Any prepper worth the label will be prepared to face a survival situation by stockpiling the essentials. One of these essentials is food, and though you can live for weeks or even upwards of a month without it, your body and mind will degrade precipitously. Sourcing your own calories in the wild is not easy, but some wild-caught proteins are easier to come by than others.
Is it possible to eat insects in a survival situation? Yes, it is, and you definitely should despite the gross out factor. Edible insects include grasshoppers, caterpillars and crickets. Non-edible insects include bees, wasps, ants, and beetles. Edible, nutritious insects are everywhere, and compared to their mammalian and avian counterparts, they often have more vitamins, minerals and particularly protein per gram.
The fact that they are plentiful and far easier to catch only bolsters their reputation as a super source of survival protein. But you would be a fool to just dash out into the woods, and start shoving insects into your mouth. There’s a lot more to know in order to make your forays fruitful, safe, and hopefully a little tastier.
We will provide you with all the guidelines for safe and healthy bug-eating in the remainder of this article.
Remove the Choking Hazards
When dealing with any insect, but especially the larger varieties out there in the world, you will need to take care to prepare them for consumption just like you would any other fresh catch.
Many insects feature anatomical arrangements, defensive adaptations, or just strange physiologies that could present a substantial choking or health hazard when consumed as-is.
Spines, wings, wing covers, hairy sections, and more should all be cleaned prior to preparation and eating.
Some standout examples are the large and spiny legs present on beetles, grasshoppers and cicadas. The iridescent wings so typical of insects never make for good eating, and contain hardly any nutrition anyway, but their flaky, chewy texture presents a choking hazard.
Smaller insects like crickets might be eaten whole, legs and all, but if you are ever in doubt take the time to clean them prior to eating.
This is especially true if you are dealing with a species suitable for eating alive, as you don’t want their panicked thrashing potentially lodging a sharp spine into the soft tissues of your mouth or throat.
Cook ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
There are plenty of insects that are suitable for consumption whole and “all natural”, straight down the hatch, but chances are you will find the entire experience more tolerable, if not more enjoyable, by cooking your catch first. This assumes that you have time and resources to do so.
If you have any seasonings or other ingredients close at hand (or as part of your survival stash), you can prepare insects just like you would prepare other dishes. Additionally, various species take to various forms of preparation better than their fellows.
Some insects are better fried while others do better baked. Some are downright nasty when eaten whole, even cooked, but are a great way to add considerable protein to a soup or stew when ground and stirred in.
Herbs, spices, butter, and other seasonings can make all the difference in both taste and palatableness.
Don’t Eat Dangerous or Brightly Colored Insects
Broadly, you want to avoid chowing down on any insects that are known troublemakers or otherwise dangerous.
Bees, wasps, hornets and other common stingers are not worth the trouble much of the time even though they are edible when prepared properly. You might say this is one prey item that will “bite” you back!
In the same vein you also want to avoid entirely any brightly colored insects unless you are completely positive on the identification and know that it is safe to eat. The reason is that bright colors, especially bright patterns of alternating bands or spots, are nature’s way of informing both man and beast that the insect in question is venomous or poisonous.
Brushing up on your entomology knowledge is definitely a good idea if you want to incorporate the eating of insects for additional calories into your survival plan, but lacking this specialized knowledge you can usually, usually, stay safe by eating only insects that are found in drab, natural colors like black, green, tan, and brown.
This is not a 100% foolproof rule of thumb but then again no rule of thumb is.
Good Options for Dining on Insects
Well you should take comfort from the fact that there are edible insects to be eaten anywhere there are people on a full-time basis, some insects stand above the pack when it comes to nutritional value, convenience and tastiness.
Below you will find our recommendations for the best all around eats in the insect world, and also our cautionary word for those that you should avoid unless you have no other choice or specialist skills to prepare them safely.
Grasshoppers are a common and ubiquitous sight and temperate regions across the globe, and both they and their close relatives the locust are chock full of protein. These guys are often large and capable of impressive feats of agility thanks to their wings and powerful hind legs.
That being said, they are typically easy to catch by swatting them out of the air, or pouncing on them before they lift off. Make sure you remove the wings, wing covers and any spiny legs. If at all possible, cook them well to kill potential parasites.
Crickets are highly common, and extremely plentiful when found. Another excellent source of protein very similar to grasshopper, crickets are often a fine choice for preppers due to being easier to find, easier to catch in quantity and overall tastier.
Fricasseed or fried in a little bit of butter or oil crickets are said to have a slightly nutty, almost shrimp-like taste without any additional seasoning.
Caterpillars are another survival superfood that you should familiarize yourself with if you plan on eating insects. Gram for gram some of the most nutritionally complete insects around, caterpillars are also generally easy to find, and extremely easy to catch since they are barely mobile as it is.
You must take care as quite a few species of caterpillars are not suitable for eating, but these are easy to identify by a spiny, hairy or brightly colored appearance. Stick with drab colors and smooth, hairless bodies and you’ll be okay.
❌ Wasps and Hornets
Though many species of wasp and a hornet are beefy enough that they might be appealing sources of protein these swarming insects pack a ferocious punch, and significant social defensive responses that can make trying to collect enough of them to make a meal an extremely painful endeavor.
Even if you do manage to gather enough of them to make the struggle worthwhile, they still require copious cleaning to remove the wings and their venom sacs. Tough to do when you are covered in welts!
Most species of ant are in fact entirely edible and nutritious, and if you collect a large swath of them they can be pan roasted and mass very easily. The problem is that actually collecting them is quite a chore.
Unless you plan on popping them in your mouth and eating them raw as you go, you’re going to have a hard time dealing with these annoying critters for only a miniscule return on your caloric input.
❌ Stink Bugs, Bombardier Beetles, Etc.
As you might have guessed, you definitely don’t want to eat any bug that employs a foul smelling liquid, acidic discharge, or other nefarious “chemical” weapons.
The same things that make them so unpleasant to deal with in life will make them doubly unpleasant for dining, so should you come across any such insect, leave it be, or if you discover this behavior when capturing it you’ll know it is time to put it back.
Cultures around the world eat insects as a matter of course, and that means you can definitely eat them safely in a survival situation.
The idea might be gross to you, but many insects are completely packed with protein, fats and all sorts of essential vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent supplement to your existing store of rations in a survival situation or a great “Plan B” when you are completely out of food otherwise.