Picture of a man silhouetted in the green light of a line of tall metal nsenene traps as thousands of crickets swirl above.

Inside the booming business of cricket catching

Trappers of the hopping insects bring a key source of protein to Ugandan markets. But overharvesting and climate change could threaten this food of the future.

A young man listens to the whir of insects’ wings and the clang of their bodies colliding with the corrugated metal sheets that form the walls of a giant trap. Lured by ultrabright lights and sedated by smoke, swarming bush crickets slide into the drums. They are a much loved snack, but growing demand and habitat loss are driving down their numbers.

It’s a cold night, and strong winds are blowing atop a hill in southwest Uganda.

The wind rattles the four-by-eight-foot metal sheets that form the slanted walls of the giant insect trap. A diesel generator roars a few yards away, powering a 400-watt bulb at its center. The light is blinding to human eyes, but it’s a magnet for Ruspolia differens. In Uganda they’re commonly referred to as “grasshoppers” or nsenene (en-SAY-nay-nay),but they’re actually cone-headed bush crickets.

At the bottom of the metal sheets, dozens of drums stand empty. Soon, hopes Kiggundu Islam, chairman of the local bush cricket trappers association, they’ll be filled with millions of the nearly three-inch-long insects.

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