Our usual first question: how did you get interested in insects?
I started keeping reptiles when I was a ten year old and hence came into contact with insects used as feed. In the years that followed I started to not only keep reptiles, but also insects. I raised several species while studying animal science at Wageningen University. My first academic study was on the effects of diet on the composition of locusts which I was rearing in my student room.
How and when you discover edible insects?
This happened about two decades ago while hanging around with some friends at my apartment. In short, we had a frying pan and a locust rearing at hand and were curious people. As you might understand these elements led to us trying edible insects fort he first time.
We’re really interested in understanding your study about edible insects and Vitamin D. Can you explain the project?
The study, which has recently been published in the academic journal Scientific Reports, aimed to answer the question: “Can insects synthesize vitamin D when exposed to UVb light?“. We choose four species (House crickets, yellow mealworms, black soldier fly larvae and migratory locusts) and exposed them to UVb radiation.
What are the results?
We discovered that indeed some of the species synthesized vitamin D. Especially the yellow mealworms reached very high concentrations. These were so high that they were similar to tuna, mackerel and salmon, making the yellow mealworms a prime dietary source of vitamin D.
We then also quantified how quickly the yellow mealworms attained these levels.
Do you think this discover will have a commercial application?
I would expect producers of yellow mealworms, and potentially producers of other species, to use UVb in their production process in order to increase the vitamin D content of their products.
Are there any kind of problem when you expose insects to Uv rays?
We found no detrimental effect on the insects in our studies. It is however important to use the correct wavelengths. Of course short wave UV (UVc) is detrimental. However, a limited dosage of UVb is unlikely to harm the insects.