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Eating Insects Detroit conference coming May 26-28 to Wayne State — the first-of-its-kind in the U.S.

March 31, 2016


While eating bugs may have once been reserved for gross-out competition TV shows such as Fear Factor, there has been an increased interest in edible insects in Western countries where this food resource has been largely overlooked.

Julie Lesnik, assistant professor in WSU’s Department of Anthropology, has a primary interest in the evolution of the human diet, specifically entomophagy, or eating insects.

As a burgeoning area of research and commerce, there have been a number of conferences held across Europe and in Canada dedicated to edible insects.

But Wayne State University will be the first to host such a conference in the United States, as Eating Insects Detroit: Exploring the Culture of Insects as Food and Feed makes its way to WSU’s Community Arts Auditorium and the surrounding main campus area May 26-28.

The first conference in North America dedicated to edible insects was held in Montreal in August 2014. After Julie Lesnik, assistant professor in Wayne State’s Department of Anthropology, attended this conference, she knew the entrepreneurial spirit of Detroit was the perfect atmosphere for the first U.S. conference of this kind.  

Dried crickets are made into cricket flour, which packs a lot of protein.
Dried crickets are made into cricket flour, which packs a lot of protein.

“With the building interest in edible insects and the growing array of insect-based products,” Lesnik said, “there is great opportunity to engage the public in discussions about their potential and issues surrounding food security and sustainability.”

​Lesnik’s primary interest is in the evolution of the human diet, specifically entomophagy, or eating insects. Her work includes an assessment of the nutritional role that termites would have fulfilled in the diet of South African robust australopithecines and identification of which taxa of termites would be the most likely candidates for consumption.

“WSU is exceptionally suited to host this conference as it brings decades of successful community-university collaborations confronting regional and global social and health issues,” Lesnik said.

Conference highlights include:

From May 26-28, academic programming will include featured speakers, volunteered oral presentations, poster presentations and discussion panels.

On the evening of May 26, Detroit Ento, a startup prototyping-farm focusing on insect protein for human food, together with Salt and Cedar of Eastern Market, will host a culinary and educational event featuring a five-course meal with drink pairings featuring a range of edible insects. Seating is limited and tickets will be available through the Eating Insects Detroit conference website.

On May 27, a vendors’ expo will be free and open to the public. Different edible insect-inspired organizations and companies will be featuring their products and services. Expert “bug chefs” will be preparing dishes for guests to sample and for a panel of judges to assess. 

This event will be of interest to members of the food community in Detroit, including business owners and chefs who are interested in the potential of this sustainable ingredient. It promises to be both educational and fun, and may be of interest to anyone in the Detroit community, from entrepreneurs to families looking for a night out.

May 29 will be aimed at families in the Detroit community. A kid-focused event at the Michigan Science Center will feature edible insect snacks, a bug zoo, coloring, and other activities meant to teach children about the fascinating world of entomology while also exposing them to the benefits of edible insects.

Registration is currently open. More information can be found on the conference's website.