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The ancient temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
'Wake at dawn to experience the serenity of the sunrise
'and you'll quickly discover you're not alone.
'The place is crawling with bugs.
'But what might seem like disgusting pests to you and me
'are what many in this region would call lunch.
'With 40 tons of insects to every human on the planet,
'are we in the West ignoring
'one of the world's great untapped resources?'
That is huge!
'I'm Stefan Gates and I'm fascinated by the prejudices we all have
'about what's acceptable to eat and what's not.'
That little girl is tiny and she's got a massive plate of insects!
'Because here, hungry children are taking huge risks
'for a plate of extraordinary food.'
He's putting his finger into a tarantula nest
to check that it's at home.
'I want to know if these little creatures might just hold the answer
'to the survival of our species.'
There's clearly a huge future for this.
'I've come to find out if eating insects can save the world.'
I've just landed in Bangkok, Thailand,
which, as any entomologist will tell you,
is the bug-eating capital of the world.
'Insect eating is completely normal here,
'so I've always wondered why the rest of us, including myself,
'find it so difficult to swallow.'
About ten years ago, I picked up this book in a second-hand bookshop
and I grabbed it and I thought, "That looks bizarre."
It's called, Why Not Eat Insects?
And it was first published in 1885.
Now, there are lots of reasons why people don't want to eat insects.
People think they're dirty, revolting. But why not?
If you take away those cultural sensitivities, if it's a food,
if it's delicious, if you can put yourself into somebody else's culture
and really taste the things they taste
and understand why they eat the things they eat, why not?
'I hit the streets looking for dinner and I quickly discover
'that, when it comes to foods that we in the West find shocking,
'Thailand has it all.'
I'm trying to guess what half these things are here.
There's duck tongue's there,
all sorts of fish, lots of catfish.
This is an entire stall of guts.
There's a little bit of throat there, some liver.
The smells are brilliant.
Intestine soup, sounds disgusting, smells like heaven.
'But I'm not here for intestine soup.
'I head further into the market
'searching for what I've come all this way to eat.'
Insect sellers first came to this street
to cater for country girls working here as prostitutes.
But they quickly realised they could make extra money
selling to curious tourists.
They're so savvy they even charge to take a snapshot.
And would you eat them when you go back home or was it just something you'd do for fun out here?
-No, when I turned 25, we all ate grasshoppers.
-She'd do it again.
I wouldn't choose them as a snack.
'I pride myself on being adventurous with food,
'so I prepare to tuck in.'
-Which ones you like?
Which ones are the best ones?
Silkworms? OK, can I have some silkworms?
And maybe a scorpion.
I've never been asked that question before in my life.
-It's very difficult to find.
-I'll have a big one.
-For one, yes.
Can I buy one of these?
How much is a water bug?
-I'm happy to pay your prices, that's fine.
-Thank you very much.
So, you pull the head off?
I guess it's a little bit like eating a prawn,
it's got a shell on the outside, should be the same sort of thing.
-OK, let's see.
A little bit new.
-Inside, you know.
-I feel so lucky.
You've got to come look at this,
it's full of a green slop.
Which is the eggs, it's full of eggs.
I was feeling happy about it until, until you told me about that.
-Thank you, good night.
I'm still trying to chew that water bug, it was utterly,
It feels like that's a bit of a gimmick
rather than any realistic food source.
'So my first attempt at eating insects in Thailand
'isn't a great success.
'Overcoming my prejudice is tougher that I thought,
'and digesting that bug is proving even harder.'
With the taste of water bug still lingering the next morning,
I head off for my first appointment.
'Here, at the Food And Agriculture Organisation at the United Nations,
'they're working hard to make insects an acceptable food source
'all over the world.'
I've come to meet Patrick Durst, the champion of the bug-eating movement.
I have some insects here you might want to take a look at.
Some that are just from the locally available vendors.
They don't look any more pleasant after they've been cooked, do they?
-Well, kind of depends on what you get used to.
I don't think that shrimp are particularly appetising
when you first look at them either.
And lobster is pretty ugly, isn't it? Let's be honest.
I got introduced to eating insects
when I first came to Thailand more than 20 years ago
and I tried them as a snack at that time,
I enjoyed it and I've been eating ever since.
It's good food, first of all, very nutritious, high in protein,
they reproduce very quickly,
they produce a lot of body mass quickly, for the food they eat.
Compared to beef, insects are about 20 times more efficient.
So the challenge is to feed the rising number of people,
we'll have more than nine billion people on the planet by 2050.
'As population increases, so does the demand for resources.
'Meat production relies on large amounts of grain and water,
'so finding an alternative source of protein is crucial.'
So could insects save the planet from a food crisis?
Certainly, part of the food solution.
Here in Thailand, we have, it's one, one of the countries in the world
where there's an increasing number of people eating insects.
There was no cricket farming industry in Thailand 25 years ago,
it's all evolved in the last 20 years
and now, it's producing tons and tons of insects...of crickets every day.
-And why here in South East Asia are insects so popular?
-I mean, you're a fan, aren't you?
-I always like the crickets.
'Patrick's breakfast of crickets, grasshoppers and silk worms
'is a lot more appetising than last night's water bug.'
That's pretty good.
'I've been finding it hard enough to tackle my own food prejudices,
'but I notice that Kari, my director, is looking squeamish.'
You're not eating too fast here, Kari.
The thing about the crickets is,
they do look like they're... Oh!
'It might be a bit childish to start flicking crickets.
'But if we look beyond our disgust,
'we might realise we've been ignoring a food
'that could just possibly change the world.'
Two billion people already eat insects as part of their diet.
There are over 1,900 thriving edible species
and even though they far outnumber humans,
insects have a tiny carbon footprint.
They need little water and produce few greenhouse gases.
They're cold blooded, so they don't waste energy keeping warm
and they produce protein while eating very little food.
So if they could help solve the world's food crisis
and save the environment,
surely we should all put our cultural prejudices to one side
and embrace the joys of eating insects.
'If only it was that easy.'
I still haven't quite got over my first bout of insect eating.
I've got an incredibly sore throat
and I'm sort of blaming it on the giant water bug
which ripped my oesophagus as it went down.
But now, I'm heading out to the North East of Thailand,
to a region called Isan
and this area should be very interesting
because it's where insect eating is supposed to be incredibly popular.
I'm heading to Klong Manao Primary School,
nestled amongst the rice fields and coconut trees
in one of Thailand's poorest regions.
Eating habits are formed from a young age,
'so perhaps these kids hold the answer
'as to why some cultures have no problem eating insects
'as part of their diet.
'I've been invited by their Head Mistress, Mrs Noi,
'to help her cook today's lunch.
'I think you can guess what's on the menu.'
So it's lunch time,
what are you going to be cooking for the children today?
And what are they?
You would never in a million years serve this to,
to the kids in my kids' school.
It's quite a graphic little thing.
It's, it's quite wet inside there, if you,
if you squeeze the abdomen,
it's quite squidgy... Urgh!
And did you or the children collect these?
The students pick these?
'So every evening, as well as doing their homework,
'students also have to catch next day's lunch.'
How come they're dead?
You look so sweet and yet, you're so cruel.
'Happy for an extra hand,
'Mrs Noi puts me to work.'
The attractive hat look.
Do the children work well after eating a lunch of bugs?
So that goo there, is that all...eggs of the cricket?
'Oh, good. More eggs.'
It just makes me want to vomit.
I, I just about got into the idea of eating crickets,
but now I see that it's full of these soft gooey eggs,
I've regressed back into being pathetic and scared of them.
'But it's hard to feel disgusted
'when the students are all licking their lips in anticipation.'
Wow, there's a really pungent meaty smell coming off them.
I thought they would smell of something familiar,
but they've got a smell all of their own.
'Fragrant pandan leaves are added to the crickets.
'Then, the heat of the frying creates an intense flavour
'while killing off any potential bacteria.'
It's definitely dead.
They don't look any less scary once they've been cooked.
They're still very much crickets.
Oh, that's heavy soy sauce.
Oh! Just a little bit then.
Oh! That is really nice.
It's like chicken-favoured crisps,
quite salty. Wow, that's good, though.
Something quite extraordinary is about to happen.
80 kids are running over for a plate of insects.
English kids, watch this and weep.
These guys are seriously cool.
OK. Is that the right amount?
OK. Here we go.
That little girl is tiny and she's got a massive plate of insects.
Lunch goes down a storm,
and it's unlikely to be my genius in the kitchen.
These kids have just grown up eating insects every day.
There's not a hint of fear or squeamishness on display.
Far from it.
This is the most extraordinary thing of all,
the ice-cream wagon has arrived, it's all over there,
there's a huge queue of kids queuing up for it.
But this guy here didn't want another plate of ice-cream,
he went, in fact, both of them, went and got two more plates of crickets.
Just can't get my head into a space where it's normal,
but it couldn't get any more normal than this, it's lunchtime at school.
I leave the school and head off to find the source
of the millions of kilos of insects that the Thais eat every year.
It turns out that bugs are so popular in Thailand
they have to buy them from neighbouring countries.
This isn't just a cottage industry -
bugs here are big business.
If there was any doubt as to the importance of the insect trade,
this kind of tells the story, this is Poipet,
it's the border with Cambodia, which is Thailand's much poorer neighbour.
And every day, tens of thousands of people
flood into Thailand for work,
but also tons of insects are imported as well,
because Thailand simply can't hunt or grow enough insects
to supply its own demand.
They're heading for one of the biggest insect markets in the country,
right here on the border, Rong Glue market,
the Billingsgate for bugs.
It's here that dealers from all over Thailand
come to buy and sell the freshest insects.
All the stalls here are full of the most extraordinary foods.
I've never seen these fellas before,
these are kind of strange green bugs.
Lots of giant water beetles, some absolutely extraordinary things.
But this isn't everything that's here,
most of it is hidden away in these big cool boxes at the back here,
they are absolutely jam-packed full of bags of bugs.
it smells a little bit like a fish market, I guess.
This is a massive soup of ant eggs
and they've thrown in lots of ice to keep them, to keep them cool,
so they don't rot and over here are hundreds of kilos of red ants.
Absolutely massive, these are worth a fortune.
'The holy grail for insect lovers,
'weaver ant pupae, or red ant eggs as they're called here,
'are the most expensive bugs in Thailand.
'I'm desperate to tuck in,
'but I've barely started on my insect-eating journey
'and I'm simply not ready to appreciate them.
'Instead, my guide Jam takes me round the corner
'to the town's legendary culinary hotspot run by Ms Lek.
'She's so close to the market that her bugs are the freshest in town.'
Her recipe is very special.
She fry fresh insects,
so that's why it tastes much, much better
than the ones you have tried before.
Do you think the ones I had were cooked hours or days before hand?
-That's how normally it's cooked, you know, I bet you.
And this one is going to be a totally new experience for you.
To be honest, it couldn't be much worse, because they were,
they were horrible.
-Ooh, do you know what? I can smell insects from here.
I can smell that frying of protein.
-Stefan. Ms Lek.
-Very nice to meet you.
THEY SPEAK IN THAI
Everyone seems to have huge mounds of cooked insects,
but you've only got some, a few left on each one.
Is that because you keep selling them so fast?
She's not going to cook too much, but cook and sell,
cook and sell at the same time,
-so the customer tastes the fresh insects.
She said if they are not fresh, it will never ever taste good.
'If the steady stream of hungry customers is anything to go by,
'Ms Lek's is clearly the place to be.
'And don't be fooled into thinking this is peasant food.
'Jam tells me Ms Lek's bugs are so popular,
'she can turn over £240 a day,
'in a region where the average daily wage is just £12.'
We're trying to interview her,
but she's so busy, she's selling so many insects,
that she keeps going, "Sorry!" and going off.
Cos everyone's buying stuff.
People are coming past on their mopeds and stopping off here.
This is a proper fast-moving industry.
You're buying some insects,
are you having them for your supper or as a snack?
-It's like having it as sweets.
So if I wanted to try and convince people from my country
to eat more insects, what, what should I tell them?
Good for your health?
'The locals are clearly sold,
'so it's time for me to take a deep breath and have another go.'
So there's one insect that I tried that I thought was horrible.
It didn't really taste of anything and Jam wanted me to try it again.
Do you have some water bugs, giant water bugs?
'To my delight, she has a fresh batch waiting for the wok.'
Oh, my gosh.
Are you keen on one? It's your last chance.
-No, no, it's all for you.
'Dipped in seasoned batter for extra flavour,
'Ms Lek's fresh food guarantee isn't for the faint-hearted.'
Wow, so these are the super fresh ones, wow,
they're really plump, aren't they?
This is the best for me,
-because look how big it is.
-It's big and fat and juicy.
-Crunchy, munchy, you know you have to.
Some pepper, soya sauce there.
Is that the gourmet preparation?
So these are all the eggs inside here,
underneath this massive film of pepper.
A heck of a lot of pepper.
And it has got a bizarre pistachio flavour, that's really weird.
Oh, you can see all the individual eggs there?
You've got a beaut there.
How do you feel about giant water bug now?
Have you changed your mind a little bit?
Yeah, I can see that they're not a gimmick just for tourists,
which is what I was slightly worried about,
cos you see these graphic things with big legs and big scary eyes
and you think you're just doing that to scare people,
but that is genuinely delicious, it's not the best food on the planet,
it's not as good as the grasshoppers,
but, yeah, that tastes pretty good,
I'll give you that.
'I'm hugely relieved to find some delicious insects,
'but Ms Lek won't let us leave until we all have a taste.'
It was part of the condition of us filming here,
she said she wouldn't let us film unless I tried one.
-OK, all right. No, wait, I think it's still...!
-Stop it. Stop!
It's hard enough the way it is.
-I was just going to say, I think it might still be alive.
Once you have them in your mouth, it's completely fine.
-And does it taste good?
Give me a cuddle.
'If even Kari can stomach a grasshopper,
'there's hope for us all.'
Once they're in your mouth, it's nice.
The next morning, we cross the border into Cambodia.
The stark contrast between the two countries is immediate.
Crippled by decades of war and genocide,
Cambodia is still very much Thailand's poor neighbour.
I'm travelling east, deep into the rice-growing region of Battambang.
It's here that I have an appointment with a group of insect hunters
part of a burgeoning industry
feeding the insatiable appetite for insects in neighbouring Thailand.
Hi, I'm Stef and you're Saron, yeah?
Am I not big enough for you?
HE SPEAKS IN KHMER
'In this part of Cambodia,
'the rice paddies are infested with grasshoppers,
'posing a major problem for farmers.
'But rather than kill them with expensive pesticides,
'Saron and his team scour the fields to hunt them down.'
It's become so profitable,
Saron can earn an impressive income.
MOBILE PHONE RINGS
'Turns out, Saron is a bit of a wheeler-dealer.
'He organises a network of local hunters.'
'But hunting grasshoppers isn't the easiest of jobs,
'you can only catch them at night,
'so we sit around waiting for the sun to set.
'Saron tells me that some nights
'there are so many hunters in the field,
'their torches looks like another village on the horizon.'
Oh, there's a cricket, is that any good?
Argh, come here, come here.
Ah, so what's that?
And which is more valuable the grasshopper or the cricket?
So that's really what we're after?
So at night they're quite calm and docile, then?
Ah, top man!
'For Saron, catching grasshoppers in a dark field at night
'with his bare hands is second nature.'
That is a whopper, look at the size of that!
Look at that, that is huge.
'But I'm struggling to find them without help.'
I got it, I got it.
They kick! They kick in your hand. They're really strong! Blimey!
Ow! Something's biting me to shreds out here.
Having a light on your head is a double-edged sword,
because, obviously, it's good for finding insects,
it's really good for attracting them as well.
Oh, look! Oh, you're good at this.
Mind you, it is your job.
Oh, look! I've got a few little fella's just jumping straight at me.
Is that any good?
It's dangerous. Oh, let's not then.
'We may be hunting grasshoppers, but every other insect is hunting us.'
You know what? People say that there are 40 tons of insects on the planet
to every human and you kind of think, "Yeah, yeah, whatever.
"It's one of those kind of things that's been made up in a lab somewhere."
It's on a night like this, when you are just covered in the things,
that you kind of think, "Oh, yeah, that's absolutely true."
'Finally, our cameraman Nik hands the camera to me
'as the insect attack becomes unbearable.'
He is a cloud of insects, because he's been holding the camera,
he hasn't actually been able to actually let go.
He's covered in the little beasts. How you doing there, Kari?
Oh, my God!
'But it looks like we're the only wimps in the field.'
Oh, look at that, wow!
'After a good night's hunt, the rest of the group returns triumphant.'
Pretty cool, who's got the most?
Oh, wow, look at that.
OK, that is one heck of a bag of bugs.
Was that hard work?
That's pretty good.
So look, that's how many I got, what do you think of that?
I really thought I was getting to grips with this insect thing,
but I have to say that was probably
the most horrible experience of my entire life.
But thank you very much, thank you very much. Thank you.
'It might not be my idea of a good time,
'but the truth is grasshopper hunting provides extra cash
'in a region where work is hard to find.
'Early the next morning, I head over to Saron's
'and I'm met by a team of builders.
'Saron has been doing so well through his grasshopper business
'that this is literally the house that insects built.'
Saron, good morning, good morning, how are you? You all right?
So what happened to the insects from last night?
'Waiting for us in the back is his bug dealer,
'here to buy last night's catch.
'In fact, grasshoppers are so profitable
'that locals only eat insects as a special treat,
'even though the area is infested.
'It's clear that hunting grasshoppers is a win-win situation.
'It protects local crops for the farmers
'and gives Saron a profitable career that's transforming his life.'
Oh, my word, look at that! Wow!
It's a truck of bugs.
How many kilos do you think you have here?
Oh, look! It goes further down.
Oh, my God!
Wow, can't really see, but this, this thing's absolutely jam-packed.
It's only when you see insects on this kind of scale
that you realise a couple of things.
First of all, how many insects have been taken out of the field
that were feeding on vegetation and damaging crops.
But also, it supports loads of people round here.
He's been all round town picking up insects
from lots and lots of people, who were all out last night,
making a few, a few dollars, for their work.
'Perhaps if eating insects caught on globally,
'it could provide jobs to millions of Saron's all over the world.
'If only we all wanted to eat them.'
The trouble is, in the West, we're locked into old-fashioned notions
about what we consider decent food.
But at a local market in Cambodia,
I'm reminded that eating meat isn't always pretty.
Whenever you visit markets around the world,
this is the most graphic extraordinary part of the market,
this is the meat section.
And, if you think about it,
in Britain, we eat strange and wonderful things,
we eat hamburgers, we eat hot dogs,
with lots of extraordinary ingredients.
When you see them here, there's an eyeball right there,
when you see them here, they feel really graphic,
but we do eat all this kind of stuff.
We're obsessed with protein.
And when you think about it on that kind of level,
insects are just another kind of protein.
I travel deeper into Cambodia,
to an area far from the thriving border markets of Thailand.
Here, they catch bugs for a different reason -
So far, all the insects that I've tried have been pretty small,
they're quite insubstantial,
you have to put a huge amount of effort in to collect a whole meal's worth.
But there's one speciality that they have here in Cambodia,
which isn't actually an insect but I would still call it a bug,
and they're huge -
The scariest, hairiest bug on the planet isn't feared here,
In a region where 40% of children are malnourished,
any animal that's full of protein and vitamins is a vital food.
There's been little academic research
into eating tarantulas in Cambodia,
so I meet up with Chris Muenke from the University of Copenhagen.
He's working on groundbreaking research
into the health and economic benefits
of eating this hairy spider.
Cambodia has wide areas which are malnourished,
especially the rural areas.
Tarantulas can be a source of nutrients for these people.
So people genuinely eat tarantulas as a, as a common food?
You probably have to just step back a little bit
and just see them as land crabs.
We all eat crabs, we all eat shrimps, we all eat this other food.
So spiders is just a different way of having a food source.
It still will always be a little bit awkward,
but it's nothing bad in particular.
'Turns out, Chris is so enthusiastic about tarantulas
'he's brought a few along with him.'
-Oh, my gosh...
-This is the deep fried version.
-You can mostly buy them on the...as road side snacks.
So can I eat this?
Normally you can, but this one is already a day old,
so maybe we should leave it for now and you try some later.
I'm usually really interested in new foods,
I've eaten pretty much the most gruesome things on the planet.
This I don't really fancy.
'I know it's ridiculous to be such a wimp,
'especially when tarantulas are such a valuable food source.
'My Cambodian guide Uttarack is convinced I can conquer my revulsion
'if I can get up close and personal,
'so he takes me to meet a group of renowned tarantula hunters.
'But they're not what I was expecting.
HE SPEAKS IN KHMER
Pleased to meet you.
So are you guys the tarantula hunters in the village?
OK, so what do we do first? How do we go about it?
'Their parents work all day in the markets and fields,
'so the boys have to fend for themselves.
'If they're hungry, they take their spades and hunt down their lunch.'
So how old are you, guys?
'I'm shocked by how tiny these boys are for their age.
'Malnutrition around here is so bad
'that children's growth is often stunted,
'making them look much younger than they really are.
'If ever there was a reason to eat spiders, this would be it.'
'Tarantulas may be a good source of protein,
'but they're feared for a reason.
'Their bite can temporarily paralyse and even kill in extreme cases.
'I've been warned to wear sturdy boots while we hunt,
'but I notice the boys are mostly barefoot.'
So this is a field where you're likely to find tarantulas.
Which makes me feel a little bit tingly right from the start.
It's basically a field full of hillocks.
This sort of feels as though it's probably covered
in thousands of little tarantula nests.
Is this one? Is this one here?
So you reckon that there's one sitting under there somewhere?
He's putting his finger into a tarantula nest
to check that it's at home.
So it's down there, just, just inside there.
Oh! Oh, there he is.
Oh, there we go, blimey! Wow, that's a big fella.
That is a tarantula.
They're very beautiful, aren't they?
'They may be beautiful, but the fangs are extremely dangerous.
'Tarantulas are so strong that they can hunt mice and birds.'
And so, if you pick it up by the sides, is that much safer?
So from where you're holding it now, he can't bite you?
'The idea of having to pray at the ant hill isn't exactly reassuring.
'But I'm amazed that they don't seem particularly bothered.'
Do you think there are lots of people who are scared of them?
Oh, my God, there he is!
It's like playing chicken but with poisonous massive spiders.
Wow! You guys are good.
OK, I think it's my turn, can you show me how to do it?
Oh, what about this one here?
I found it, I found one.
OK, so should I dig here?
I'm just hacking away.
There's no art to what I'm doing.
I'm going to choose the deepest living tarantula in the world.
So now I've got to get him to come out...
Out you come, mister.
This might be a two-stick job.
OK, there is my tarantula,
looking a little bit dusty
and a little bit...
A little bit the worse for wear.
So pick him up there?
Yeah? Argh... Argh...
Oh, God... Ay, ay, ay!
I don't know, it's a spider,
it doesn't want to be picked up.
Argh, it's quite soft, it's quite warm.
There is, oh, God, my tarantula.
Am I dripping with sweat?
Because I feel like it.
It doesn't seem like food to me.
Does that make you feel hungry?
What does it taste of?
Which is your favourite bit?
Why is that?
So I suppose I ought to get over this and see this as a food.
'It's not surprising the boys are eager to get food on their plates.
'This is their first proper meal of the day.'
So what are you doing to them now?
So these are just being grilled,
straight on there, no oil,
just salt, sugar and MSG,
straight on the fire.
How long do they take to cook?
Which one's going to taste best?
Is it time to eat?
'Tarantula is pretty healthy meat.
'In fact, it has ten times more zinc than beef,
'it's a crucial nutrient for growing children.
'As food is scarce, if they didn't eat these spiders,
'they'd be lucky to get any protein in their diet at all.'
Hey, that's good.
I like, I like it.
HE SPEAKS IN KHMER
I'm not sure if it's number one, but it is nice.
It's meaty on the inside, like a, like a prawn
or a crab has white meat inside it,
but this actually has a proper flavour,
whereas a lot of the insects I've tried,
kind of just taste a little bit musty. That's pretty good.
You guys are brilliant, thank you very much.
Tarantulas may be an unlikely super food,
but there's one thing that worries me.
While they're a source of protein for Cambodian children,
there simply aren't enough of them to feed the world on their own.
'So I'm heading back to Thailand
'to see what the future really holds for edible bugs.'
One of the most exciting ideas for insect eating
and possibly for the future of the planet,
is the whole idea of insect farming,
cos if you can farm insects and grow them on a massive scale,
you could solve some of the world's food problems.
So I've come here to one of the region's biggest insect farms.
It's a cricket farm and I'm intrigued,
I have no idea how you would farm crickets.
'My hunt for the future of insect eating brings me here.
'But it turns out that farming insects doesn't have to be high tech
'or even particularly hard work.'
Hello, I'm Stefan.
'I meet Mr and Mrs Panswan, who run one of 20,000 new cricket farms
'that have recently sprung up all over Thailand,
'pioneering mass insect production.'
So how many crickets do you have here?
10,000 crickets, in one go.
'So just one of these tanks produces the equivalent amount of protein
'to 700 Big Macs a year.
'To produce so much protein in such a tiny space is exciting enough,
'but also, unlike beef,
'crickets only need a tiny amount of food and water to grow.
'In a world where resources are becoming scarce,
'this has huge potential.
'My first stop is the maternity unit.
'Unlike mammals, female crickets reproduce so quickly
'one can have 100 babies in a month.'
These tiny little flecks here are the cricket eggs.
So how many cricket eggs do you think are in this tank?
'Next, we come to the nursery.'
Millions of baby crickets.
Bizarrely, I think they're quite sweet.
Why don't they escape?
'So with the playpen safely guarded,
'we move on to the teenage den.
'They'll stay here for another month
'until they're ready to be sold.'
They begin to sing a little bit now.
Look at this, I mean, they've all crawled
to the top of this vegetation here,
just tens of thousands of crickets.
I don't know why, but I find it mesmerising just looking at them.
The thing is having this many insects in one concentrated area
'Mrs Panswan asks me to help harvest the next batch for market.'
It's as simple as that.
Just grab an egg crate and shake it.
'And crickets aren't just eaten in Thailand.
'Tons of them are frozen,
'canned and exported to adventurous eaters all over the world.
'It's a small export market at the moment, but the potential is vast.'
OK, come on, Stefan.
Only 45 days or so from egg to market, it's not bad going.
There's clearly a huge future for this.
I mean, this place sort of looks a little bit run down,
it's not like a nice clean food factory you might get in the UK,
but when you look inside all of those tanks,
you know, there's, there's no animal welfare issues there, you know,
it actually looks pretty good.
They're producing a huge amount of protein
on a, on a very short timescale.
Compare this to chicken farming in the UK, that's not bad.
For the final leg of my insect adventure,
I'm now ready to experience one of the rarest events
in the bug-eating world.
It's the end of the dry season
and locals here are dancing in the hope of bringing on the rain.
But this is also the season for the red ant egg harvest.
The red ants lay eggs which then turn into larvae,
which is the insect equivalent of the finest caviar.
'I head out of town with Mr Jhong, one of the best ant hunters around.
'I'd been imagining a scenic drive deep into the bush
'to find these rare insects and their nests,
'so I'm a bit disappointed
'when we pull up at the side of a road.'
So we've arrived here, what do we need to do?
'But if I'd thought catching them was simple,
'I was in for a bit of a shock.'
So not these? Why not these?
Do they bite quite hard?
'Ants make their nests on the branches of high trees.
'Catching them is a bit of a challenge,
'which explains the giant pole.'
Living up there in the top of these tree,
there are loads and loads of these nests around
and they're full of the ants and the eggs.
So what we've got is a big old stick,
with a net on the end of it,
we're going to jam the stick into the nest, waggle it about
and, hopefully, as many as possible of those ants and the eggs
will fall into the basket.
Ah, OK, I can see...
Oh, yeah, there's masses in there.
They're all flying down. Wow!
So inside there, they're all the... Ow!
'Like any protective parents,
'these red ants aren't about to give up their babies without a fight.'
They bite badly, don't they!
And you're drowning them in there?
Are there any eggs in here?
Oh, yeah, there's a few little eggs.
They're angry. Blimey!
Look, they're going everywhere, absolutely everywhere...
'And I'm not the only one in pain.
'A few seconds later, and the entire crew gets attacked.'
What about my hair? Check my hair.
'So we managed to get our first ant nest
'and we've regrouped because it was slightly chaotic,'
everyone got bitten to shreds.
So, erm, so this time, we're going to shake the pole from upwind
so the ants fall out and fly out downwind
and, hopefully, there will be separation of human and ant.
That way, we might survive this, OK, you ready?
Let's go for it.
That's quite high, that one. Oh, here they come.
We're right underneath them now.
Oh, you got it. Ow! Ow! Ow!
'This isn't just a little bite.
'When their leaf-cutting jaws crunch down,
'the ants twist their bodies to inflict maximum pain.
'But what's strange is that Mr Jhong doesn't even flinch.'
What a crazy job you've got.
Ow! Ow! Ow!
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Jesus!
Ow! Oh! Ow!
I suppose they're just getting their own back, aren't they?
'And here's the prize,
'the red ants themselves alongside their larvae and pupae.'
Can you eat them like this?
'If I was feeling any guilt about eating baby ants, it's gone.
'I'm going to be tasting revenge.'
Wow, very crunchy, really sour,
they're sour like lemon or lime.
All I know is that you have got one insane job.
OK, ready. Yee-ha!
Oh, hang on, it's hard to handle.
Are there any brakes on it?
Which way, straight over?
What about traffic?
'With the red ants safely contained in buckets, we return triumphant.
'Mr Jhong makes most of his annual income during the red ant harvest,
'but he doesn't' sell the whole catch.
'He always welcomes in the season
'with a red ant feast for the whole family.'
So, here are the beasts?
'Ant stew is surprisingly simple,
'but I'm still getting plenty of direction.
'After green vegetables, we add a generous portion of chillies.'
That's going to be so hot!
You're a kitchen bully, you are.
And the whole lot?
I cook for my wife more than my wife cooks for me.
'And, finally, the prize ingredient,
'three handfuls of painfully expensive winged ants.
'The next dish is a red ant egg omelette,
'known throughout Thailand as one of the best delicacies of the season.'
Oh, the whole lot? Aha, OK.
Look at that, that is a strangely beautiful sight.
Every now and then,
you get another egg bursting,
a huge wallop of oil, hits you in the face.
How are you going to flip that baby over?
A little two-year-old is nicking all the fly eggs
and Uncle Jhong went...
Kids are different round here.
'But the final dish is the legendary red ant egg salad.'
It's an incredibly visual dish
and I guess if you're going to spend a vast amount of money
on an ingredient, you want to see it right in there.
You know, there's no denying this is a salad of ants and ant eggs.
Why do you give some to the temple?
'We head just round the corner to the local Buddhist monastery,
'carrying a bucket full of red ant offerings.
'It's against their religion for monks to cook for themselves,
'so bringing food offerings is an integral part of Buddhist ritual.'
It's got to be fair, we don't want the monks fighting over it.
This is the salad, this is the good stuff.
'The monks here will eat meat or insects,
'as long as they don't see them being killed.'
'It's also forbidden for them to have any opinions about the taste.
'Food is for sustenance, not pleasure.
'But it's pretty clear to me that this monk loves my red ant stew.'
'And with that spiritual endorsement,
'I head to Mr Jhong's house,
'finally ready to try the ultimate in insect gastronomy.'
OK, this is a really crucial moment for me,
because this is supposed to be
the most delicious set of insects on the planet.
Now, if it is truly delicious,
if it works as a, as a food, a dish, as something I can really enjoy,
then, maybe, I can become an evangelist.
OK, so how do we do this?
You get a little bit of sticky rice first
and then, and then, make it into a little bit like that.
And then, and then, scoop it up, yeah?
Oh, my... Big green ant.
That is damn fine.
A world of experience of flavours and textures
and sweet and sour, milky,
and all these little crunchy bits of the ants
and the creaminess of the eggs.
Fantastic, it's like the sensations of caviar,
but with masses more flavour.
I'd like to propose a toast to you, beautiful people,
but, above all, to these amazing and fantastically delicious insects.
'This has been an extraordinary journey.
'I've finally conquered my prejudice against eating insects
'and, in fact, I've found some that are phenomenally delicious.
'But I've also seen how these little creatures
'are sustaining communities,
'spreading wealth and helping feed those
'that might otherwise go hungry.
'Which begs the question, why not eat insects?
'I wonder if some day we'll look back on the early 21st century
'as a time when the world was bursting with food,
'but we just didn't appreciate it.
'We know they're good for us,
'and even better for the environment.
'If we can get over our collective fear and ignorance,
'it's just possible
'that eating insects might, someday, save the world.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
How would you feel about eating deep fried locusts, ant egg salad or barbequed tarantulas? This documentary sees presenter and food writer Stefan Gates immerse himself in the extraordinary world of hardcore insect-eating in a bid to conquer his lingering revulsion of bugs and discover if they really could save the planet.
With 40 tonnes of insects to every human, perhaps insects could offer a real solution to the global food crisis - where billions go hungry every day whilst the meat consumption of the rich draws vast amounts of grain out of the global food chain.
Stefan's on a mission to meet the people in Thailand and Cambodia that hunt, eat and sell edible insects for a living. But nothing quite prepares him for bug farming on this terrifying scale, from stalking grasshoppers at night to catching fiercely biting ants. And it's not just insects on the menu. Stefan also goes hunting for the hairiest, scariest spider on the planet - the tarantula. Stefan asks if the solution is for everyone - the British included - to start eating insects too.