Earthquake, nuclear power plant failure, global crises, Skynet or whatever other doomsday scenarios you can think of. In any of those national emergency situations, food and nutrition will become a rare good. You will need access to protein, fat and carbs to stay fit and ultimately alive.
Then it will come down to use your skills to survive. You will have to know what you can do and where you can get it from. Especially when there are no more fruits and vegetables left anywhere.
Considering insects as nutrition source is just a logical next step, although you might not like to hear it. If you are not motivated right this second, that’s OK. Because this might look very different after you have been in the wild without food for some days. Make sure you read this post until the end as it might save your life one day!
Another good reason to eat insects, aside from the nutritional aspects, is that they are fairly easy to catch and are often found in large quantities almost anywhere in the world.
Not all insects are really edible, and preparation is different from insect to insect.
Therefore, it’s essential to be smart in advance. We’ll show you how to differentiate between edible and poisonous insects, and how to prepare them once you’ve caught one of those juicy crawlers ;).
Eating insects for survival: Why it’s worth it
In a survival situation, it may be worthwhile for you to resort to insects as a food source. Collecting them requires little effort, the energy return is priceless for sustainability, and they contain high nutrient and protein contents that are both vital to survival.
In fact, insects usually contain a lot of high-quality animal protein which is comparable to that of quality beef.
For example, a cricket is made up of 65 percent protein, whereas cow meat contains only about 60 percent. That means a cricket is denser in protein than a cow itself. Important nutrients such as proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals are all found in a cricket.
Insects in countries like the Congo or Kenya are often a vital food source for survival. A main staple of the diet is corn, and so amino acid deficiency can be common. The amino acids contained in termites or palm beetle larvae help to compensate for this deficiency—just like the popular Mopane Caterpillar in South Africa, which is particularly high in iron content.
More than 1,900 types of insects can be found worldwide. The main insects used as food by humans are various beetle species, grasshoppers and ants. Around two billion people in the world eat insects, especially in many tropical countries, as well as in South Africa and Mexico. In these countries, small critters are on the menu.
Eating insects for survival: What are the chances of getting sick from insect diseases?
What used to be a staple diet (such as grasshoppers and other creepy-crawlies) in the days of the Romans and Greeks in Europe now causes disgust. The image of an insect is often thought of as sick and disease-ridden creature.
However, insect phylogenetics is much more remote from humans than conventional livestock, so the risk of zoonotic infections (human-to-animal and animal-to-human transmissible infectious diseases) is rather low.
(Of course, not all insects are edible—more on that in the section below.)
Eating insects for survival: Where to find edible insects
Insects are distributed throughout the world and populate almost all habitats. Mostly they can be found on the ground and on plant life, but also there are species that are found in water. Finding insects in nature is not difficult. You can go to a woodland area near you and find all sorts of them.
A good source is tree trunks. Dead and decaying wood is an important habitat for insects and other creepy-crawlies, not only for species that feed directly from the bark or the wood but also those that use the tree as breeding zones and for shelter.
Different kinds of mosquitoes and fly larvae feed on growing fungi and bacteria that live on trees. In tree sponges, which grow on dead wood, you can find beetles and flies
In wintertime, large groups of beetles migrate into tree crevices under the bark or into the ground under decaying foliage. Ants, on the other hand, are harder to find because they bury themselves a few feet below the ground. There they fall into a winter dormancy.
Ants can be easily recognized by their mounds, which can be found either freestanding or leaning against an object such as a tree.
In the heat of the day, many insects are inactive, but they emerge from their hiding places after a rain event to refresh themselves in the water.
Eating insects for survival: This is how you recognize edible and poisonous bugs and insects
More than a million different species of insects can be found in the world, but not everything that creeps and crawls can be consumed. Despite their small size, insects can harbour dangerous bacteria and viruses. But with some practice, you can spot these dangers easily.
A poisonous beetle indicates its poisonousness by secreting a fluid to ward off danger. For example, the globally-distributed Red-Black Ladybird excretes toxic substances in the form of blood droplets on the leg joints—a yellow, sticky liquid that gives off an unpleasant odour. These two features (the elimination of liquids and the intense smell) are generally a warning sign in other beetle species as well. The more colourful an insect is, the more toxic it could be.
Thus, an investigation showed that beetles with the most intense staining have the deadliest defences to offer. Opposingly, the yellow-brownish coloured Conifer Ladybug seems mostly harmless. A human won’t really be affected by the venom of a Ladybird. However, the fluid can invade existing skin lesions, resulting in swelling, numbness and itching. After about two hours, these symptoms should subside again.
Caution is necessary with different ant species as well. Some of them spray formic acid, while with others their bite feels like making contact with a stinging nettle. Therefore, ants must be cooked for at least 6 minutes to destroy any poisons contained within them.
In general, only live specimens of insects should be collected. Also, insects that feed on waste, carrion or faeces should be avoided as they are likely to transmit pathogens.
Eating insects for survival: These are the most common edible insects in North America:
(don’t eat the ones around your house / in cities)
4. Bees and Wasps
5. Grasshoppers & Crickets
7. Plant Lice
10. Stink Bugs
Eating insects for survival: Preparation
Once you have become acquainted (and comfortable) with the idea of eating an insect, the following tips for preparing insects may prove useful.
Before you can eat a grasshopper, you should remove their guts as there may still be (poisonous) remains of plants. To do this, hold the animal by its wings so that it can’t escape, then the its head by about 45 degrees backward to simultaneously pull out the intestines.
The wings, antennae and legs should also be removed so that they don’t get stuck in the throat when eating. Even with edible beetles, such as the Cockchafer, you should remove the wings and legs.
You can eat the grasshopper either raw or over a fire; however, if possible, you should always fry critters over a fire. Then you can be sure that any parasites and the like will be killed. With the help of a sharp stick, the insects can be impaled easily over the fire.
Other insect and bug recipes
If you are interested in this survival topic, check out our survival 101 category for more. I got most of my knowledge from own experience, talking to people, and also reading a bunch of survival books. This is one I can really recommend, it’s called SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere. And if you’ve got an appetite for more great bug and grasshopper recipes you should check out The insect cookbook :).
Conclusion: Eating bugs and insects to ensuring your own survival
Insects are often not nice to look at and are considered to be vermin rather than food. This is understandable.
Nevertheless, the idea of using this source of food in an emergency situation is worthwhile to ensure your own survival. Insects are not only found in a high abundance in nature but are also very nutritious.
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Your outback gear and review team