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Eating Insects For Survival

How to tell if a bug is safe to eat and why insects (most of them) are one of the most important survival foods

THE FIRST TIME I floated Montana's Smith River with John Hirvela, the only food we took was a sack of potatoes and a shaker of salt. My friend assured me this was all we'd need. We'd cook trout and round off every meal with watercress salad gathered at a spring about 10 miles into the five-day float. · It was the kind of plan that sounds better at home than it does once you've launched your canoe. Especially when it rains and the color comes up on the river. I caught a brown at our first camp, but midway through the second day the water turned to creamed coffee, and then to espresso. By the time we reached the spring, it was apparent that our only source of protein would be the hordes of scuds and other aquatic insects that clung to the watercress.

Your First Course Insects are the most abundant life form on earth and, except during winter, are the first foods anyone should turn to for sustenance upon becoming lost or stranded. Not only can bugs be found in large quantities, but they are highly nutritious, being rich in fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The main caveat is that people who suffer from shellfish allergies should avoid them.

Grasshoppers are easy to pick off grass stems at dawn, when the nip in the air has caused them to go into torpor. Crickets, beetles, and grubs can be found under rocks. Other good places to search include behind loose bark, in decaying stumps, and inside seed pods. Earth mounds often betray insect activity underneath.

For sorting through loose soil and rotted wood, it helps to use a digging stick. Another excellent tool for insect collection is a seine, which you can jury-rig by tying your shirt or handkerchief between two poles. Use it to catch active bugs such as flying grasshoppers, or in a stream for aquatic insects.

On the Menu The best edible insects include crickets, cicadas, and grasshoppers, along with termites, ants (which need to be cooked), moths, and butterflies. Some arthropods, including scorpions and tarantulas, are also edible. Nearly all aquatic insects can be eaten in both adult and larval form and, in my experience, are generally more agreeable than their landlubbing brethren. Grubs, worms, leeches, and beetle larvae have a slime factor that can cause a gag reflex and should be either swallowed without chewing, or mashed into a paste and cooked crisply.

While most insects are O.K. raw, they are more palatable after being cooked. Boiling or roasting (wrap the insects in leaves) kills any bacteria, as well as renders the proteins more digestible. Remove beady heads, hard carapaces, wings, barbed legs, and antennae to reduce the “crunch factor,” ease swallowing, and eliminate any parasites. With a grasshopper, twist off the head—the guts should come with it—before swallowing the abdomen. I have often picked mayflies off the river surface and nibbled their abdomens, which taste like, well, mayflies. However, because the water that clings to aquatic insects can be contaminated, it's safer to cook them. On our Smith River trip, we tried boiling our “greens and grubs,” but the bugs had a brighter, nuttier taste eaten raw, and the tang of the watercress, along with a precious few swallows of Scotch, helped subdue the aftertaste.

What to avoid? Pass on bugs that are covered in fuzz. (Bees and wasps are safe to eat if you remove their stingers.) Beware of brightly colored insects, or for that matter any slow-moving insects that you find in the open; they don't give a damn about predators because they know they're poisonous. Disease-carrying species including flies, mosquitoes, and ticks also are to be strictly avoided, as is any bug that emits a strong odor.

As for the rest, open your mouth and close your eyes. Bon appetit.

Comments (15)

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from quinnm107 wrote 3 years 29 weeks ago

Great article with great information.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 3 years 28 weeks ago

worms and ants taste goooooooooooooooood-if thats all you got for 5 days

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishchris wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

dad always told me, hunger makes the best sauce.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from zrock365@yahoo.com wrote 3 years 20 weeks ago

Yumm!!!!!!! Grasshopper!! I love grasshoppers. Or it could be that I haven't eaten in 6 days...........

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redneck Rockstar wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

After a couple of trips to such countries as Thailand and Singapore while serving abroad I had the opportunity to dine on quite a selection of roasted insects and arthropods. Ranging from goliath beetles to crickets, and scorpions to grasshoppers, I must say all of them shared a taste similar to unsalted potato chips or popcorn to me. The uncooked crawlers on the otherhand had a much less pleasing flavor for my pallete.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from StoneRiverTackle wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

Worms and grass hoppers, fungus and fern tips, Like many have said when your hungry you will eat what you can find.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackhatarcher wrote 3 years 1 day ago

My friend the Beast (cant use realnames) likes to eat grass hoppers. We were talking on the phone last year and he was talking about Camp Monro (cant use real names) he said " it was so boring and hot that when I got there people were eating grasshoppers..." Did you join them I asked. He said yes I feel bad for his girlfriend

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from smallgamehunter25 wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

I had grasshoppers at a wild edibles potluck, they were probably the best part of the meal other than puffballs (mushroom) fried in butter

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from thegreatsantini wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Ill eat just about anything.Think about how do you think the people 200 years ago lived if they could do it so can I

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Robinson wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

if a trout can eat it ,, i bet i can to

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from thegreatsantini wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

great information I would usualy eat most things that i find mabye not so smart

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from EpicAwesomeGirl wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

I would totally eat bugs! Actually, it sounds kind of yummmy...

I'm weird! :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from EpicAwesomeGirl wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

I would totally eat bugs! Actually, it sounds kind of yummmy...

I'm weird! :)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ToddCBrown wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Now that is information a fella can use if he is in trouble. Thank You

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from andromac7 wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

i eat something i find around the house every once in a while therefore i know what to expect should something ever happen. not so bad lol!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from quinnm107 wrote 3 years 29 weeks ago

Great article with great information.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishchris wrote 3 years 27 weeks ago

dad always told me, hunger makes the best sauce.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bass2Buck wrote 3 years 28 weeks ago

worms and ants taste goooooooooooooooood-if thats all you got for 5 days

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from zrock365@yahoo.com wrote 3 years 20 weeks ago

Yumm!!!!!!! Grasshopper!! I love grasshoppers. Or it could be that I haven't eaten in 6 days...........

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redneck Rockstar wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

After a couple of trips to such countries as Thailand and Singapore while serving abroad I had the opportunity to dine on quite a selection of roasted insects and arthropods. Ranging from goliath beetles to crickets, and scorpions to grasshoppers, I must say all of them shared a taste similar to unsalted potato chips or popcorn to me. The uncooked crawlers on the otherhand had a much less pleasing flavor for my pallete.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from EpicAwesomeGirl wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

I would totally eat bugs! Actually, it sounds kind of yummmy...

I'm weird! :)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ToddCBrown wrote 2 years 17 weeks ago

Now that is information a fella can use if he is in trouble. Thank You

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from StoneRiverTackle wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

Worms and grass hoppers, fungus and fern tips, Like many have said when your hungry you will eat what you can find.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackhatarcher wrote 3 years 1 day ago

My friend the Beast (cant use realnames) likes to eat grass hoppers. We were talking on the phone last year and he was talking about Camp Monro (cant use real names) he said " it was so boring and hot that when I got there people were eating grasshoppers..." Did you join them I asked. He said yes I feel bad for his girlfriend

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from smallgamehunter25 wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

I had grasshoppers at a wild edibles potluck, they were probably the best part of the meal other than puffballs (mushroom) fried in butter

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from thegreatsantini wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Ill eat just about anything.Think about how do you think the people 200 years ago lived if they could do it so can I

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Robinson wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

if a trout can eat it ,, i bet i can to

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from thegreatsantini wrote 2 years 42 weeks ago

great information I would usualy eat most things that i find mabye not so smart

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from EpicAwesomeGirl wrote 2 years 22 weeks ago

I would totally eat bugs! Actually, it sounds kind of yummmy...

I'm weird! :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from andromac7 wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

i eat something i find around the house every once in a while therefore i know what to expect should something ever happen. not so bad lol!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment