Lunching on larvae: This desktop farm lets you grow and harvest edible mealworms

Roughly 80 percent of humans on this planet eat insects, according to Marcel Dicke, professor of entomology at Wageningen University; so when you think about it, it’s kind of weird that we don’t. Plus, Dicke predicts we’ll be eating grubs (or grasshoppers or crickets) for grub some day in the not-too-distant future.

If you’re ready to embrace a six-legged snack ASAP, there is, naturally, a Kickstarter for that. Livin Farms is making a “desktop” hive for the appropriately named mealworms. You know when an answer in the FAQ starts with, “This is a totally serious project and we’re real honest people bringing this to life!” that it’s not your run-of-the-mill campaign.

Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger created the hive, which ushers your mealworms through all phases of its lifecycle. There’s a loveshack for the beetles to mate in and a pupation department for hatching. The hive also has fans and ventilation to deal with excrement smell and sensors and heating elements to make sure your bugs stay safe before you grind them up into dinner.

There’s some maintenance involved, as you’re obviously taking care of living critters. There are several steps involved in the care and feeding of your mealworms, but they can live off your kitchen scraps. First, the beetles are in the loveshack makin’ babies; the mealworms hatch from the eggs, then grow to eatin’ size (about an inch). Some become pupae, which then become beetles. The rest of the mealworms are yours to eat. While the hive helps the insects drop down to different trays throughout the cycle, you have to provide the food and activate the harvest weekly. You’ll also need to clean the system and empty some the bins.

This Kickstarter has a lot of FAQs, because it deals with living beings. After you harvest your clean mealworms, you put them in the freezer, killing them softly. (The creators say the insects basically go into hibernation before they die.) You’ll want to make sure you freeze them long enough and cook them thoroughly before consuming them. But, if you follow the guidelines — and Livin Farms says they’ll have plenty of recipes and tips when the hives are ready to ship — you can actually get pretty creative with your mealworm meals, including roasting, frying, boiling, and so on. You hive should yield around 200 to 500 grams of the little buggers a week.

There a quite a few steps the company needs to go through before delivering the hives in November 2016, including getting FDA certification. To get on on an early-bird special, it will cost $499, which comes with a kit including beetle pupae.

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