Sciency Words: Entomophagy

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Sciency Words is a special series here on Planet Pailly celebrating the rich and colorful world of science and science-related terminology. Today, we’re looking at the term:


If you want to live on Mars, you may have to get used to this term. It combines the Greek words for insect and eating. Yes, my friends, we’re talking about eating bugs.

Why Can’t We Eat Beef on Mars?

Keeping humans well fed will be one of the biggest challenges for Mars colonization (or frankly any long-term settlement off Earth). First off, you won’t have access to beef. Cattle require way too much grazing land.

The initial colony on Mars will likely only have a few small greenhouses to provide all their food. There simply won’t be room to spare for cows, pigs, or chickens. That also precludes having things like milk, cheese, and eggs.

It may be possible to raise fish on Mars. Loach and tilapia are sometimes included on the Mars diet menu. As a seafood fan, I’m all for that, but finding enough water for the required fish tanks could prove problematic.

Do We Really Need to Eat Insects?

Compared to more traditional barnyard animals, insects look like a much better option for feeding hungry colonists. Many insect species have already visited the International Space Station, so we know they’re okay with low or no gravity environments.

Insects don’t require much room. They can live in our tiny greenhouses and even help decompose plant waste like dead leaves, stems, and other inedible vegetable matter. In fact, we may have to bring insects with us anyway to help keep our plants healthy.

Best of all, insects convert almost everything they eat into insect protein. Very little nutrition is lost as it moves along the food chain.

So who else is ready to go to Mars and eat a handful of crickets?

Couldn’t We Just Be Vegans?

Plenty of people here on Earth survive without any animal protein whatsoever. No beef, chicken, dairy, tilapia, or even crickets. Some of these people assure me that they feel healthier on a vegan diet, and I have no reason to doubt them.

Maybe veganism would work on Mars, but the idea raises some concerns. With only a small number of greenhouses, the first colonies on Mars might not be able to supply a sufficiently diverse range of vegetables. Mission planners have therefore struggled to prepare a menu that doesn’t include at least some form of animal protein.

So entomophagy is something that both mission planners and science fiction writers alike might want to think about when designing future colonies on Mars or elsewhere.


Entomophagy as Part of a Space Diet for Habitation on Mars from the Japanese Rocket Society.

Space Diet: Daily Mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) Harvest on a Multigenerational Spaceship from the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics.

Predicting Mars Cuisine: Grasshoppers with a Side of Fungi from

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Today’s post is part of Mars month for the 2015 Mission to the Solar System. Click here for more about this series.


4 thoughts on “Sciency Words: Entomophagy

  1. Interesting. The problem is that if we can’t provide a sufficient vegan diet for humans, it doesn’t seem like we could provide it for livestock. (That’s a point that vegans often make, that we’re all ultimately vegans; most of us just channel the nutrients through intermediary animals.)

    Just one of the many complications in preserving fragments of Earth’s biosphere (us) in a location distant from the varied support infrastructure of that biosphere. A Martian colony will almost certainly have a thin supply line from Earth’s biosphere for a long time.


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