high sodium and
potassium content (6649,5 g/100 g, and 4149,8 g/100 g)
(Table 1) can help lower blood pressure and prevent arterial
hypertension, cardiopathies, and strokes in consumers when
compared to foods like beef, fish, beans, peas, and potatoes,
which range from 0.141.694 g/100 g. Sodium and potassium
are responsible for maintaining the bodys electrolyte balance,
which is important because an imbalance affects bone metab-
olism by modifying urinary pH and the excretion of calcium
and phosphorus through the urine (Ramos-Rostro et al. 2012).
Food safety of agave worms
In terms of food safety, studies of the external bacterial com-
munity and cultivable microbiome of C. redtenbacheri report
a greater bacterial diversity in larvae obtained from vendors
than in those collected directly from agave plants. Those stud-
ies have detected Paenibacillus sp., Bacillus safensis,
Pseudomonas sp., Bacillus pseudomycoides,
Corynebacterium variabile,Enterococcus sp., Gordonia sp.,
Acinetobacter calcoaceticus,Arthrobacter sp., Micrococcus
sp., and Bacillus cereus. It is still unclear, however, whether
these bacteria represent a potential health risk to people who
ingest the larvae of C. redtenbacheri, so it is important to
gather information on the species and strains involved to es-
tablish more accurately their potential health risks for con-
sumers (Hernández-Flores et al. 2015). Some of the bacteria
found in the larvae are known to generate compounds that are
Fig. 9 Forms of consumption of
maguey worms: afried white
maguey worm dish accompanied
by guacamole; bred worms in
salsa; cred worms in pulque; d
roasted red worm
Table 1 Nutritional composition of A. hesperiaris and C. redtenbacheri
Component A. hesperiaris C. redtenbacheri
g/100 g wet base
Humidity 77,15 58,3
Ash 1,05 0,87
g/100 g dry base
Protein 37,79 31,23
Fat 34,94 58,54
Fiber 4,22 1,85
Nitrogen-free extract 18,44 6,31
Calcium 223,7 126,9
Magnesium 763,5 473,6
Sodium 72,1 175,1
Potassium 6649,5 4194,8
Zinc 39,3 43,2
Copper 11,4 7,3
Iron 0,5 0,5
Manganese 16,7 10,6
Phosphorus 0,57% 0,33%
Source: (Ramos-Rostro et al. 2012
; Rumpold and Schlüter 2013a
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of interest to the food industry and agriculture; for example,
Paenibacillus sp., which is important for humans, animals,
and plants. This species can be found in soils and is often
associated with plant roots where it promotes growth and pro-
duces antimicrobial peptides and enzymes that could be uti-
lized for bioremediation or to produce valuable chemical sub-
stances (Grady et al. 2016). B. safensis canbeconsidereda
safe industrial microorganism (producer of industrial enzymes
and secondary metabolites) since there is no evidence of path-
ogenicity (Lateef et al. 2015). Regarding B. pseudomycoides,
research has found that it generates a type II antibiotic, an
antimicrobial peptide capable of attacking gram-positive bac-
teria (Basi-Chipalu et al. 2015). Specific studies of the micro-
biological safety of insects as food sources in the literature are,
unfortunately, scarce (Belluco et al. 2013).
Traditionally in Mexico, maguey worms are washed after col-
lection and consumed either fresh, fried, or roasted. Today, in
contrast, they may be frozen or dehydrated until used. The
dehydrated form does not require refrigeration to retain nutri-
tional value and good condition due to the antibiotic sub-
stances they generate while alive, which provide protection
and inhibit decomposition during dry storage (Ramos-Rostro
et al. 2012; Van Huis 2013;deCastroetal.2018; Mlcek et al.
These processes are similar to those utilized with other
insects; for instance, the microbiological content of fresh,
processed, and stored edible insects like the mealworm
(Tenebrio molitor)andcricket(Acheta domesticus and
Brachytrupes sp.) have been evaluated recently. Results indi-
cate that Enterobacteriaceae and spore-forming bacteria can
be isolated from fresh insects, but generally do not belong to
pathogenic species. Boiling these insects for 5 min is an ef-
fective method of eliminating Enterobacteriaceae but not
spore-forming bacteria, so refrigerated storage (57 °C) is
suggested. This temperature will also prevent the decomposi-
tion of boiled insects (stable for more than 2 weeks), but is not
efficient in preventing decomposition. Roasting alone did not
kill all the Enterobacteriaceae, so boiling for a few minutes is
suggested before roasting. These studies have also shown that
lactic acid fermentation can inactivate Enterobacteriaceae
and maintain spore-forming bacteria stable at acceptable
levels where they cannot germinate and grow (Klunder et al.
2012). The hygienic handling of insects and adequate storage
conditions are two issues that must be addressed to avoid
potential risks for human health after ingestion (Belluco
et al. 2013). This requires research to obtain information on
consumption that complies with existing norms of food safety,
which now authorize insects as an alimentary alternative.
Maguey worms are used as an ingredient in traditional gas-
tronomy and constitute a source of seasonal economic income
for people in arid and semi-arid regions of several states in
north-central Mexico, as mentioned above (Granados 1993),
where wild populations are gathered intensively (Miranda-
Perkins et al. 2013). In the state of Hidalgo,
C. redtenbacheri is widely-known and has an order of impor-
tance of 27.48% over A. hesperiaris (4.09%).
Commercialization of the larvae is concentrated in the rainy
season when the worms are most abundant. They can be sold
fresh at this time of year and may be ingested live almost
immediately after gathering, or be kept in refrigeration, frozen,
or processed in various forms dehydrated, fried, boiled, for-
mulated, seasoned, or immersed in alcoholic beveragesfor
consumption at any time. In the mezcal industry, a red worm
is actually placed inside the bottle as a distinguishing feature
and attraction that generates added value for the product
(Llanderal-Cázares et al. 2010). These insects can be seen
for sale in several venues: stands along streets or highways,
collection centers, local markets, town squares, and stores in
towns and local communities, but they are also marketed in
other states and exported by companies that sell them in cans
(Contreras-Frias 2013) in tourist areas where they are con-
sumed in home kitchens and restaurants.
Prices vary, depending on such factors as climatic condi-
tions, season, age of the maguey, predators (rodents, birds),
and the quality and evolution of the eggs. In addition, Ramos-
Elorduy (2006) mention a whole range of elements that affect
the commercialization of these insects subject to the rules of
supply and demand: scant knowledge of the biology of the
larvae and the care they require, parasitism of the eggs, crop
abandonment, modernization of agriculture, exposure to dis-
eases due to mismanagement, scarce maguey plantations, al-
ternative hosts, low purchase prices paid to collectors, high
demand, predatory practices, lack of control of hoarders, the
presence of intermediaries, and the absence of price
In Mexico, the sale of maguey worms occurs at the local,
regional, and state levels. They may be sold individually (by
piece) or in containers (cans, paper cones, glass cups, plastic
tubs, bags) of different volumes (250 mL, 500 mL, 1 L) or
weight (gr or Kg). In markets, the cost of a liter of
C. redtenbacheri ranges from $41.3768.95 USD, while a
can similar to the one used for sardines costs $22.98 USD,
and the unit cost is $0.05 USD (Pino-Moreno et al. 2020). Of
course, these prices vary depending on the region, year, com-
munity, and season (low vs. high). The prices of A. hesperiaris
and C. redtenbacheri in the high season range from $28.19
32.89 and $23.49 USD/L respectively, while out of season the
white worm may cost as much as $46.9956.39 USD/L and
the red worm perhaps $32.89 USD/L (Miranda et al. 2011).
Int J Trop Insect Sci
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The availability of these worms in restaurants depends on
price, which can rise to prohibitive levels due to the marked
variability in the insectstemporal or spatial distribution,
which limit their availability (Van Huis et al. 2013).
In contrast to the central regions of Mexico where the col-
lection of edible insects represents an ancestral cultural legacy
with identitary importance and a strong sense of belonging, in
places like the north-central area of Zacatecas this is a rela-
tively recent activity that began just 28 years ago. In the mu-
nicipality of Los Pinos, for example, agricultural productivity
is low, and maguey plants represent the most important natu-
ral resource in terms of abundance and variety of uses (De
Luna-Valadez et al. 2013). The lack of agricultural profitabil-
ity and income opportunities have led some people to turn to
gathering maguey as a way to increase their incomes. De
Luna-Valadez et al. (2013) report that 95.1% of collectors
are men and women who have integrated gradually into this
activity, and that 72% of people work individually, while the
rest operate as families. In Los Pinos, collection is carried out
mainly for commercial ends because the culture of local con-
sumption is limited with only 25% of people consuming
worms in small quantities.
Regarding the rate of use of plant material,
C. redtenbacheri demands a larger number of magueys: 54
plants/day compared to 50 plants/day for A. hesperiaris. As in
the central regions of Mexico, the price of maguey worms
varies from year-to-year and community-to-community, but
average prices for A. hesperiaris and C. redtenbacheri are
$15.74 and $28.19 USD/Kg, respectively. Local collectors
sell their harvests to buyers who take the product to markets
in Mexico City, neighboring states, and even to worm-
producing states in central Mexico (De Luna-Valadez et al.
2013). It is clear that the region of origin largely determines
the price of these worms, and that collectors there receive a
better return on their product than those farther north. This
disparity indicates the need to generate marketing strategies
that favor collectors, regardless of region or state, and to es-
tablish fair prices that reflect the products nutritional attri-
butes, flavor, and gastronomic exoticism.
The tradition and preparation of these insects have been
kept alive in rural communities over many generations down
to the present (Ramos-Elorduy et al. 2001; Shockley et al.
2018; Hurd et al. 2019). Thanks to their cost and value as
traditional dishes, demand for these insects has increased
considerably in recent times. Indeed, sales and consumption
of red and white agave worms in the larval stage are so high
that gathering them has become a significant seasonal eco-
nomic activity in the rainy season; one that is attractive for
many agave producers (Mendoza-Mendoza et al. 2016).
Potential export markets for these larvae could include the
United States and Asia; the former due to the presence of the
many Mexicans and other Latin Americans who are familiar
with maguey worms; the latter because their populations tend
to be more open to new, rareproducts and beliefs. In fact,
people in various cities in China, Japan, and India know
C. redtenbacheri from mezcal exports and believe it has aph-
rodisiac properties apart from its exquisite flavor (Contreras-
Frias 2013).
Without doubt, commerce in maguey worms is attractive
both nationally and internationally, but growing demand has
negatively impacted the host plants because, as mentioned
above, the larvae are collected from wild populations that
are never recovered, re-planted, or tended to. This is generat-
ing a real threat of extinction of the maguey that would mean
the end of their parasites as well (Llanderal-Cázares et al.
2010). Implementing alternative production methods like but-
terfly farms, producing magueys in vitro, and cultivating lar-
vae in greenhouses could help save the maguey and permit the
production of A. hesperiaris and C. redtenbacheri on a com-
mercial scale (Contreras-Frias 2013). Currently, research is
underway on establishing rural production units, and
C. redtenbacheri is being studied in laboratories in terms of
its potential for intensive reproduction. Llanderal-Cázares
et al. (2010), for example, tested various conditions of infes-
tation, greenhouse production, irrigation methods, and soil
moisture using larvae at different densities and distinct instars.
Their results seem promising as the highest establishment rate
was generated using spaced irrigation conditions and low lar-
va densities. They also reported that weekly irrigation gener-
ates higher grammages in the larvae. Without doubt, these
experimental data will be of great value for producing the
red agave worm in greenhouse conditions.
Mexican companies have already developed various prod-
ucts based on these insects: maguey worm salt, agave worm
powder, and red maguey worms in various presentations.
They recognize these larvae as exceptional ingredients with
high culinary and nutritional value, and are promoting the
diversification of consumption by emphasizing the value of
traditions, supporting producers, and supporting the sustain-
ability of these species and the environment (Van Huis 2013;
Van Huis et al. 2013; Melgar-Lalanne et al. 2019). These
companies have also begun to construct the value chain for
maguey worms with a view to commercializing them on a
wider scale. However, the lack of studies and detailed
information on linkages that might benefit stakeholders and
the environment impede defining these parameters. Porter
(1991) has proposed an analytical model to identify and break
down the primary and secondary activities of the value chain.
This model can be used to continue defining and refining the
value chain of maguey worms for their production and com-
mercialization. In this context, field observations and testimo-
nies from producers and sellers identify five key activities
supply, collection, transformation, marketing, and
consumptiontogether with 4 secondary activities: purchas-
ing, general administration, logistics, and marketing
Int J Trop Insect Sci
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Today, there is an urgent need to monitor, study, and gen-
erate information on the exploitation of agave worms. In terms
of economic aspects, there is almost no statistical data on the
national and international commercialization of
C. redtenbacheri and A. hesperiaris, and the few figures that
do exist are mostly descriptive and lack technical scientific
rigor. For all these reasons, it is important to begin laying
economic foundations that will promote the collection and
production of these larvae as an agricultural alternative with
the potential to benefit numerous communities in central
Mexico and other states that produce edible insects, in addi-
tion to rescuing the maguey plant itself, which is now under
C. retenbancheri and A. hesperiaris are two insects with po-
tential uses in the food industry due to their nutritional value,
consumer acceptance, and exquisite flavor, but this potential is
limited, primarily by their seasonal availability. In addition,
the number of insects that can becollected is decreasing due to
overexploitation of maguey plants and the activity of butterfly
or egg predators that interfere with the insectslife-cycle. A
solution for this could include: 1) comprehensive management
of magueys in protected areas; 2) the selection of specific
maguey species for infestation; and 3) implementing cultiva-
tion under greenhouse conditions to facilitate studies of the
different stages of development of the larvae and their inter-
action with the host plants. Determining the reproductive
stages of maguey worms in greater detail will allow us to
establish mass reproduction of insect populations and year-
round production. It is also necessary to investigate how sus-
tainable technologies can improve the harvesting, post-har-
vesting, and processing of these insects to generate a
bioeconomic model that would ensure the adequate incorpo-
ration of these insects into food products enriched in proteins,
fats, fibers, vitamins, and minerals, while providing consumer
satisfaction. Finally, achieving the recognition of the maguey
worms C. retenbancheri and A. hesperiaris as alimentary al-
ternatives requires informing consumers of the benefits of
their consumption and how they can be integrated into their
diet, but this will also mean enacting legislation to regulate
production, consumption, and health benefits.
Acknowledgments We thank María del Carmen Ávila Ramírez, M.Sc.,
for her work on the physiology of Comadia redtenbacheri, and Carmelita
Ramos Tecolmalman (from Tlachiquera del Tinacal los Tuzos, munici-
pality of Singuilucan, Hidalgo) for sharing their experiences and taking
samples and photos of C. redtenbacheri and A. hesperiaris for the elab-
oration of this review. We also thank Mexicos Consejo Nacional de
Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) for the scholarship awarded to the
student Aracely Molina Vega (No.858301) to support her M.Sc. studies
in Biotechnology at the Universidad Politecnica de Pachuca.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of
interest, and that the images included are their property. All authors col-
laborated in the search for information and in the writing of this review,
and approved their participation and the order in which they are listed.
Finally, together they assume all responsibility for this publication.
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... It is well known that the mezcal worm is the larva of a holometabolous insect (Finch & Zarazaga, 2007;Molina-Vega et al., 2021). However, there is conflicting information on the identity of the larva of the species that is in mezcals. ...
... However, there is conflicting information on the identity of the larva of the species that is in mezcals. Literature suggests that the worm is one of three different insects in two different insect orders (Finch & Zarazaga, 2007;Molina-Vega et al., 2021;Fig. 1). ...
... 1). The larva is usually either a white or red ''maguey worm'' (maguey means agave in Spanish) (Van Huis, 2013;Molina-Vega et al., 2021). White maguey worms are thought to be the larva of the agave snout weevil (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scyphorphorus acupunctatus Gyllenhaal) (Lacy, 1988;Finch & Zarazaga, 2007) or the Tequila giant skipper, Aegiale hesperiaris (Walker), family Hesperiidae (Lepidoptera). ...
Full-text available
Mezcals are distilled Mexican alcoholic beverages consumed by many people across the globe. One of the most popular mezcals is tequila, but there are other forms of mezcal whose production has been part of Mexican culture since the 17th century. It was not until the 1940–50s when the mezcal worm, also known as the “tequila worm”, was placed inside bottles of non-tequila mezcal before distribution. These bottled larvae increased public attention for mezcal, especially in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Despite these larvae gaining global interest, their identity has largely remained uncertain other than that they are larvae of one of three distantly related holometabolous insects. We sequenced the COI gene from larvae in different kinds of commercially available mezcals. All larval DNA that amplified was identified as the agave redworm moth, Comadia redtenbacheri. Those that did not amplify were also confirmed morphologically to be the larva of this species.
... The high acceptance level in Mexico can be explained by the fact that in this country insects are associated with a positive image since they are a delicacy sold either in local markets or served in high-end restaurants [59,66]. In addition, insects are dishes reserved for special occasions or celebrations and are used in various preparations [15]. ...
... In addition, insects are dishes reserved for special occasions or celebrations and are used in various preparations [15]. Furthermore, most edible insect species are highly priced [59,66] and their cost is between 3.5 and 10 times the price of chicken or pork meat. ...
Full-text available
The interest in edible insects as food is growing, both in traditional and non-traditional insect-eating countries given their advantages in terms of sustainability and nutritional content. However, only a few studies have conducted cross-country investigations on the acceptance of including processed or whole insects in the diet. Thus, this study aimed to examine to which extent consumers were accepting (i) whole and visible mealworms, (ii) processed mealworms in their diet and (iii) to explore the factors affecting the acceptance level of consuming mealworms in countries with and without entomophagy tradition. An online survey was applied to collect responses (3,006) from five countries-i.e., Belgium, China, Italy, Mexico, and the US-using a quota sampling method. Moreover, an information treatment was included with about half of the participants receiving information about the advantages of edible insects as food (ingredient) and the presence of food safety regulations. Across countries, gender was the main factor affecting acceptance level as men accepted mealworms more than women. Entomophagy tradition mainly explained the differences among countries. Countries with entomophagy traditions (Mexico and China) showed higher acceptance of including whole or processed mealworms in the diet compared to countries with no entomophagy traditions (i.e., Belgium, Italy, and the US). While information and age did affect differently the acceptance of including processed mealworms in countries with entomophagy traditions showing that consumer acceptance was affected by information in Mexico and by age in China. Whereas it was found that younger people (below 42 years old) in countries without entomophagy tradition were more open to accepting processed mealworms in their diet. Moreover, across countries, the acceptance of including processed mealworms was higher compared to whole mealworms. These findings provide insights into which consumer segments to target and the potential impact of information when introducing new insect-based foods in countries with and without entomophagy traditions.
... The entomophagy that has been practiced for thousands of years has also been described. This activity, as well as the economic, nutritional properties of the use, preservation, and marketing of insects that are associated with the asparagaceae genus (Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck), such as red agave worm (Comadia redtenbacheri), white maguey worm (Aegiale hesperiaris), and escamoles (Liometopum apiculatum) (Molina-Vega et al. 2021;Espinosa-García et al. 2018;Rostro et al. 2012), have alimentary options with nutritional benefits for humans. These insects are widely consumed in Mexico, the highest-ranking country worldwide in terms of insect diversity; although some insect species are considered pests of cacti. ...
This chapter describes the health and biotechnological properties of some Cactaceae. It represents a bibliographic review of the use, functional effects, and their application in biotechnological. Accordingly, Cactaceae is a highly diversified family of xerophytes that are dominant throughout drylands of the Americas, which is its center of origin and diversification. Despite investigations into the biology of many cacti species, the reproductive biology of only 2% of cacti species has been studied. Microorganisms directly affect the environment, and with the availability of metagenomics technology today, the people can know what inhabits cacti's interior and surroundings. Humans have been in touch with nature since ancient times. Studies have shown that Cactaceae members are good sources of nutrients and bioactive compounds. It is considered one of the main sources of natural coloring worldwide, which has a tremendous economic impact. Nutritional and pharmacological research needs to be done to identify the specific molecules with biological activity that will improve human well-being.
... In Mexico, agave worms (Comadia redtenbacheri Hammerschmidt) are typically consumed along with traditional alcoholic beverages, such as pulque, tequila, and mezcal. These worms, however, are not masticated but submerged in the alcohol, providing additional taste to the drink, and swallowed whole (60,61). In this regard, the enrichment of alcoholic beverages such as rum, vodka, tequila, and mezcal with insects such as the Central American locust (Schistocerca piceifrons Walker), T. molitor, and P. beltrani, significantly increases the content of phenolic and antioxidative compounds that are notably stable, even after long-term storage at room temperature (45,47). ...
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Edible insects are a natural resource with profound interest in the food industry. Not only because of their nutritional content and technical production advantage, but also for the presence of bioactive compounds known as entomochemicals. These include phenolic, alkaloid, and terpenoid compounds, as well as amino acids derivatives, among others. This work is focused on phenolic compounds, which have been the best characterized due to their role in food development and bioactive properties. The major taxonomic orders studied in this regard include Orthoptera, Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera, whose edible specimens have antioxidant effects provided by the phenolic compounds contained therein. The use of these insects in the development of nutritious foods will enhance the number of options available for the human population. However, depth research is still needed to guarantee the aforementioned bioactivity in processed foods and ensure its innocuity, thus minimizing the risk of allergic reactions and allowing the full utilization of edible insect species in the food industry. Phenolic derived from edible insects portray an opportunity to improve high quality food, as an alternative to diversify and complement an adequate and functional diet. Future development foods supplemented with insects must consider the preservation of potential benefits of not only nutrients, also de nutraceuticals.
... The red worm is considered a gourmet food item with nutritional benefits. To date, it has not been feasible to rear these maguey worms under greenhouse conditions, and sustained wild harvesting is putting them in danger of extinction (Molina-Vega et al., 2021). The harvesting of white and red worms from maguey is a vital income source for communities from the states of Hidalgo and Tlaxcala in Mexico. ...
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Most traditional edible insects are collected from the forest and agricultural fields, where they are considered pests. However, their importance goes beyond this. They also have an ecological role and potential to be an emerging alternative source of high-quality nutrients that can help satisfy the growing food demand for the human population. Agricultural insect pests are a healthy food source during the harvesting season in many tropical countries. In Mexico, wild insects such as chicatana (queen of flying leaf-cutter ant, Atta mexicana Smith, 1,858; Hymenoptera: Formicidae), chapulín (grasshopper, Pyrgomorphidae), chinicuil (agave red worm, Comadia redtenbacheri Hammerschmidt, 1,848: Lepidoptera, Cossidae), and meocuil (agave white worm, Aegiale hesperiaris Walker 1,856, Lepidoptera, Hesperiidae) are seasonally collected from the agricultural land and forest for food and medicine. Thus, their consumption might be regarded as support for biological plague control. However, in most countries (Mexico included), there is a lack of legislation about edible insects from harvesting to sacrifice and even their main safety aspects. So then, this research aims to provide an updated assessment of the potential use of agricultural pest insects as a sustainable alternative for food, considering current international legislative and ethical concerns about harvesting and consuming wild edible insects, focusing on some of the wild edible pest insects in Mexico.
... The review by Molina-Vega et al. (2021) highlights the significance of two Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck infesting edible insects, Comadia redtenbacheri Hammerschmidt and Aegiale hesperiaris Walker, as food in Mexico. ...
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This Special Issue presents the outcomes from the 23rd African Association of Insect Scientists' Conference held in Cote D’Ivoire, in connection with similar initiatives within and outside Africa. Over 65 scientific papers from several countries, worldwide, were submitted, of which about 40 were accepted and published. The issue focused on new advances in the value chain of edible insects in Africa and beyond. An innovative light-emitting diode technology for mass harvesting of edible grasshopper has been developed. The nutrient composition of insects such as the desert locust has been evaluated. Organic waste streams have been found to affect insect productivity and nutritional value. Insect-based feed increases the nutritional quality of poultry meat. Conventional processing methods reduce microbiological hazards in edible insects. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals, excessive microbial loads and pesticides residues threaten safety of some edible insects, if quality control measures are not developed. Climate change will impede availability of edible insects; hence, necessitating upscaling of mass production technologies and sound conservation practices. Safety and hygiene, on the other hand, hamper the acceptability of insects as food and/or feed, particularly in developed countries. Food fortification with insects and isolation of bioactive compounds from them are new highlights in the Special Issue, which were previously under-explored in Africa. The application of modern food processing technology in the development of new products and the medicinal or commercial value derivable from edible insects and their therapeutic functions are excellent opportunities for expanding the sector. Since disgust factors exist, mass sensitisation on the benefits of consuming insects and insect-based products is a must. We believe that the new frontiers on insects for food, feed and other uses that have been presented in this special issue will undoubtedly stimulate more debates and collaborations in the sector within Africa and beyond.
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As the global population continues to grow, traditional protein sources like meat and fish are becoming increasingly unsustainable due to their environmental impact. Edible insects, on the other hand, are highly nutritious, require minimal resources to produce, and emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases than traditional livestock. Lepidoptera, one of the most diverse insect orders, contains some popular edible species that have been consumed traditionally for centuries across the globe. Based on this review, about 24 families with a total of about 350 edible lepidopteran species were recorded. They are often praised for their excellent nutritional value, such as having high protein and healthy fat content. Edible lepidopterans also contain minerals, essential amino acids, and vitamins, making them a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. They also contain bioactive compounds which have various nutraceutical and pharmaceutical properties. Furthermore, some edible lepidopterans can be farmed and require minimal space and resources. However, there are significant challenges associated with their use as food. One of the primary challenges is the lack of regulations governing their production and distribution, which creates uncertainty for consumers and businesses alike. Consumer acceptance is also a significant barrier to the widespread adoption of insects as food. To overcome these challenges, there is a need for clear regulations that ensure the safety and quality of insect-based products. Furthermore, it is important to raise awareness about the nutritional and environmental benefits of edible insects as sustainable food for the future to promote their acceptance among consumers.
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The use of somatic embryogenesis can be an alternative to produce a large number of somatic seedlings in less time at low cost; however, the viability and success of this method depend on several factors such as the type of explant used, the hormonal balance, among others. In this sense, the present research work evaluated the use of immature zygotic embryos obtained by in-casa pollination as explants of Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck subsp. salmiana obtained from different municipalities of the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. After 30-40 days of having pollinated inflorescences or panicles, a total of 89 fruits were obtained, of which 1608 zygotic embryos were rescued in vitro, and from these somatic embryos were generated in a nutrient medium (MS) by Murashige and Skoog, supplemented with vitamins L2, 9 μM of the auxin 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D) and 1.3 μM of the cytokinin 6-6 benzylaminopurine (BAP). Calli were used in two experiments in the presence of 2,4-D auxins and α-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) in combination with the cytokinin BAP. After 40 days of incubation, it was observed that a large number of embryos and embryogenic calli were generated using 4.5-9.0 μM 2,4-D in combination with 0.4-1.3 μM BAP. In-casa pollination allows the formation of viable zygotic embryos, and these can be used as explants in somatic embryogenesis, this being an alternative to help the genetic conservation of Agave plants in Mexico.
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This review summarizes the current trends related to insect as food resources among consumers, industry, and academia. In Western societies, edible insects have a greater potential as animal feed than as human food because of cultural biases associated with harmful insects, although the abundant characteristics of edible insects should benefit human health. Nevertheless, many countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Latin America utilize insects as a major protein source. Using insects can potentially solve problems related to the conventional food-supply chain, including global water, land, and energy deficits. Academic, industry, and government-led efforts have attempted to reduce negative perceptions of insects through developing palatable processing methods, as well as providing descriptions of health benefits and explaining the necessity of reducing reliance on other food sources. Our overview reveals that entomophagy is experiencing a steady increase worldwide, despite its unfamiliarity to the consumers influenced by Western eating habits.
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Insects are part of the human diet in many parts of the world. Their nutritional value is widely recognized. Currently, most edible insects are harvested from the wild, although semi-domestication and indoor farming have increased insect availability and the sustainability of production. In traditional cultures, insects are processed in a number of ways (steaming, roasting, smoking, frying, stewing, and curing, among others) to improve their sensory and nutritional qualities as well as their shelf-life. In order to increase consumer interest in the West, various technologies have been developed that are aimed primarily at using insects as ingredients in a non-recognizable form, such as powders or flour. These technologies include drying (sun-drying, freeze-drying, oven-drying, fluidized bed drying, and microwave-drying) and new processing methods (ultrasound-assisted extraction, cold atmospheric pressure plasma, and dry fractionation) designed mainly for protein, fat, and/or chitin extraction. Insect-based ingredients are sold for the production of cookies, chocolates, tortilla-style chips, and other snacks. This review focuses on edible insect production, processing technologies, and commercialization using strategies ranging from traditional to novel as a sustainable approach for improving food security worldwide.
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Consumption of edible Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt), known as the agave red worm, has increased in recent years, which has caused excessive collection from wild populations. This research proposed methods to induce infestation of Agave salmiana plants in pots, with larvae of 0.12 g and ≥0.30 g at 20, 30, and 40 per plant well as newly emerged adults at 1:1, 1:2, and 2:1 female:male ratios, and agave plants planted in soil with larvae ≥0.30 g at densities of 30, 60, 90, and 120 per plant. Results indicated that in pots, larvae with greater weight at 30 and 40 per plant produced the most pupae and adult emergence. Adults at 1:2 female-male ratio averaged 12 larvae per plant with 75% of plants infested. Larvae released at densities of 60 in soil established successfully and produced a second generation with 72% of plants internally infested, with an average of 14.5% of plant stem damage. Results might serve as the basis for production or population recovery programs for the agave red worm. © 2018 Southwestern Entomological Society. All rights reserved.
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Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (Agave Red Worm) is the only member of the family Cossidae that has been described as a phytophagous specialist of the plant genus Agave, which is mainly distributed in México. A new extraction protocol adapted from Stewart & Via (1993) has been implemented for sequencing the COI gene from samples collected in five states of the North Central (Querétaro and Zacatecas), South Central (Estado de México) and East Central (Hidalgo and Tlaxcala) regions of México with the purpose of contributing to delineation of the species. A Maximum Likelihood (ML) tree based on these COI sequences as well as COI sequences from other Cossinae species was developed to complement the existing morphological and taxonomic approaches to delineation of this species. As expected, our Comadia samples cluster together within a monophyletic clade that includes four C. redtenbacheri sequences previously reported. This group seems to be consistent with our reconstruction, which is supported by a bootstrap value of over 99%. The closely related branches associated with the latter group include organisms known to be the plant and tree borers of the Cossinae subfamily. The COI sequences from our samples were analyzed to determine the percentage of identity among the C. redtenbacheri in a first attempt to detect differences in the sequence that matches a particular region of México.
The white maguey worm, Aegiale hesperiaris (Walker, 1856), is a gastronomic delicacy in Mexico, with high economic value. Aegiale hesperiaris is generally associated with the plant Agave salmiana Otto ex Salm-Dyck (Asparagales: Asparagaceae). However, lack of information about Ae. hesperiaris means that it is often confused with morphologically similar species such as Agathymus remingtoni D. Stallings & Thurner (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae), a species generally found on Agave lechuguilla Torrey (Asparagales: Asparagaceae). Harvestings are made from all Agave L. (Asparagales: Asparagaceae) species on the assumption that all larvae will be Ae. hesperiaris. This has led to the belief that Ae. hesperiaris may have extended its diet breadth range and is actually infesting other Agave species. We collected larvae from A. lechuguilla and A. salmiana plants, in Hidalgo state, Mexico, and incubated them at 26°C, 50% RH and 12:12 light regime until adult emergence; adults were examined using morphological (male genitalia and wing patterns) and molecular techniques (partial COI sequences) to provide the data necessary for accurate species identification and allocation to host plant. Both species were successfully separated and identified as Ae. herperiaris feeding on A. salmiana and Ag. remingtoni feeding on A. lechuguilla, and a detailed description of the larval developmental stages and feeding behavior described. These results will facilitate the accurate identification of these two species in future studies.
Insects have great potential to serve as a sustainable food source owing to their notable nutritional value, high feed conversion rate, and low environmental footprint. The sharing of well-established recipes in cultures where insect consumption is normalized can facilitate new product development among cultures where consumption is resisted. In the current investigation, we traveled to both rural and urban areas of Oaxaca, Mexico and studied the collection, processing, retailing, and eating practices of edible insects such as chapulines [Sphenarium purpurascens Charpentier (Pyrgomorphidae, Orthoptera) and Melanoplus mexicanus (Saussure) (Acrididae, Orthoptera)], chicatanas [Atta mexicana (F. Smith) (Formicidae, Hymenoptera)], maguey worms [Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (Cossidae, Lepidoptera)], and cochineal [Dactylopius coccus Costa (Dactylopiidae, Hemiptera)]. In rural communities where access to other animal-based foods has been limited, insects provided important nutritional value that today also translates into important economic value. Community members know the habits of the insects and are skilled at collecting them using sophisticated techniques. After collection, the insects are often toasted with or without seasonings for flavor and preservation. The processed insects are readily available in urban markets, and their importance in Oaxacan cuisine cannot be overestimated. Chapulines, chicatanas, and maguey worms are key ingredients in many spice mixes, salsas, and mole sauces. Cochineal is used as a food colorant. These insects are also found in a variety of foods, both sweet and savory, including omelets, tamales, quesadillas, chocolate truffles, and sorbets. As evidenced by the culinary uses of insects in Oaxaca, there is substantial potential for edible insects to become a delicacy in Western cultures.
Insects have been an important part of food culture for many different places and peoples across North America’s history. This chapter retraces the indigenous uses of insects as a food across the continent, through modern Mexico and into the present day movement to bring these ingredients into the culinary landscape of the United States of America and Canada. The authors provide an overview of the practices and uses of insects as food in both whole and traditional forms, and newer abstractions of the insects into consumer facing snack food products. In addition, the ways in which these startup farms and product makers are using insects for food are discussed, including facets such as crowdfunding, processing and marketing, as well as evidence from the culinary and celebrity worlds that entomophagy is gaining traction in North America.
Background Consuming insects as an alternative protein source is considered a future trend and a viable strategy that could potentially contribute to global food security. Insects are a non-conventional source of protein, either for human consumption directly or indirectly as a component in recomposed foods or added to feedstock mixtures. Moreover, these proteins have demonstrated a broad range of applications as peptides with antihypertensive, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. However, aspects such as food safety and processing of these proteins need further studies for their elucidation and optimization. Scope and approach In this review, aspects of nutritional value and risks of insect consumption are reported. Additionally, conventional processing techniques and recent advances in insect protein extraction and production are presented. The application of bioactive peptides obtained from insect protein hydrolysates is reported, focusing on their potential antihypertensive, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Key findings and conclusions Insect proteins have great advantages in terms of nutritional value, total protein level and amino acid profile. However, some safety concerns must be taken into consideration in large-scale production. The conventional processing of insects proteins is very particular, depending on several aspects such as species, larval stage, and cultivation, among others. Nonetheless, recent advances in insect protein production via enzymatic hydrolysis and heterologous expression have shown a promising technology for the study and exploitation of their bioactive properties, such as the antimicrobial, antioxidant and antihypertensive (inhibition of ACE) activity of insect peptides.