On Saturday, April 2nd, the Undergraduate Entomological Society (UES), in collaboration with Slow Food UW and the Mission to Improve Global Health Through Insects (MIGHTi), brought edible insects to the Madison community by putting on Swarm-to-Table 2022. The event celebrated entomophagy, the practice of consuming insects, by raising awareness of and enthusiasm for the rich cultural and historical significance of insects as food and insect agriculture as a sustainable alternative to traditional farming practices.
In the spring of 2019, Dr. Valerie Stull, a UW researcher and co-founder of MIGHTi, along with Martin Ventura, a then graduate student in the entomology department, worked hand-in-hand to put on the inaugural Swarm-to-Table 2019. With the success of this multi-day event behind them, they had their sights set on bringing it back in 2020, which then turned into 2021 and eventually 2022. When the world finally began to open back up, they turned to Michael Bartlett Smith, an eager undergraduate who had been working closely with MIGHTi throughout the pandemic, to take on the next Swarm-to-Table event. Michael pitched this woefully ambitious idea to UES, led by senior entomology major Skyler Finucane, and the group immediately hit the ground in full stride, excited to turn their Swarm-to-Table 2022 dreams into a reality.
They did just that when they welcomed 150 guests and volunteers to the Slow Food event space on April 2nd. Before the formal event proceedings, guests were ushered through an arthropod inspired art gallery curated by UES members Claire Lawler and Morgan Weissner. Numerous local artists had the opportunity to present and sell their insect-positive work, which ranged from paintings to jewelry to masks made from honeycomb. Guests then enjoyed a micro-documentary produced by entomology and life sciences communication major Julia Wiessing and featured interviews with a variety of researchers and insect farmers from our community.
The main event of the afternoon did not disappoint as local chef Andrew Jack, with help from the Slow Food team, presented a truly immaculate seven course insect tasting menu. This jaw dropping array highlighted 12 different arthropod species traditionally consumed around the globe. Guest favorites included a mocktail with giant water bug and black ant infusions, a mealworm tempeh (courtesy of John Wilson from Colorado State University) served with a cricket chile crisp locally sourced from the Three Cricketeers farm, and a weaver ant ceviche served with a scorpion cracker. Chef Jack’s menu was as visually stunning as it was delicious and put an exclamation mark on this extraordinary event.
Guests left Swam-to-Table 2022 with a newfound appreciation of insects as food, realizing that if you set aside the stigmas associated with entomophagy in westernized civilizations, insects can serve as versatile and sustainable ingredients that are rich in protein and nutrients. Additionally, folks learned that not only can insects taste good, but they can combat the increasingly dire challenges presented by climate change, growing populations, and global food insecurity.
The Undergraduate Entomological Society would like to extend an immense thank you to the sponsors, collaborators, and team members whose bountiful guidance and support proved to be nothing short of integral to the success of Swarm-to-Table 2022. An endless expanse of appreciation goes out to:
- The UW Madison Department of Entomology
- The UW Madison Department of Life Science Communication
- The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
- The Sam Graham Catalyst Fund
- Gigi La Budde
- Dr. Russell Groves
- Slow Food UW volunteers
- Dr. Valerie Stull
- Martin Ventura
- Andrew Jack
- Dr. Barrett Klein
- John Wilson
- Claire and Chad Simons (3 Cricketeers)
- Undergraduate Entomological Society volunteers
- Linda and Britney Mertens
The Undergraduate Entomological Society’s hard work paid off and the group looks forward to welcoming you at Swarm-to-Table 2023!This article was posted in News and tagged swarm to table.