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Entomophagy and commercially available insects among the Sumi tribe in Dimapur

Entomophagy and commercially available insects among the Sumi tribe in Dimapur
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/17/2020 4:47:14 AM IST

 Tihis article is based on excerpts from the research work by Alino Sumi, a Doctoral candidate and Senior Research Fellow (SRF) of Martin Luther Christian University, Meghalaya, an awardee of NET JRF & Assistant Professorship and a recipient of the University Merit Scholarship. The study was conducted in Dimapur District of Nagaland, with special reference to the weekly local markets in the district. The study was conducted from April 2018 to April 2019 through in-depth interviews using self-administered questionnaires. In addition, only the vendors belonging to the Sumi tribe were engaged in the study. The insects were collected from the local markets and their local names were identified from vendors and from the Sumi elders in the community. The insects were preserved following standard methods (Ghosh and Sengupta, 1982) and submitted to Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Shillong for identification. The scientific and common names were obtained from the taxonomic literature and photographs, literature review, etc.

The term Entomophagy refers to the consumption of insects as diet. The consumption of insects as food is as old as the history of mankind and has played a paramount role as part of human nutrition in many regions around the world such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. There are about 751,000 known species of insects worldwide, which is about three-fourths of all species of animals. 

Insects are appreciated as food because compared to conventional meat sources; edible insects contain satisfactorily more energy and protein content, good amino acid and fatty acid profiles and high contents of a variety of micronutrients and vitamins. Many insects are low in cholesterol and fat; they are herbivores and have clean eating habits which make them cleaner than chickens, pigs, and several other conventional protein sources. Most often than not, most insect consumed are harvested from the wild, or come from the wild and are gathered for food, hence, they are mostly free from pesticide and other chemical contaminant which abound in places where conventional source of protein are found.

Entomophagy has, therefore, been advocated worldwide as a source to combat future food security mainly because of its abundance, high nutrient composition, high feed conversion efficiency, digestibility and ease with which they can be bred. Furthermore, as a food source, edible insects can help to uplift the nutritional status of residents of poor developing countries and at the same time can serve as a complimentary food or food ingredient for developed countries.

Besides the significance as food, edible insects are suspected to have an impact on livelihood and social conditions of rural population as gathering and farming of insects could be carried out with minimal output of technical or capital resources which also gives the poorest members of the society a possibility to generate income. The nutritional importance of edible insects and their availability has attracted their consumption by more than 2 billion people on a daily basis and hence the part played by insects in human nutrition cannot be underestimated. 

According to Das (2019), in India, the North Eastern states of India recorded the highest insect consumption. With no exception to Nagaland, the Sumi tribe of Dimapur district had been practising Entomophagy since time immemorial. The Sumi Naga shares a close communion with their environment and practice natural resource management. Some of the insects consumed by the Sumis and which are available commercially in the markets are- silkworm, grasshopper, flying termite, cricket, cicada, stink bug, palm weevil, water beetle, bee and hornet, the details of which will be discussed further in this paper.

Diversity of Species and its Nutritional value:

Amongst several species, the data collected and identified 11 (eleven) species of insects belonging to 7(seven) order and 10(ten) family which were available commercially and consumed by the Sumi tribe in Dimapur district of Nagaland. Out of these, 2(two) species belong to order Hymenoptera, 2(two) belong to Orthoptera, 2 (two) belonging to Hemiptera, another 2(two) belong to Coleoptera and 1(one) each to Lepidoptera, Cicadoidea and Blattodea.

As surveyed in the study, the stage of consumption differed for each insect, i.e., some were consumed during the stage of larva, pupa, nymph and adult. In addition, the mode of consumption also varied-some insects were consumed after being steamed with different spices and herbs, fried, roasted or smoked. Each household had different mode of preparation and consumption for the aforementioned insects.

The nutrient contents of the insects were analysed in the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Shillong and the protein estimation of the specimens were done by following the methodology and protocol of Das et al (2019) and Lowry et al (1951). Carbohydrate estimation was done by Van Handel method (1985); total lipid was extracted from the whole insect as per the method of Das et al (2019) and Folch et al (1957). All these data confirms the efficacy of insects with protein content higher than the carbohydrates and fats, thereby, highlighting the nutritional value of the insects as alternative source of protein.

The prevalence of Entomophagy is clearly seen among the Sumi tribe; hence, insects have played a significant role in their nutritional status. Though the people were unaware of the insects’ nutritional composition and benefits, the insects were used as regular food based on their availability and not as an emergency food item. However, awareness on over exploitation and unsustainable harvesting methods are essential to maintain and protect the biodiversity.  In addition, the process of rearing and harvesting needs further exploration and documentation.

Contributed by, Alino Sumi,  Doctoral candidate and Senior Research Fellow (SRF), Martin Luther Christian University, Shillong

1. Silkworm, Philosomia ricini:

The stage of consumption is pupae and larvae and their availability is from the month of March-October. The nutritional content is protein 11.1%, carbohydrates 2.5%, fat 5.5% and moisture content is 48.1%.

2. Rice grasshopper, Heiroglyphus banian:

The stage of consumption is adult and their availability is from June-October. The nutritional content is protein 13.6%, carbohydrates 2.1%, fat 3.2% and moisture content is 15.6%.

3. Cricket, Meloimorpha cincticornis:

 The stage of consumption is nymph and adult and their availability is from the month of July- November. The nutritional content is protein 14.4%, carbohydrate 5.0%, fat 5.5% and moisture content is 35.05%.

4. Cicada, Dundubia intemerata: 
The stage of consumption is adult and they are available from June-November. The nutritional content is protein 18.1%, carbohydrate 4.5%, fat 8.9% and moisture content is 29.3%.

5. Stink bug, Coridius chinensis dallas:
 They are consumed at the stage of adults and are available from May- August. The nutritional content is protein 9.8%, carbohydrate 1.9%, fat 1.1% and moisture content is 13.2%.
 
6. Palm weevil, Rhynchophorus herbst:
They are consumed at the stage of larvae and are available from the month of September- November. The nutritional content is protein 20.1%, carbohydrate 3.9%, fat 7.3% and moisture content is 63.7%.

7. Water beetle/bug, Cybister limbatus:
 The stage of consumption is adult and its availability is from July-November. The nutritional content is protein 20.1%, carbohydrate 3.2%, fat 8.4% and moisture content is 61.2%.

8. Great banded hornet, Vespa tropica:
 It is consumed in all stages- larvae, pupae and adult and is available from May- November. The nutritional content is protein 17.2%, carbohydrate 3.3%, fat 6.3% and moisture content is 57.5%.
 
9. Honey bee, Apis indica:
 It is consumed in larvae stage and is available from May- November. The nutritional content is protein 15.9%, carbohydrate 3.3%, fat 6.3% and moisture content is 48.9%.
 
10. Flying /winged termite, Isoptera:
The stage of consumption is larvae and adult and is available from May- September. The nutritional content is protein 14.2%, carbohydrate 0.2%, fat 1.3% and moisture content is 24.2%.

11. Giant water bug/beetle, Lethocerus americanus:
It is consumed during the adult stage and is available from April- September. The nutritional value is protein 9.2%, carbohydrate 1.55, fat 2.1% and moisture content is 29.6%. 

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