Touch Saran, 29, sits in a stall in Phsar Thmei selling crickets, silkworms, black spiders and black insects that live under the water.
Her day begins at 8 am when she buys the ice-packed bugs from middlemen from Kompong Thom and Kandal provinces. They sell for about $7.50 for 500 crickets, which she then fries in oil and salt. Working 12 hours a day, she earns about $2.50.
But business may be too good. Some officials are worried that Cambodia’s crickets are being threatened.
With new innovations, it is possible to catch 2 tons of crickets in a night, Stung Sen district Governor Outh Sam An said. Villagers wait for the cricket to fly into a large, violet lamp. They then fall to the floor and are scooped up.
Although the number of crickets have increased since 1993, Kompong Thom province Environmental Department Chief Mam Rithy fears the lamp attracts rare crickets that usually stay in their habitat.
The lamp is relatively new; last year there were only 10 lamps in the province, Mam Rithy said. Now, because their cost has dropped, there are so many lamps he has lost count.
The current wholesale price of crickets is about $0.25 per kg. Bigger crickets can be sold for about $0.75 per kg, and rare ones can go for up to $2, Outh Sam An said.
“With the money from one kilogram of crickets, people can buy one kilogram of rice,” he said.