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A Mid Infrared (MIR) Spectroscopy Study of the Composition of Edible Australian Green Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina)—a Qualitative Study


Alternative food sources are of importance in order to replace traditional and less sustainable ingredients for human consumption. In recent years, edible insects have been found to be an alternative source of proteins, lipids and fibre. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of attenuated total reflectance–mid infrared (MIR) spectroscopy as a rapid tool to qualitatively characterise the chemical composition of edible green ant samples from Australia. Edible green ant anatomical parts (whole, abdomen and upper body plus legs), pre-processing (powdered and non-destructive) and material freshness (old and fresh) were analysed using attenuated total reflectance (ATR) MIR spectroscopy. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the MIR data allowed clustering samples according to body part. The main separation was driven by the composition of the abdomen, irrespective if the ants were analysed in a powdered form or as a whole. The MIR method was also able to identify a mild effect of storage conditions (e.g. freshness of the sample). It was concluded that MIR spectroscopy might be a promising tool to pre-screen edible insect composition and to evaluate the effect of storage.

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The authors acknowledge the Larrakia People who are the Traditional Owners of the lands on which the green ants were wild-harvested and respect the knowledge and experience the Traditional Owners hold regarding the care, harvest and use of this insect species.


This project was funded by the University of Queensland, Australia, The Australian Research Council Transformational Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods Grant number IC180100045.

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Correspondence to Daniel Cozzolino.

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Yasmina Sultanbawa declares that she has no conflict of interest. Sandra M. Olarte Mantilla declares that she has no conflict of interest. Daniel Cozzolino declares that he has no conflict of interest. Shanmugam Alagappan declares that he has no conflict of interest. Heather. E. Smyth declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Mantilla, S.M.O., Alagappan, S., Sultanbawa, Y. et al. A Mid Infrared (MIR) Spectroscopy Study of the Composition of Edible Australian Green Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina)—a Qualitative Study. Food Anal. Methods 13, 1627–1633 (2020).

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  • Green ants
  • Infrared
  • Principal component analysis
  • Storage