Edible Bugs That Will Help You in a Survival Situation

Lady bug on top of a plant

When you think of eating bugs, you're probably thinking of some people sitting in squalor in a third world country, but that isn't the case. Edible bugs is popular all over the world, and not just because someone has to eat them. There are countries that add bugs to their cuisine because they like them. I know, you're probably cringing right now because you don't want to eat bugs, and you don't have to, yet.

In a survival situation, you're not going to be able to find a supermarket stocked with beef, pork, chicken, and vegetables. You're going to need to get over your fear of eating bugs. Bugs are a great source of some serious and necessary nourishment -- which is why so many cultures add them to their meals. On top of that fact, that they don't taste bad. If a situation calls for it, you might need to pop some bugs into your mouth to survive. What is an edible bug though?

What Exactly Are Edible Bugs?

This question is probably creeping you out a little bit, but edible bugs exist. In fact, a lot of bugs are actually edible. Edible bugs are bugs you can safely eat, and they are much more common than you think. Entomophagy is the technical word for eating bugs. Evidence shows that ancient human diets included bugs, even after learning to hunt and farm. With a plethora of bugs eaten regularly by different cultures, it's a little strange that it's so taboo in western countries like the United States.

If you're stuck in a survival situation, eating bugs might be your only source of protein for a while, so you might want to get over the yuck factor of eating bugs. There are over a thousand edible bugs in North America alone, so you're going to have a difficult time remembering them all. It's a good idea to figure out what kinds of bugs could potentially be dangerous and to avoid them if you ever need to munch on some bugs to survive.

Safe or dangerous?

Thankfully, at least in North America, if you lift a log, you can probably eat whatever you find there. There aren't many that you should avoid, but there are some helpful rules of thumb to help you decide if you should put it in your mouth or not. Firstly, avoid anything thats bright. If it's brightly colored, it's warning it's potential predators, including you, that they'll have a bad time if they try to eat them. Some brightly colored insects are perfectly edible, but if you can't identify a bug as edible with confidence, it's safer to avoid it.

The "don't eat me" list also includes disease carriers, like flies, ticks, and mosquitoes. You don't want to get sick just because you ate something you shouldn't have. Another great rule is that if it's hairy or if it can sting you just don't put it in your mouth. You'll get hurt or poisoned if you're not careful, but if you follow those rules, you'll be golden.

Edible Bugs Are Everywhere

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The idea of bugs in the human diet is something some people have a difficult time stomaching, but it's pretty common. Eating bugs is so common that the United Nation encourages it. It's much easier to raise bugs, and eating them provides a low carb, low fat, high-calorie food source to your diet. Packed with fiber and protein, many bugs are a much healthier option than a candy bar. You can pretty much find these edible bugs anywhere, raise them in very little space, and prepare them in interesting and tasty ways.

Of course, you should at least know what bugs you're eating when you eat them. Otherwise, you may find yourself with an unpleasant surprise. For example, what if you try to eat a black widow? You'll die -- thats what'll happen. Tarantulas, on the other hand, you can deep fry and crunch away, considering they can't kill you. Some bugs though are going to be more popular than others. You'll be more likely to find these bugs on your plate in a survival situation.


Beetle on a leaf

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Though the idea of munching on a hard beetle is kind of repulsive, that's because you are supposed to eat their larvae instead. There are plenty of larvae you can find and eat. Some cultures listen for larvae against tree bark. The noise of the larvae isn't invisible to human ears. The noise makes them easy to find if you know what to listen for.

With a plethora of edible bug recipes, it's going to be hard to find one that won't meet your better expectations. Thankfully you don't have to listen to trees to find food yet. If you want to file away some information on edible beetles, you're going to find that in a survival situation you won't go hungry. There are plenty of beetles you could eat if you really needed to.

You can prepare beetles in a lot of different ways. You can kill them by freezing them for about 15 minutes. The bugs go to sleep and pass away which kills them humanely. Beetles are great edible bugs to have access to, and they can be found in groups, making them all the more desirable in a survival situation. You can then boil or stir-fry, but be sure to stick to beetle larvae, not the mature beetle.

Moths and butterflies

Butterfly on top of a flower

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Just like beetles, you're not going to stuff a beautiful winged creature in your mouth if you opt to eat this species. Caterpillars, the larvae form of moths, and a few species of butterfly, are edible though. They have a lot of important nutrients, like protein and vitamins. They're such a delicacy, some businesses harvest and ship caterpillars to other countries for sale. You can even find them canned so you can store them in the house and enjoy them just like you would canned vegetables. That makes getting caterpillars incredibly convenient if you're not opposed to eating bugs. Some people even have dried caterpillars off in rural countrysides to sell at their markets.

Just like with beetles, you should never eat adult moths or butterflies. Not only are they too beautiful to want to eat, but their bodies have hairs and scales that could irritate you when you eat them. Caterpillars come cooked in just as many different ways as beetles. They're fried, baked, boiled, and more. Just remember not to eat any colorful or hairy bugs, and you should be safe with any that you find.


Photo of ants on a branch

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Ants are another one of the many edible bugs you can eat. Both the larvae and the ants themselves are edible, and they have a pleasantly sour flavor. That is because ants pump acid out onto their bodies when they feel like they're in danger. That acid isn't dangerous to humans at all, and it gives them a vinegar-like taste. When roasted with salt, they taste like salt and vinegar. They're popular at feasts.

Queen ants are a little more favorable in some cultures because they're full of more fat. Their fat makes their backsides pretty juicy when cooked. The larvae, on the other hand, don't have a sour flavor at all. They're easy to find, you can just flip over a rock and pick up the little white flecks the ants are trying to run off with. You can also find them at the top of anthills; ants leave them there to keep them warm. If you want to catch ants to eat, all you have to do is put a stick down on the anthill. The ants will inevitably be all over the stick, and you can harvest them from there.

A word of caution, not all ants are defenseless. Some species like fire ants and bullet ants bite, and that bite hurts. The bullet ant is the most painful insect bite in the world (it ain't called "bullet" by accident). Fortunately, bullet ants are only in South America, but fire ants aren't a joke, and they're all over the southern half of the United States. You've been warned.


Two grasshoppers on a leaf

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These bugs are some of the most popular to eat. Along with crickets, they're easy to catch, raise, cook, and eat. They're safe when cooked, and they're everywhere, especially in the summer months. It's easy to find them, and just about everyone outside of the United States and other western countries eats them.

To cook grasshoppers, you'll need a long stick about the width of a finger. Slice it down the middle but leave about three inches at the end uncut. That gives you a long clamp. Make sure you remove the bark and that the stick is green, so it doesn't just burn. Place the grasshoppers in your clamp.

Give each one a little room, so they cook effectively and heat them over your fire. If you want to make it more comfortable to eat the grasshoppers, pluck the legs and wings off first. The legs and wings can tickle your throat. Pair that feeling with an already disturbed mindset and you just might vomit, losing your newfound lunch.


Centipede inside a tree

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This bug is one you can't just pop in your mouth. You'll have to be careful when you approach edible bugs like the centipede. Once you capture the centipede, you'll have to remove its head and its pincers, otherwise, you're going to have a painful experience. After you remove the head, you can cook it and eat it but be sure to cook it! Centipedes have been known to carry some seriously nasty bacteria and parasites that can cause you some incredibly damaging diseases if you don't cook them.

Also, don't eat millipedes, and if you can't tell the difference between the two, don't eat either of them. Millipedes have a wide variety of different defense mechanisms depending on the species, that include toxins. That makes it difficult to answer the question, "Can I eat this kind of millipede?" They may be grouped together with centipedes, but don't eat them.


Photo of termites on top of a wood

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One of the most commonly eaten kinds of termites is the winged termite. These termites are a powerhouse when it comes to edible bugs. Some cultures use termites to make delicious dishes, like Aku, which this person made after they found a plethora of termites on their fence. Termites are incredibly nutritious, a great source of fat, protein, iron, and zinc, and they have plenty of other positives when added to your diet. If you found some winged termites in a survival situation, you are likely ready to feast. When you do find these bugs, you'll find them in large clumps, allowing you to collect a lot of them.

You'll need to remove the wings and legs to cook them. After you take off the legs and wings, you boil them, fry them with salt, or stir-fry them. Regardless of how you cook them, you can be sure that winged termites are great for you -- even if you'll probably only eat them if you have to.



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When most people see grubs, they cringe. There are over 300 different species around the globe and a good portion of them you can eat. You get all different kinds of food-based delights with these edible bugs. Some of them are crunchy, and taste like mealworms and others are fat and juicy. You can usually find these delightful bugs under a rotting log, or even in a rotting log. Sometimes you can find them under stones as well. Be careful to cook these and any of the bugs on this list. Edible bugs can carry diseases as well. For grubs, you can stab them lengthwise, like you're cooking a hot dog over a campfire Then roast them over an open flame.

Are You Ready to Eat Some Bugs?

Whether you're going to survive or not boils down to what you're willing to do to live. Eating bugs is pretty normal, even though the idea will make a lot of people's skin crawl. With so many different bugs around, you can easily keep your protein up -- all without needing to fight others for a pound of beef. From ant tacos to deep-fried tarantulas, eating bugs can be delicious if you know what you're doing. Just be careful of the potentially dangerous bugs.

Have you eaten bugs before? Do you eat them regularly? Leave us a comment letting us know how it went!

Featured Photo by Sue Thomas on Unsplash


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