Insects and bugs are commonly listed as tasty items on the menu in foreign countries. Yup – over 2 billion people on this earth choose to eat from a large range of 2,000 edible insects species on a regular basis. What we might consider a creepy crawly, when paired with a deep fryer and some seasonings, might be a tasty delicacy to someone else. Beyond their popularity in everyday life, they can serve a crucial role in a survival situation in the back country.
1. Grasshoppers And Crickets
Grasshoppers and crickets are the most consumed insects worldwide and for a good reason. They are abundant, easy to catch and packed full of protein. To catch them, just open you ears and listen for the characteristic chirping. You’ll find grasshoppers most often during the day and crickets at night. Preparing a grasshopper or cricket for consumption is simple. Pull off the legs and antenna as they are a choking hazard and twist to remove the head.
Ants are another insect that is abundant in the woods, which is good because it takes a lot of ants to make a decent meal. Catching them requires the use of bait as an attractant. Use something sweet as a lure or place a stick in an anthill and wait for the ants to crawl up it. Once the ants come onto the bait or the stick, shake them off into your cooking vessel. Boiling is the preferred method of cooking as that’ll neutralize the acid the ants use to subdue their predators.
3. Larvae – Bees, Grubs
Larvae are high on the ick factor, but you shouldn’t dismiss them without giving them a try. Grubs are relatively easy to find, just pick apart a rotting logs or rifle through leaf litter. Bee larvae are a bit more challenging to collect as they are found only in an active beehive. You’ll need to create a source or smoke to calm the bees and then work carefully and quickly to remove the honeycomb.
Earthworms are another abundant wild edible. Flip a rock or sort through decaying leaves, and you will find them doing their work of decomposition. You can also dig down into damp soil to harvest them, but this method is labor intensive and not a great use of your energy in a survival situation. On a rainy day, you can feast when the worms come to the surface in abundance like manna from the ground. Because they eat dirt, worms will taste like dirt and can harbor parasites and nasty chemicals from the soil. You should boil them a few times to remove the contents of their digestive tract.
5. Roly Poly
Commonly known as the roly poly, sow bug or pill bug, the wood louse is one of only a few types of terrestrial crustaceans. Known for its ability to curl up into a ball when it is disturbed, these pill bugs can be found in the damp soil under rocks or rotting pieces of wood. Like most wild edibles, they are the tastiest when they are roasted or fried and have a shrimp-like taste.
Locusts are a close relative to the grasshopper, but they differ in one significant way — locusts sometimes swarm, while grasshoppers live their entire life as individuals. When the conditions are right, locusts will leave their solitary lifestyle behind and congregate in large numbers, providing a cornucopia of food. Just like a grasshopper, you should cook the locust thoroughly and remove the head, wings, legs, and antenna before dining.
Cockroaches have a bad rap, but they shouldn’t as they are an essential food source in the wild. Birds eat them, small mammals eat them, and people eat them, too. If you find a roach in the wild, treat it like any other insect. Clean the outsides thoroughly, remove any unsavory parts, and then boil, roast or fry it in a meal.
Known as bush crickets, katydids are similar to crickets and grasshoppers. If you hear a chirping noise at night, it is likely a katydid or a cricket. You prepare a katydid for eating just like you do any other hopping insect – remove the head, wings, and legs and toss them into your cooking vessel.
9. Stink Bugs
If you can get past the foul smell of a stink bug, then you will be treated to a very healthy snack. They are high in the B vitamins and may have both numbing and pain-relieving effects. Eating them can be tricky as they can survive the cooking process. Many people just pop them in their mouth and eat them alive. If eating a stink bug alive isn’t your thing, you can soak them in water to leach out the chemical that causes their stink and then boil, fry, or roast them.
Moth caterpillars are chock full of protein, low in fat, and filled with essential vitamins and minerals. Though young and juicy caterpillars are preferred, you also can eat adult moths. Just remove the wings and roast them on a stick. Though many moths and butterflies are edible, there are some like the Monarch that are toxic. Use your common sense when eating moths or caterpillars and avoid any with bright colors.