KOMPONG THOM, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - They're considered a plague in most parts of the world, but for a province in Cambodia, the millions of crickets that swarm the plains every year are a cause for celebration.
In rural Kompong Thom, crickets are a delicacy, served up deep-fried, crunchy and seasoned.
Some Cambodians believe eating crickets regularly improves health and longevity and the region is the country's leading cricket producer as its watery soil helps the insects flourish.
"They taste very good and I like to eat them everyday," said Gnoun Vanny who regularly buys the bugs for family dinner.
Crickets, like most insects, are rich in protein and some research suggests they help lower cholesterol.
Hunting crickets also helps provide extra income for many poor farmers, who scoop up the insects to sell at the market.
"I catch anything between one and 10 kilograms a day and this business helps me to support myself and improve my living conditions," 50-year-old cricket hunter Meo Teun said.
During the cricket season the market fills with the smell of frying crickets and queues of customers who pick through the piles for the fattest bugs.
"To make the crickets taste good, I mix them with a lot of seasoning and fry them in good quality oil," says cricket seller Ren Sreymeo.
Eating crickets is an Asian affair. In Vietnam, the crunchy insects are popular finger food while in Bangkok, water bugs, grasshoppers, larvae and mealworms are sold off carts in the street to both rich and poor.