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Hal Daniel, ECU biology professor emeritus, is featured in the “Bug Eating Man,” on the television network, The Animal Planet. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU Biologist Takes Bug-eating Passion to Television

By Christine Neff

Hal Daniel, professor emeritus of biology at East Carolina University, will appear in an upcoming Animal Planet show to discuss one of his favorite subjects – entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects.

ECU biologist Hal Daniel recommends insects as an alternative source of dietary protein.

Daniel, an anthropologist, biologist and chef, combined these three passions in his study of entomophagy. “In certain cultures, insects are a prized food,” he said. “There is no doubt, insects can be enjoyed, but Westerners often have a squeamish reaction to them.”

Adding insects to your diet as an alternative source of protein can benefit your health and the environment, Daniel said. Insects have high levels of protein and vitamins and, often, little fat. They are also abundant and environmentally sustainable.

Entomophagy can even benefit your tastebuds, he claims. “Take stink bugs, for instance. They are real spicy and wonderful,” Daniel said. “One general rule, though, is if it’s colorful, don’t eat it. That is nature’s way of warning you off.”

Daniel has created his own recipes, including some gourmet-inspired dishes like Cicada a la Romana. “Start with a nice piece of focaccia bread. Sauté garlic in olive oil. Add young cicadas, peas and tomato sauce. Put the mixture on the bread, and top it with grated Romano cheese. With a glass of red wine – it’s outstanding,” he said.

The Animal Planet show, “Bug Eating Man,” reflects a growing interest in the subject of entomophagy among mainstream media. Recent articles have appeared in Time magazine, NPR, various science journals and other news sources. The network has not yet released an airdate for the program.
Daniel feels that, through awareness, Americans may be more likely to try eating insects. He noted how attitudes toward sushi shifted over the last 20 years, and feels a similar cultural shift could make insects a popular dish.

“It has to happen in a hip place where people are willing to try it,” he said.

“The bottom line is how you market it.”


This page originally appeared in the March 20, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at