Cricket-Siem Reap June 2010

In the north of Cambodia, the region of Siem Reap is known for its amazing diversity. Situated at the head of the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia, the Tonle Sap, the region regroups a large number of small villages which established themselves through time around the Khmer temples of Angkor Wat. Although the area now counts an important and growing urban population, Siem Reap is famed for its vast expansions of rice fields, which colors the landscape. In this part of the world, the monsoon rains will soon start to appear.

The lake will then expand to reach six times the surface that it covers during the dry season. The monsoon also announces the arrival of a mass of crickets and with their arrival the return of an amazing activity. In fact, in just a few weeks children from across Siem Reap will focus on the capture of these crickets helping to contribute to the family income. It is 6.00 pm. One by one, Leap verifies the installations which in a few instants will serve in capturing the crickets. It is from his father that Leap learnt how to assemble and make the most of these rudimentary traps.

Each trap is made up of wood on which is fixed a plastic sheet and a florescent tube. Underneath, a basin is attached filled with water. The entire installation receives electricity by a diesel run generator. As night falls, the insects, attracted by the florescent light, will hit the sheet, slide down to end their path, half conscience, in the basin full of water. The children have around 30 minutes to collect the crickets caught in the trap. If they wait too long, the insects will gain back their strength and will be able to escape from their trapped position.

Once their wings are dry, they will quickly fly away. Tonight the crickets are plentiful. Leap carefully examines his collection. In Siem Reap there are two types of crickets that are captured: the black and the red ones. The black cricket, smaller, is sold for 2 riels, around 0.50 $ per kilogram. The red cricket, is considered the better catch, as it is sold for around 8 riels, about 2 $ per kilogram. One must however realize that the abundance of the insects is largely linked to climatic conditions. When it rains at night, crickets are less numerous.

Back at home, a few crickets are cooked in oil and some sauce. Once aromatized fried crickets are surprisingly tasty. It is not astonishing that they are one of Cambodia's favorite snacks. The majority of crickets caught at night will be negotiated in the early morning with walking vendors. They will then bring them into town where consumers will be waiting for them impatiently.

After a busy night, Leap falls asleep in his hammock. Contrary to appearances, Leap's work is part of real industry in Cambodia. The demand for crickets as a snack is growing from year to year and people are even exporting them to neighboring countries. Consequently, a certain number of Cambodians today are thinking of starting their own cricket business, rearing them in captivity, in response to the growing demand.

This work was produced during The Jack Picone Photography Workshops in Siem Reap ( by Jack Picone, Stephen Dupont and Tim Page) in June 2010.