So, Can You Eat Termites for Survival?

If you’re in the middle of a legitimate survival situation, you’re not going to have the luxury of choice when it comes to a lot of things.

termites inside log
Termites inside log. Photo by J Beales.

Need, necessity, is the ultimate monkey on your back. Perhaps no other time is this statement more true than when it comes to what you were going to eat.

I’ll put it this way: there are a whole lot more things out in the world that are edible and nutritious than are good eating.

In this regard, bugs are definitely going to be on the menu. Lucky for us, many bugs are edible and highly nutritious, making them great survival food.

How about termites? They are common, found all over the world and pretty easy to catch. Can you eat termites in a survival situation?

Yes, you can eat termites to survive. Termites are rich in protein, fat and various vitamins and minerals. Use caution, because some termite species can bite, and have chemical defenses.

I know there are plenty of you reading this that are ready to fall out of your chair at the mere idea of having to eat bugs.

But you better get used to it, because compared to many other animals insects will prove to be far more common and far easier to catch.

You should also take heart, because termites are voluntarily eaten as normal cuisine in many cultures around the world.

Keep reading and I will tell you everything you need to know about eating them in a survival scenario.

Where Can Termites Be Found?

Termites are among the most plentiful insects on earth, and also some of the longest lived. Feeding on wood and plants, termites can be found in abundance on every continent except Antarctica.

They are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates as these provide ideal living conditions for them.

Speaking of plentiful, your average termite colony, be it a mound or nest, can contain anywhere from tens of thousands to multiple-millions of termites!

That is an incredible number of the little buggers, all of them working away tirelessly to support the queen.

Considering that the queen of some species can live for decades, it is not out of the question that you could come across a robust and mature colony capable of supplying you with all the food you might need in a short- or intermediate-term survival situation.

Closer to home, termites can be found in many areas across the United States, including California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

These southern states have ideal conditions for termite colonies to thrive due to their warm temperatures and moist climates.

Termites can also be found throughout the Midwest and East Coast of the country as well.

In short, pretty much anywhere you might go except the coldest regions on earth you have a great chance of finding termites.

To locate a nest of termites, look both above and below ground: termites nest by tunneling into wood and other cellulose-rich materials, building underground nests with above ground entrance mounds, and by building in trees with a nest design that looks quite similar to a giant hornet nest.

One telltale sign of a nest is the presence of long, crusty mud tubes running along the trunk or other surface to the ground.

Termites create mud tubes over walls, floors, and ceilings to gain access to food sources while staying protected from predators and weather.

Termite nests are fragile and easy to break into, meaning you’ll have access to lots of them once found.

Caution: Do Not Confuse Termites for Ants or Wasps

It is important to be able to properly identify termites, since their lookalikes can range from relatively harmless ants to dangerous wasps.

Termites are often confused with other insects depending on the shape and location of the nest. For example, some species of termites build mud mounds similar in shape to ant nests.

As mentioned, arboreal termite nests quite resemble certain wasp or hornet nests. The best way to tell them apart at a glance is to examine the insects themselves.

Unlike ants which have three segments on their bodies and elbowed or “crooked” antennae, termites have two lumpy body segments and straight antennae.

In addition to resembling ants, termites can also be mistaken for wasps or bees due to the presence of a highly visible nest.

Many species of wasps will create paper-like nests that resemble those made by termites. To distinguish between the two without getting too close, look closely at the nest entrance.

If you see a near-constant flow of thick-bodied flying insects coming and going, you probably aren’t dealing with termites!

Nutritional Facts about Termites

Termites are surprisingly nutritious, containing an excellent variety of resources your body needs to stay healthy.

They are rich in protein, with more than 40 percent of their dried weight coming from the nutrient.

They also happen to be rich in fat, an important consideration for energy production and calories.

Additionally, they contain other essential minerals like calcium, zinc and phosphorous along with vitamins A and E.

Though many survivors might only be concerned with raw calories during a survival situation, long-term scenarios means you’ll need a regular intake of essential micronutrients also in order to stay healthy and keep on living. Termites can help in both situations.

What Do Termites Taste like?

The question on the mind of pretty much everyone reading this is, no doubt, what do termites taste like.

I am happy to report that they taste pretty good, actually! Thanks to their high fat content, termites have a nutty and slightly sweet or savory flavor, often compared to that of sunflower seeds or cashews.

The taste of some species is also described as slightly grassy or earthy. Among insects, they are some of the least offensive fare that “normal” people might try.

Can You Eat Termites Alive?

You can, but this is not recommended.

Aside from the sheer gross-out factor of eating a live insect, termites can contain a variety of parasites and germs that you don’t want to put in your body.

Aside from tasting nasty, you might come down with food poisoning and that can lead to abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and eventually dehydration.

That is something you cannot afford when you are already in a bad way. Not for nothing, some termite species are large enough to potentially go down fighting- literally!

The “soldier” type of some species have large and powerful mandibles or even a chemical-secreting suicide ability that will make them hazardous to eat alive!

Trust me: you don’t want to experience any of those outcomes. But, all you need to do to avoid them is cook your termites prior to eating. More on that in a second.

How to find n Eat Raw Queen Termite | Life of Natural Foods

Can You Eat Termites Raw?

Again, yes, you can- but you really shouldn’t. Just like with eating them alive, you still run the risk of contracting illness from germs or parasites.

Sure, the termites cannot fight back when eaten dead and raw, but they still won’t taste great.

Preparing Termites

The best way to prepare termites is to gently roast or pan fry them whole. This will kill the termites, kill any germs or parasites inside them and greatly improve their taste and texture.

All you need to do is make sure that they are cooked through and slightly golden. It won’t take long!

Larger specimens might do with having their head, and prominent mandibles, twisted off first. Otherwise, they are easy to eat as-is.

You can also grind them up into a powder after cooking them crisp. This powder could then be used in soups for flavor, as a thickener, or even mixed with other ingredients to bulk up food and add calories.

What Risks are There When Eating Termites?

There are a few concerns when eating termites, aside from the aforementioned risks of illness when eating them raw or undercooked.

Contrary to some assertions, termites cannot sting, and only a few species have a bite that will be anything more than an annoyance to a human.

However, it must be pointed out that some species have chemical defense mechanisms that can make them dangerous to eat.

For example, members of the subfamily Nasutitermitinae all secrete noxious liquids containing solvents and other nasty things that can easily irritate skin and mucous membranes.

Some species even have soldiers that voluntarily commit suicide by rupturing their organs, resulting in a sticky, toxic mess for attackers (like people!) to deal with.

If you run across any such termite species, think twice before eating them.

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