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Bug Juice: Insect-related or commercial concoction
 
I purchased some bug juice the other day – two bottles, to be precise. I was a bit surprised to see a liquid called Bug Juice for sale in a convenience store. You see I grew up thinking that bug juice was a poor-quality alcoholic product, such as whiskey. But this Bug Juice was shelved alongside soda pop and energy drinks. 
It turns out that Bug Juice is a kid’s drink. It’s for the four- to 10-year-old crowd. My bottles came with pop-tops so the kids can consume with minimal risk of spilling. 

Bug Juice is sold in several flavors. For example, there is Berry Raspberry, Leap’N Lem’N Ade, and Straw’ Nana. My two 10-ounce bottles were Outrageous Orange and Fruity Punch. 

I decided to look at the label to gain some insight into what constitutes Bug Juice. The labels listed several fruit concentrates, corn fructose sugar, water, vitamin C, artificial coloring and some preservatives, among other things. 

The label also included nutrition facts: 114 calories, 29 g of sugar, 7 mg of sodium, and 60 mg of vitamin C. That was per serving and each bottle contains 1.25 servings. So if you drink the contents of the entire bottle, you have to multiply each value by 1.25 to come up with the actual amount ingested. Oh, well, if you drink Bug Juice, I guess you will have to do the math!

So the Bug Juice I purchased can be defined as a sweet, artificially-colored, non-carbonated soft drink. That’s definition No. 2, according to my online search for the definition. Definition No. 1 is the alcoholic beverage of inferior quality that I thought of when I first saw the name. Either definition would be considered an Americanism – a historical word or phrase associated with American culture.

None of the dictionaries I consulted mentioned any association of the term bug juice with the insect world. But the manufacturers of Bug Juice capitalized on that association and have included insects and other arthropods on the label in “fun and colorful graphics.” And, by the way, Bug Juice is available on promotional items such as ball caps and T-shirts.

As an entomologist and a farm boy, I prefer to think of bug juice as a natural product. As the name suggests, something associated with the insect world. Not some cheap liquor or some commercial concoction for kids. 

I think the term bug juice applies to the liquid that emerges from a squished caterpillar, or the body of any other smashed insect for that matter. That is real bug juice! Such bug juice is scientifically called hemolymph. Some people refer to hemolymph as insect blood. It is the liquid flowing around in the body of an insect that combines the functions of both blood and lymph in our bodies.
A label on hemolymph would have to list a number of ingredients, including water. Hemolymph is about 90 percent water, but it also includes inorganic components, such as sodium and potassium. It is also made up of nitrogenous waste products, organic acids, carbohydrates, fats, amino acids and proteins. The commercial Bug Juice drink and hemolymph are both mixtures of a number of chemicals.

The term bug juice could also apply to the liquid substance that some grasshoppers produce from their mouths. When I was a kid, I always called this fluid tobacco juice, because it was the color of stuff that folks who chewed tobacco would spit. 

People don’t agree on what this bug juice from the mouths of grasshoppers should be called. Some call it spit, some call it vomit; others say it is a regurgitant. Because it consists of a combination of salivary gland secretions and material from the crop, the word spit is probably not correct. But then neither is the term vomit, because the word is used to describe material that comes from a stomach. In this case, the material comes from a crop, not a stomach. 

We do know that the bug juice produced by grasshoppers is used as a defensive chemical to ward off potential predators. I also know that this grasshopper bug juice has a bitter taste. How do I know that? As a kid I once did a scientific experiment - I tasted it!
2/27/2013