Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 11:53 UK

The Canadian insect collector who eats his specimens


Georges Brossard: "I dream about them, I eat them - I love bugs"

By Brandy Yanchyk

Georges Brossard has spent the last 35 years in passionate pursuit of insects - sleeping among them and even eating the odd cricket or ant.

The dedicated collector spends six months a year travelling the globe collecting specimens for "insect museums" known as insectariums, which he has helped set up around the world.

The Montreal Insectarium, which opened 20 years ago, was Georges Brossard's idea. He donated 250,000 insects from his collection to get it started.

Sometimes it was tiny portions but other times it was big scorpions seasoned with Asian spice
Francois Ouellet
Montreal Insectarium

Today it is the largest insectarium in North America and among the largest in the world, attracting more than 350,000 visitors each year.

Visitors come to see the live and dead bugs on display. These include mounted insect collections of more than 145,000 specimens and a live collection of over 100 species of arthropods.

But it is more than the collections of live and dead insects that has been attracting visitors. The annual insect tastings, where professional chefs cook up bugs for thousands of visitors to taste, are an added attraction.

Cheese-flavoured crickets

"Sometimes it was tiny portions, but other times it was big scorpions seasoned with Asian spice," says Francois Ouellet of the Montreal Botanical Garden and Insectarium.

"For some people it was just too much to taste bigger, larger insects. For others it was maybe an experience to face a fear, and then once it's done the fear is gone. You were not harmed and it tasted good."

When there are no insect exhibitions, visitors can taste bugs at the Insectarium's boutique, where they sell boxes of barbecue, salt-and-vinegar, or cheese and bacon-flavoured mealworms and crickets.

They also sell lollipops that contain worms. In fact, the Insectarium breeds its own mealworms and crickets for this very purpose.

People use the cooked insects on top of salads, instead of using bacon bits
Enza Cacciatore
Insectarium boutique

"These here are especially grown at the Insectarium for us to sell," says Enza Cacciatore from the insectarium's boutique.

"So we try to explain to the little ones that they are not to start to pick up the bugs from off the floor and eat them because they are not the same kind of bugs."

Ms Cacciatore says it is mostly children and teenagers who buy insects. But she thinks more people should consider buying them because they are "very good for you, have good proteins, are zero fat and are perfect for snacking".

She continued: "People use the cooked insects on top of salads, instead of using bacon bits. Sure, they won't be using it every night, because it's C$4.50 (£2.90) a box. But if they have parties it's a talking starter for a good party."

An insectarium visitor eats some grubs
Not for the squeamish: visitors are encouraged to tuck in

Mr Brossard also agrees with the Insectarium that dispelling myths about insects is important. But it goes further than that for the entomologist: he believes humans can learn a lot from the way insects live their lives.

"Insects have found a way of life which humans have not done yet," says Mr. Brossard. "There's war this morning, there's problems all over the planet, and insects have no problems.

"They know how to utilise life, nature, and they render it to their successors, which is not the case for humans. We're going to leave in a state that's totally spoiled."

Hollywood butterflies

Mr Brossard has been teaching the world about bugs through the "Insectia" television series he presented, which was broadcast in 150 countries around the world.

Collector Georges Brossard with a spider
Georges Brossard gets up close with one of his furry friends

"The Blue Butterfly" starring William Hurt from 2004 was also based on an episode from Mr Brossard's life. The film was about a young boy with terminal cancer, who asked the collector if he could help him catch a rare blue butterfly before he died.

"I took him to Mexico, because it's the closest place where the blue butterfly flies," says Mr Brossard.

"He caught his blue butterfly...Today he is 27 years old. You see, 20 years after he is still alive. People say it's a miracle."

Mr Brossard continues to travel the world collecting insects for his insectariums and says he "will keep going till the end".

Print Sponsor


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific