Top 17 Edible Insects for Survival

You may have heard that there are some bugs that are safe to eat and you may even be aware that cultures around the world include various insects as part of their regular diet.

In truth, there are nearly 2,000 edible bugs on the Earth, which means when SHTF, it’s not a bad idea to know how to find and identify the top edible bugs for survival.

a grasshopper
a grasshopper

Although most insects can be safely eaten, there are some precautions you need to follow when preparing them to ensure that you don’t make matters worse by eating a poisonous or contaminated bug.

The bugs and insects you can forage for survival will largely depend on your location and the time of year but below are the top edible bugs for survival.

General Nutritional Benefits of Bugs

If you can set aside taste and cultural concerns for a minute, there is a lot to like about bugs from a micro- and macronutrient perspective. They are a great source of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

Many types of bugs are high in minerals like zinc and calcium, and can supply various vitamins like B-complex and C. In fact, bugs are sometimes referred to as “mini-livestock” because of their high nutritional value and ease of raising.

While most people in Western countries would never dream of eating a bug, there are actually many cultures around the world that regularly include them in their diets.

And it’s not just because they’re desperate; in many cases, bugs are considered a staple or even a delicacy!

From a survival perspective, bugs are hard to beat as food particularly when compared to other animals. They have a high ratio of protein to mass, and their tiny size and generally slow speed means they require way less energy and ingenuity to catch.

They are usually available in great numbers and are present virtually everywhere on earth. They can also be cooked over a fire quickly and easily, making them an ideal food source in emergency situations.

Some bugs have defensive adaptations in the form of powerful jaws, venomous stingers and toxic secretions, but most hazards are usually easy to overcome or remove if you can nab the little things.

In any case, you will rarely be able to procure better nutrition for less effort when in the wild, so consider putting insects at or near the top of your wilderness menu.

Survival skills: Catch and Cook Insects Taste Delicious For Lunch

18 Edible Insects for Survival to Consider

If you’re feeling adventurous or just plain desperate, here are16 surprisingly edible bugs that you may want to add to your next meal:

Ants

All different types of ants are commonly eaten around the world. You may have even had the occasion to eat them covered in chocolate as a treat.

But if you find yourself in a situation where your only available food is ants, you’ll need to collect quite a few to make a meal of them.

Ants can be eaten raw once dead, although boiling them first will help to reduce the sour taste of the acid they use on potential predators.

The species of ant available will vary according to your location but below are some examples of ants eaten around the world.

  • Honeypot ants-Australia
  • Carpenter Ants-Philippines and Indonesia
  • Leafcutter Ants-Brazil and Colombia
  • Green Tree Ants-India, Thailand, and China
  • Weaver Ants-Congo
  • Lemon Ants-Amazon

Wood Lice

One commonly found bug you may not have thought was edible is the woodlouse, also sometimes referred to as a pill bug, potato bug, sow bug, or rolly polly bug.

Woodlice are in fact crustaceans but are often thought of as an insect. Boil them and you’ll find they have a flavor similar to shrimp.

Grubs

These may not be on the top of your list of edible bugs for survival, unless you’re related to Timon and Pumba, but grubs are relatively easy to find in a wilderness situation and they are edible.

Grubs can also easily be found under rotting leaves in an urban situation. Although they can be eaten raw, grubs are best eaten when roasted till crunchy.

Grasshoppers and Crickets

Probably one of the most commonly eaten insect in most parts of the world are grasshoppers and crickets.

Most people who consume these prefer to pull the antennae and legs off and remove the head. If you twist the head when removing it, the guts should also pull out.

When it comes to a crisis situation, crickets and grasshoppers and crickets are easily identifiable, commonly found in many areas, and high in protein which can enhance your ability to survive.

Cook thoroughly before eating. Although harder to find, locusts can also be eaten in the same way.

Stinkbugs

These pests may be one of the worst smelling bugs around but believe it or not, those who partake say they have an almost fruity flavor that resembles an apple.

Most experts recommend that you avoid eating any insect or bug that smells foul. But in truth, if you can ignore the smell, you can eat stinkbugs raw.

The best way to eat them is to soak them first to remove the stink causing chemical, and then cook as desired. Be cautious, some stinkbugs may live through cooking.

Termites

If you can catch them, termites are one of the top edible bugs for survival because they are packed with healthy fats and protein.

Look for termites in decaying wood whether in the forest or woodpiles or catch them when they get their wings during mating season.

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

Use raw as a quick protein boost or add to a meal to add beneficial nutrients. Termites are used frequently in Southeast Asia and on the continent of Africa. Depending on the species you collect, the flavor can range from minty to nutty.

Worms

There are several different edible varieties including earthworms, tree worms (pork rind flavor), and red agave worms (spicy). If you’ve ever hunted worms for a fishing trip, you know they can be found in moist soil, especially right after a rain.

Worms should be “stripped” of their stomach contents before eating to reduce the chance of eating chemicals, parasites, and other contaminants from the dirt diet of the worm.

You can do this by squeezing the worm from one end to the other or by boiling several times. Worms can be roasted, dried, or even ground into a powder for consumption.

Bees, Wasps, and Hornets

Part of the Vespidae Order, these are in fact edible once you remove their stingers. Roast or fry them if you prefer.

The larvae from bees and wasps are also edible and in fact are regularly eaten in the countries of Asia, the West Indies, South America, and South America. If you are lucky enough to find a hive and access it, collect the larvae and fry them in a pan.

Dragonfly

These lovely flyers are on the list of top edible bugs for survival as are the damselflies. They are most commonly found near freshwater during the warm weather.

Your biggest challenge will be catching one of these colorful flyers but you can lure them close and trap them using a stick coated with tree sap.

You may also have some luck using a seine or a t-shirt tied between two sticks to catch the adult flying members of the Odonata Order.

Take off the wings and cook. During the Spring season, use a t-shirt or other piece of cloth to make a net to scoop dragonfly larvae from the water. Once collected, clean larvae and roast or fry.

Caterpillars, Moths, and Butterflies

If you’re going to include caterpillars, moths, or butterflies, the Lepidoptera Order, on the menu, you have to be cautious. You need to know how to identify poisonous or toxic ones.

As a general rule, you should avoid brightly colored ones and remove any stingers to reduce the possibility of ingesting any poisonous substance they may harbor.

To destroy any dangerous bacteria, cook when possible. If you aren’t knowledgeable about edibles in this bug category, it’s best to look for other insects.

Beetles and Weevils

Part of the Coleoptera Order, these comprise about 31% of the edible bugs for survival and are the largest category of insects eaten around the world.

One of the most common edible bugs for survival is the mealworm which is actually the larvae form of a darkling beetle.

Mealworms are very nutritious and taste a bit like roasted nuts. The Rhinoceros beetles are extremely nutritious and according to Severin Tchibozo, an entomologist, their larvae may have up to 40% protein, that’s higher than chicken or beef.

Agave and cactus weevils are eaten throughout Mexico, Venezuela, and Ecuador. If you find yourself stranded in Southeast or East Asia, diving beetles may be more common.

Jewel beetles (Buprestidae family) are considered pests because their larvae feed on wood and living trees.

If you find yourself stranded in China, Africa, or Southeast Asia, feel free to dine on either the adult or larvae form of jewel beetle.

In North America, look for the June Beetle (Phyllophaga) long harvested and eaten by Native Americans. Be sure you are collecting beetles in areas where pesticides have not been used to eliminate risk of contamination.

Cicadas

Cicadas are a type of edible insect that is native to tropical and temperate regions around the world. They are often eaten as a delicacy in Asian countries, and they are also gaining popularity as a sustainable source of protein in Western countries. 

Cicadas have a high nutritional value, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. They also have a high fat content, which makes them an excellent source of energy. 

In terms of taste, cicadas have been described as being similar to shrimp or lobster. When cooked, they develop a crispy outer shell that encases a tender inner flesh. Cicadas can be eaten whole, or they can be used as an ingredient in other dishes. 

Scorpions

Scorpions are one of the most feared insects on the planet, but did you know that they’re also edible? That’s right – in many parts of the world, Scorpions are considered a delicacy or sold as street food. 

So what makes them so special? For starters, Scorpions are a good source of protein and calories, and despite their terrifying appearance they are easy to catch.

But perhaps the most appealing thing about Scorpions is their unique flavor. Some say that they taste like shrimp, while others compare their flavor to chicken or crab. 

Remove the stinger and the bulb at the end of the tail containing the venom sack, along with any barbs or sharp bits on their exoskeleton and you’ll be ready to roast.

Walking Stick

Walking sticks are an excellent source of nutrition among insects, providing a high protein and low fat content.

They are also a good source of essential amino acids, making them a valuable addition to the diets of many people around the world.

Walking sticks are typically found in tropical and subtropical regions, where they feed on leaves and other plant material. 

The hardest part about harvesting walking sticks is actually locating them; like their name implies, when they hold still they blend in seamlessly with the plants they reside on!

Most walking sticks are between five and six inches long, and vary in color from brown to black, but despite their impressive size you won’t see them unless you are lucky enough to catch one moving or you look very closely. 

Walking sticks are ideally harvested when they are smaller and tender, as this is when they are at their most tasty. When cooked, they can be eaten whole or used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. 

Spiders

While most people consider spiders to be creepy, crawly creatures, they can actually make for a very tasty meal in a survival situation. In fact, spiders are one of the most popular edible insect in many parts of the world. 

When it comes to taste, spiders are another that is described as having a slightly creamy, “seafood” flavor that is similar to shrimp.

They are also a good source of protein and other nutrients. In terms of texture, spiders are quite crunchy when cooked which can help overcome their nasty texture when raw. 

When cooked, their legs tend to curl up, so it is best to remove them before eating and take care to remove the fangs on larger specimens!

Roaches

This is sure to be the gross-out champion on this list, but I can confirm that, yes, roaches are safely edible and even pretty nutritious.

Roaches are one of the most common and successful insects on the planet, and they have been eaten by some cultures for centuries. 

While pretty much everyone reading this will find the idea of eating a cockroach repulsive, there are actually many reasons why roaches make good eating, and especially when you have nothing else!

For one thing, they are another insect that high in protein and low in fat, making them a nutritious source of energy. They also contain high levels of iron and other essential minerals. 

Finally, roaches are widely available and very easy to catch, making them a convenient food source for those who are in areas where other food sources are scarce or non-existent.

Roaches are best prepared by removing the wings and wing covers along with their spiny legs. Roasting or pan frying are great ways to prepare them and you’ll find they have a surprisingly neutral, if grainy, flavor.

In an extended SHTF situation, they could be plentiful and one of your most available resources in urban cities. Clean well, remove head, antennae, and legs, boil, and then cook.

Katydids

Katydids are a type of edible insect that is native to tropical, subtropical and temperate regions. Related to grasshoppers and crickets, they are typically green or brown in color, and have long, slender bodies with two pairs of wings.

Like their cousins, they are a good source of protein. In addition, katydids are high in calcium along with lesser amounts of other vitamins and minerals. 

They can be eaten grilled, roasted, or stir-fried, and make a delicious and nutritious meal.

Also like their beefier grasshopper cousins, you should remove the legs, wings and any spines on their body prior to cooking and eating.

Warnings When Eating Bugs In Survival Situations

  • Avoid eating snails, slugs, and any insects that commonly feed on mushrooms.
  • Refrain from eating any parasitic bugs such as ticks and mosquitoes which are known to be disease carriers.
  • Those with shellfish allergies may want to avoid eating insects due to the possibility of allergic reaction.
  • It’s best to leave any insects with fuzz alone.
  • Pass on eating any slow moving insect you find out in the open as poisonous insects have no need to fear predators.
  • Remove legs, heads, wings, stingers, and any other parts that could cause choking, or carry bacteria.

When it comes to finding the top edible bugs for survival, a little knowledge can ensure that you don’t make matters worse for yourself and your family.

For those who are a bit on the squeamish side when it comes to eating bugs, keep in mind that roasted or fried bugs can often be ground into a powder or paste and used to supplement other food.

You can use a digging stick, or even your hands to collect bugs, and they are found in a wide variety of places which makes it something you can do no matter what type of situation you may find yourself in.

edible bugs for survival

3 thoughts on “Top 17 Edible Insects for Survival”

  1. Cleanse earthworms by dropping them into water. This causes them to immediately expel stomach/intestinal contents. A quick way to prepare them is to strip off the mucus (slime) and then twirl them quickly to expel stomach contents.
    I also eat grasshoppers and katydids (my favorite), they taste like grass. You are what you eat I guess. I am a “worm-eater” from way back. I tell people that eating bugs is an acquired taste and they will acquire it after about three days with nothing to eat.

  2. It would be very time consuming for me to collect enough bugs for sufficient nutritive mass…
    I think I will incorporate some chickens for that task, while I complete other vital projects.
    Then I will eat the chicken….

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