When you’re caught in the middle of a survival situation, and have no other resources to hand for calories you might have to resort to eating the tiniest wild game- insects! As gross as it is to consider many insects are completely edible and nutritionally are highly complete. Among insects, some of the smallest and the most common are ants. But ants are so small one might wonder if they are even worth catching.
Is it possible to eat ants and survive off of them? Yes, entirely, although you will have to catch a lot of them to make the effort worthwhile. Ants contain a considerable amount of protein by weight, and many essential vitamins and minerals including iron and calcium – also fiber and fat, both necessary in a survival situation.
But if you are going to try to go to the distance in a survival situation by eating ants, either as a supplementary food or as your primary mainstay, there is quite a bit more to know. We will provide you with more essential facts, tips and trivia regarding ants as a food source in the rest of this article.
Eating Ants Through the Ages
Insects in general, and ants in particular, have been eaten by various cultures around the world for millennia.
They are a global mainstay for those who by custom or by circumstances engage in the eating of insects because there are so many species of ants to choose from, and also that they are found in abundance on every single continent except Antarctica.
Even more important for preppers is that ants can be found year-round in all seasons so long as you know where to look, but they are much easier to both locate and harvest in the temperate months when they are most active above ground.
Even though ants are tiny in every sense of the word, some folks would make a mistake and disregard them as a source of survival calories. Yes, you’ll need to harvest a bunch of them to make a meal worth mentioning but ants are incredibly plentiful!
A single colony will contain anywhere from a few thousand ants on the high side to several hundred on the low side, with certain species capable of forming “mega-colonies” containing upwards of several million! That’s amazing, and they are all ripe and easy for the taking.
Be warned that you might not want to scoop them up by hand depending on the species, but we’ll talk about that as well as some additional ways to harvest them here in just a few minutes.
Nutrition and Taste
Nutritionally ants are, like most insects, tiny powerhouses, often containing anywhere from twice to three times as much protein by mass as comparable mammal or avian sources. As mentioned above they are also rich with minerals and vitamins and contain not-insignificant amounts of carbohydrates and fats.
You could do a lot worse when it comes to gathering food than spending the time collecting enough ants to make a meal, or at least a good snack.
But how do ants taste? Well, it depends on what kind of ant you have as well as what stage of life the ant is in. It also depends on if they are eaten raw or cooked.
Most ants eaten raw are described as tasting sour, tangy or vinegary. Some are even described as tasting of lemons or bergamot.
If that does not appeal to you, ants can be cooked easily by roasting, gently pan frying, or even boiling which will work significantly to mellow their taste. But be advised if you boil them you will need an effective strainer to collect them again.
Ant larvae, which look like tiny grubs about the size of a grain of rice, are said to taste like almonds or walnuts and are even higher in fats than mature ants.
These grubs can easily be found when an ant colony is relocating, being carried by various adults, or inside a colony that you break open or dig up. They are typically kept in a large chamber or series of chambers together. Ant larvae are also easy to cook.
Pros and Cons of Cooking
You don’t necessarily have to cook ants in order to consume them safely, but aside from mellowing their taste somewhat cooking can potentially rid the ants of any bacteria, viruses or other parasites that they have managed to pick up.
Many survival instructors inform us that you can just pop ants into your mouth as you go, and this is certainly viable, but as always cooking is preferable to eating them raw.
But spending the time to cook something that is so tiny and so delicate as an ant might lead to loss of your catch, so use caution and have a plan before you heat up the pan or pot.
Use Caution When Catching and Eating Ants
Despite their tiny size ants might put up a fight when you try to catch them or eat them raw, meaning alive. Generally speaking, you want to avoid trying to catch and eat ants that have potent defenses in the form of painful stings or oversized and powerful jaws.
In the case of the former, you are likely to get covered with painful welts when attempting to gather them, and certain species capable of stinging pack quite a wallop and may inflict agonizing pain.
In the case of the latter it is far from out of the question that the ants might be able to bite you inside your mouth or even your throat, potentially choking you.
Any common venomous ants that are easily identified, like fire ants, should be avoided as they are just not worth the trouble and if you happen to get swarmed or have a bad reaction to their venom your survival situation might go from “bad” to genuinely “deadly”.
Assuming you are able to harvest significant numbers of ants that are known to be venomous you should take care to cook them at all costs, as this will help to break down their venom and will certainly kill the critters to prevent further danger before eating.
Also, you should make it a point to only eat live ants found away from urban or suburban areas.
Dead ants in any location might have expired due to exposure to some poisonous plant or fungus and ants that are found in built up areas, live or dead, are exposed to every kind of pesticide since their intrusions into human dwellings are often met with extermination efforts.
Time to Catch these Critters
Catching ants is a relatively simple affair, though their small size, propensity to swarm and surprising ground speed can make this tricky if you are using your hand alone, not to mention painful in the case of ants that can deliver a significant bite or venomous sting…
In any warmer season or location all you need to do is keep a sharp eye out as you walk around, and it won’t be long before you notice the distinctive mound of an ant hill or sometimes a cluster of smaller hills representing the same.
At this point you will certainly see a train of ants entering and exiting which you can then pick up before depositing into your container. You can also use a broad, firm leaf or even a stick to make collecting them easier.
If there aren’t many ants to be seen or you need more than what can be gathered from the trains moving in and out of the colony you can break open or dig up the nest partially.
Be ready as this will result in an eruption of ants. Keep your eyes open for the tiny, white or ivory colored larvae which will appear like grains of rice.
Make sure you are diligent, and really go for numbers while harvesting: you will need hundreds of ants to make a meaningful snack, and many thousands of them to make a legitimate meal.
Whatever the case, don’t get discouraged because there are plenty to go around!
It is possible to eat and indeed survive off of ants when you are desperate for calories in a survival situation. Ants, though incredibly tiny, are just as calorie dense and packed with nutrients and minerals as other forms of edible insect life.
Ants are so widespread and plentiful that you can be assured of finding enough of them to subsist on virtually anywhere you go, and so long as you are patient and persistent in collecting them will be able to rely on them as a food source.