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New edible cricket species discovered in Kenya

Researchers at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, have discovered a new edible cricket species.
The discovery comes with great promise for mass production for human consumption and inclusion as an alternative protein ingredient in animal feeds.
The species, which was collected and reared for experimental purposes at the Centre’s campus, has been named Scapsipedus Hugel & Tanga nov. sp., and its discovery has been reported in a paper published recently in Zootaxa journal.
The cricket was discovered by ICIPE’s insect for food and feed programme that is implementing GREENiNSECT, funded by the Danish International Development Agency.
“Scapsipedus ICIPE is widely farmed across Kenya. However, until now, its true scientific information was unavailable, and it was erroneously mistaken for a different cricket species known as Acheta domesticus L,” notes ICIPE scientist Dr Tanga Mbi, who found the insect as part of his postdoctoral research.
Mbi said his study highlights the species’ habitat, molecular and morphological characterization, acoustic behaviour, including male’s call and courtship song, current distribution in Kenya and nutritional profile of the cricket species.
He was optimistic that this knowledge was important as it would enable the development of proper, more effective rearing techniques, and ultimately the effective incorporation of the species as a component in food and feed.
Scapsipedus ICIPE, which is commonly found around the buildings and fields, is characterized by a distinctive yellow band between the eyes and differs from other species within the genus Scapsipedus by a characteristic call and territorial nature of its males.
“Through GREEiNSECT, over the past three years, we have conducted research on the potential of farming of edible insects as an important contribution to nutritious food now and in the future,” says Nanna Roos, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, which is leading the initiative at the university.
Roos observed that they have tested indigenous Kenyan cricket species to investigate their “potential to become ‘mini-livestock’ for mass production for feed and food, and as such, the discovery of Scapsipedus ICIPE is exciting and important, not just because it is a new species to science, but because the species already has demonstrated great potential large-scale farming”.
The researchers aim at conducting further studies on Scapsipedus ICIPE towards its incorporation into insects for food and feed initiatives in Kenya.
So far, studies being conducted at ICIPE by a doctoral student, expected to be published soon, have established the best rearing conditions under different temperatures for Scapsipedus ICIPE. The Centre is also advancing research on the nutritional quality and safety of Scapsipedus icipe.
By Alice Gworo

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