Nairobi, Nov 21 – Researchers at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have discovered a new, previously undescribed edible cricket 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 icipe Hugel & Tanga nov. sp., and its discovery has been reported in a paper published recently in Zootaxa journal.

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.,” said ICIPE scientist, Dr Tanga Mbi, who found the insect as part of his postdoctoral research.

“Our study highlights the species’ habitat, molecular and morphological characterisation, acoustic behaviour, including male’s call and courtship song, current distribution in Kenya and nutritional profile of the cricket species. This knowledge is important as it will enable the development of proper, more effective rearing techniques, and ultimately the effective incorporation of the species as a component in food and feed,” he added.

The cricket was discovered by ICIPE’s insect for food and feed programme that is implementing the following projects: GREENiNSECT, funded by the Danish International Development Agency; ILIPA supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, WOTRO Science for Global Development (NWO-WOTRO); ENTONUTRI, funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ/GIZ); and INSFEED, supported by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Scapsipedus icipe, which is commonly found around the buildings and fields, is characterised 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,” said Nanna Roos, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, which is leading the initiative at the university.

“We have tested indigenous Kenyan cricket species to investigate their potential to become ‘mini-livestock’ for mass production for feed and food. Therefore, 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,” she added.

The researchers aim to conduct 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.