“The protein crystals are milk for the cockroach infant. It is important for its growth and development,” said Leonard Chavas, one of the scientists behind the research.
He explained the crystals have a whopping three times the energy of an equivalent mass of buffalo milk, about four times the equivalent of cow’s milk.
“For now, we are trying to understand how to control this phenomena in a much easier way, to bring it to mass production,” Chavas said.Having lost a drinking game with his colleagues, Chavas tasted the cockroach milk once.
“No particular taste,” he commented, though the idea of ice cream appeals to him. He imagines “a flavor with honey and crispy pieces.”
So, how do you milk a cockroach?
The crystals are currently extracted from the midgut of cockroach embryos — perhaps not the most efficient way of feeding a growing world population.
Ultimately, however, Chavas and his team are hoping to reverse bioengineer cockroach milk, but first they need to understand the exact biological and chemical mechanisms underlying the process.