Laos, a mountainous and landlocked country located in Southeast Asia, has the highest percentage of people using insects as food in the world. Lao people obtain edible insects through harvesting in the natural environment and purchasing at food markets. There has been no comprehensive survey about sales of insects at food markets in the wider areas, and our understanding of sales of insects in Laos is limited. Our study aims to identify environmental factors affecting the sales and the diversity of edible insects sold at food markets in Laos. We visited 37 and 55 markets, during the dry and rainy seasons respectively, in northern Laos to record species of sold insects. We then analyzed the correlations between insect sales and three potential factors (seasons, provinces, and urbanization indices around the markets). There was no significant difference in the percentage of markets selling insects between in the dry and rainy seasons; 40-50% of the markets sold insects in both seasons. The composition of sold insects differed between in the dry and rainy seasons, which reflects the seasonality and life history of each insect species. There tended to be more groups of insects for sale in the Vientiane capital than in the other provinces in both seasons. This trend may reflect that it is more difficult to obtain edible insects through wild harvesting in highly urbanized Vientiane capital than in the other provinces, and the commercial demand for insects is increasing. This possibility is directly supported by the positive correlation between the urbanization index and the insect sales in the rainy season. Laos has recently undergone rapid urbanization, particularly in the Vientiane capital, and we predict that commercial demand for edible insects will be much higher in the Vientiane capital and the urbanized cities in the future.
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