11 Edible Bugs For Survival

When in the wild, you might not have a choice but to eat bugs. While this may not sound appetizing, realize that some of the bugs you’re about to learn about are delicacies in some parts of the world. When it comes down to life or death, it’s something you must do. With that said, let’s take a look at common edible bugs that you’ll be able to find in the wild during a survival situation.

Warning: Many of the bugs on this list shouldn’t be eaten raw unless you’re starving to death. Why? Because there’s always a risk that the bug is carrying a parasite. A parasitic infection in a survival situation is pretty much a death sentence. If you have the ability to make a fire and cook them, that’s the better option. For bugs like ants or termites, this generally doesn’t apply. Keep this in mind when catching edible bugs in the wild. 

#11: Agave Worms

Edible BugsAlso called “Maguey Worms”, these larvae are perfectly safe to consume. They infamous for being placed at the bottom of Tequila bottles as proof of authenticity. While they’re not particularly common in the United States, these edible bugs are very popular in Mexico. They’re also highly nutritious, which is why finding in the wild can be a real life-saver. As you can see from the picture, they’re yellowish brown in color.

#10: Ants

Edible BugsThere are many varieties of ants that can be eaten. These include lemon ants, honeypot ants, leaf-cutter ants, and carpenter ants. Honeypot Ants have swollen abdomens and are a quality food source. You can dig them up from the ground and eat them raw. Leafcutter ants are located mainly in South America and taste like a mix of pistachio and bacon. Lemon ants are found in the Amazon Jungle, and taste like…lemons!

#9: Bamboo Worms

Edible BugsThese edible bugs are a delicacy in Thailand. They’re often eaten fried, but you can safely eat them raw as well. The best thing about them is that they’re loaded with protein (about 26% of their body weight). For this reason, they’re an excellent source of energy. About 51% of their body weight is fat, which is another quality source of energy. They may not look that appetizing, but they can save your life if you’re lost in the wild.

#8: Bee Larvae

Edible BugsBee larvae is a common food choice in many cultures. That’s because they’re very delicious. Think about it- bee larvae eat honey, pollen, and royal jelly, all of which are very tasty. They’re usually eaten roasted. When sautéed in butter, they taste like a mix of bacon and mushrooms. With that said, you won’t have this luxury while in the wild. These edible bugs will probably be hard to come by, but still keep them in mind.

#7: Cicada

Edible BugsFound mainly in Eastern United States, cicadas are known for their soft, juicy bodies. They live underground for a whopping 17 years before emerging as adults. Although I’ve never had one, I’ve been told that they’re very delicious. Different species of these edible bugs can also be found in Asian countries like Malaysia, Japan, and Thailand. They don’t look very appetizing, but they’re safe to eat, so keep an eye out when in the wild.

#6: Cockroach

Edible BugsWe’re all familiar with cockroaches. They have the uncanny ability to make their way into our homes. And believe it or not, you can eat them. But not just the ones in your home- you can also eat cockroaches in the wild. Contrary to what you may believe, these edible bugs can actually be very clean and tasty. This is especially true if they’ve fed mostly on fruits and vegetables. If you find one in a survival situation, know that it’s safe to eat.

#5: Grasshoppers and Crickets

Edible BugsThese crunchy bugs are relatively easy to find and are highly nutritious. When you consider the other bugs on this list, they don’t seem like that bad of an alternative. The easiest time to catch grasshoppers is in the early morning. The same applies to crickets. These edible bugs are fast, so you’ll need to be fast. Look for crickets in areas that are dark and damp- under logs, rocks, etc. Also, check in trees, shrubs, and tall grasses.

#4: Termites

Edible BugsTermites are an excellent source of protein, and since they spend most of their time inside wood, you’re not as likely to catch a parasite by eating them. The reason I like these edible bugs is because they’re super-easy to catch. Just break open a semi-rotted log and shake them out quickly. As soon as termites see light, they’ll attempt to bury themselves deeper in the wood, making them harder to catch.

#3: Scorpions

Edible BugsScorpions are a popular delicacy in China, but can also be found in the wild in places like New Mexico, Arizona, and California. They taste a lot like crab. Catching them will be the most difficult part. They like to bury themselves underneath overhanging rocks and logs. Here’s a tip for catching these edible bugs: dig a hole and place an open-mouthed jar (like a water bottle) right in front of their burrow. When they emerge at night, they’ll fall in.

#2: Earthworms

Edible BugsOf all the edible bugs on this list, earthworms are by far the easiest to catch. Pretty much everyone has seen an earthworm at some point in their life, although, few have probably eaten them. Dig around damp soil and you’ll almost certainly find them. Be sure to flip over some rocks and check there as well. In an emergency, they can be eaten raw. But to decrease your chances of a parasitic infection, cook them over a fire.

#1: Stinkbugs

Edible BugsBelieve it or not, you can eat stinkbugs. In Mexico, they’re a delicacy (there’s even an annual festival to celebrate them). During the winter, you can likely find a stinkbug underneath logs, rocks, and other types of wilderness cover. Sometimes they’ll be in plain sight on the ground. Some people like to eat them raw, which is a little disgusting in my opinion. They have an “iodine” taste, which can be lessened if you cook them.

Notable Mention - Slugs

Edible BugsSlugs as food? Yes! I realize that they aren’t edible “bugs”, but they come close enough. One reason why I recommend them is because they’re highly nutritious. During warm, wet months of the year, they’re pretty easy to find. Note, they contain a dangerous parasite known as a “Rat Lungworm”. It can cause meningitis in humans (inflammation of the brain). To avoid this, just cook them.

Again, if you have the option, it’s best to cook these edible bugs. Eating them raw is fine during an emergency situation, but don’t make it a habit if you’re not in danger. Here’s a video of Bear Grylls from Man vs. Wild eating a giant larvae (I’m warning you now, it’s pretty gross):

Bugs Not to Eat

The majority of the bugs that you find in the wilderness will be edible. With that said, there are some precautions that you’ll want to take. First, don’t eat any bugs that are brightly-colored. These colors are usually a warning sign for predators to let them know they’re toxic. This tip applies even for insects on this list. Additionally, avoid hairy bugs. They may have stingers within their fuzz. Finally, don’t eat any bugs that have a potent smell (with the exception of stink bugs, which are safe to consume).

Survival Guide to Edible Insects

Avoid Bugs From Urban Areas

For urban survival, I would not recommend using bugs are your source of food. And there’s a very important reason for this: pesticides. Many people spray bug killer around their homes to keep the insects at bay. If these pesticides spread to insects in the area, those insects will no longer be safe for consumption. If possible, travel a few minutes out of town and search for bugs there. Here you’ll be able to load up on edible bugs that don’t have pesticides.

Edible Bugs – Bottom Line

As I mentioned, don’t eat these edible bugs raw unless it’s an emergency. You don’t want to put yourself at risk of getting a parasitic infection. If you understand how to make a fire, then you’re all set. If you don’t know how to make a fire, then I highly recommend doing so. Not only does cooking these edible bugs remove bacteria and parasites, but it also makes them taste better. I don’t know about you, but the feeling of a lively, crawling earthworm in my throat doesn’t sound too appetizing!

Resources 

  1. List of Edible Insects (EdiBug)
  2. 8 Edible Bugs That Could Help You Survive (Backpacker)
  3. Eating Insects For Survival (Field and Stream)
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