Could starving Africans derive substantial nutrition from the flies that are crawling all over them?

Question is in the title. Why don’t they just eat the flies?

Because it would take more energy to catch the flies than the flies contain.

Humans can live on insects, but only when they can be caught in very large numbers with relatively low energy investment, such as locusts, termites, etc. Catching small insects individually just isn’t worth it for a large animal.

Lake Victoria has huge swarms of Chaoboridae (phantom midges). They are so numerous as to look like smoke. I’ve seen some videos of natives catching them in nets and then making them into insect hamburger patties. Looks delicious! Well, no not really, but I hear they are pretty nutritious.

I’m no expert, but simple common sense says not to eat flies because of the filth, parasites, bacteria and similar nasty things flies carry on or within themselves.

Does simple common sense tell one to go ahead and starve instead of trying to eat something?

Flying termites caught in lights are also fun finger food for some Africans. When I was a child living in the Ivory Coast our servants ate them all the time.

The hydrochloric acid in the stomach does a pretty effective job of sterilizing what we eat.

However, it doesn’t do very well on toxins.

Not limited to flies, but have you never seen the TV show “Bizarre Foods”? The host has eaten termites, grubs, scorpions and many other assorted insects and their brethren.

Every notice how coming up through seawater are tons of little bubbles? Why don’t drowning people just breathe those?

Common sense tends to fail in extreme emergencies. People dying of thirst at sea sometimes drink seawater. Starving people have eaten grass, bark, leather, cardboard, and other less savory substances. Remember the James Bond movie with the guy in the desert with nothing but a can of motor oil?

Help me! Help me!

have you ever eatin a fly?
the little steel teeth play hell with your gums

Simple common sense (providing it were still operational under the conditions of starvation) tells me that to eat something that would make me ill or poison me would only make the situation worse. In Lucy Irvine’s book Castaway, in which she joins a guy who wanted to try his hand at living on a desert island, they did end up starving at one point. One day she found a stand of beans growing wild, gathered some and ate a load raw on the spot. She ended up with painful stomach cramps and severe diarrhea. It left her more debilitated than before; her companion did not eat the beans.

This thread reminds me of the Yes Men’s suggestion that First World human waste could be recycled into burger patties and sold to Third World countries.

Your example proves my point. When faced with extreme hunger it makes sense that someone would attempt any means to gain nourishment.

If I were starving I would eat rotten food in an attempt to sustain myself, even with the knowledge that it may be unsanitary.

You have a better chance of surviving if you have to recover from food poisoning than you do trying to recover from being dead due to lack of nourishment.

Then how do parasites, salmonella, etc., get through?


Food poisoning on an empty stomach while you are weak is not better than just starving to death! In what way is violently vomiting up whatever you’ve got left, including precious body fluids, better?

Not if the food poisoning kills you.

But the point is that it takes energy to catch flies, and provides you with very little nourishment. That energy is better off conserved or used for other purposes.

Yeah. I haven’t looked at many photos of flies on starving Africans recently, but I thought they tended to mostly congregate on those that lacked the energy to even swat them off, much less catch them.

Fine, you go into the world’s starvation areas with a ton of flypaper and see how many people you can save with it. There’s probably a reason why people starve rather than eat the flies that feed off (probably their own) dead nearby.