January 23, 2021

BY ROB MENDONSA

The chef at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory was busy preparing sweet samples for kids of all ages during March break.  But don’t expect to see any of the treats he prepared on the menu of any fine restaurant in town anytime soon. Cricket caramel corn, salt water taffy ants and maple mealworm fudge just don’t cut it at these establishments.

However, at the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, these treats were just what the kids ordered. They were offered up during its annual BugFeast, and as usual, drew large crowds of kids and adults who clamoured for an opportunity to show their sense of adventure while devouring some creepy crawlies. In its 12th year, the annual event is the biggest event of the year, according to Andalyne Tofflemire, an employee at the Butterfly Conservatory.

“It’s only here in North America that eating bugs is strange. If you grew up in one of the 90 countries around the world where eating bugs is normal, this wouldn’t be odd at all,” Tofflemire said.

Eating insects, also called entomophagy, is more common than people may think. Insects have served as a food source for people for tens of thousands of years. Insects remain a popular food in many developing regions of Central and South America, Africa and Asia. It is estimated that there are 1,417 species of insects and arachnids that are eaten by humans on a regular basis because they are readily available and highly nutritious. Insects can be a good source of not only protein, but also vitamins, minerals and fats. For example, crickets are high in calcium, and termites are rich in iron. One hundred grams of giant silkworm moth larvae provide 100 per cent of the daily requirements for copper, zinc, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin.

The insects used at the conservatory have to be fed a specific diet of oats and sweet potato so that they can be served at BugFeast. The chef then roasts them all in house and prepares them in their delicious, candied state before serving them to the folks on-hand.

For the more adventurous kids, like nine-year-old Jordynn Boyce, there were also live mealworms available to savour, if you could stand the wriggling around while dropping them in your mouth.

“It’s not that bad. Was a little salty and really crunchy,” Boyce said.

Once the kids were done sampling their bug treats, visitors were invited to enter a lush tropical garden in the conservatory and walk amongst thousands of free flying butterflies.  At the emergence window, visitors could watch as butterflies emerged from their chrysalides, dried their wings and prepared for their very first flight.

All in all it was a great day for kids and adults looking for an escape from the cold weather.  The Butterfly Conservatory is located at 2500 Kossuth Rd., Cambridge, and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Prices range from $13 for adults to $6.78 for kids. For further details call 519-653-1234.