BUY NOW ON AMAZON - In Stock & Free Shipping on Orders of $25 or More

Crispy Critters: Best Edible Bugs

12 Common Bugs You Can Eat (And Enjoy) To Survive In The Woods

Would you eat a bug if your life depended on it?

While many people in western civilizations squirm at the thought of eating insects, the practice is common in many eastern cultures. Bugs are nutritious, abundant, and less impactful on the planet to grow when compared to mammals like cows and pigs.

In a survival situation, insects are an ideal source of sustenance. No matter where you are, you can likely find edible insects around. Though you may not like the idea, desperate times call for desparate dietary items, and insects have the calories, protein, and fat to keep you going in even the direst of emergencies.

In this article, we discuss what insects you can eat, how to catch them, and how to cook and eat them.

General Safety Tips For Consuming Edible Bugs

Cooking Edible Bugs

While you may have seen a video of Bear Grylls biting the head off a bug and eating it raw, you should always cook your food if you can.

Edible bugs can contain harmful parasites like nematodes or tapeworm. Whether a juicy cricket or a fat squirrel, cooking your food kills parasites and sanitizes the outer layers at the same time.

You can cook most insects either by sautéing them on a hot surface or boiling them in water.

Watch out for bright colors

Bright colors on insects, and most other animals for that matter, indicate danger, usually in the form of poison. Caterpillars are a prime example of poisonous, brightly-colored insects.

When in doubt, cook it

Cooking will not only likely make your bugs more palatable, but it also makes them safer. Cooking kills any parasites the insects may carry and any bacteria on the surface of their bodies.

Test it out

If you don’t readily recognize a particular insect or you just aren’t sure if they’re poisonous, test it slowly. Eat a small piece, then wait 24 hours to see how you feel. This method is similar to the Universal Edibility Test that people usually apply to test plant toxicity.

Avoid slugs and snails

Slugs and snails can feed on poisonous mushrooms and can make you sick as a result.

 


#1

Grasshoppers and Crickets

Grasshoppers and crickets are great survival foods. They are packed with protein, fat, and other nutrients crucial to keep your body running. You could even survive off of eating grasshoppers or crickets alone if you had to.

How to Catch Grasshoppers and Crickets:

When: The best time to catch crickets and grasshoppers is during the early morning when they are moving slower, and therefore are easier to catch.

Where: Damp, dark places, (like under logs and rocks) in tall grasses, shrubs, and trees.

How: Pick the crickets and grasshoppers up by hand. Alternatively, lay a shirt out and shake a branch over it to see if any fall off. Keep them in an empty water bottle.

If you have a wool blanket or flannel shirt, you can chase grasshoppers or crickets onto the fabric, where their feet get caught in the material.

There’s another way you can catch these bugs if you have a bottle. If the water bottle is plastic, cut the top off; if you have a Nalgene, simply take the lid off. Then, bury the bottle in the ground up to the opening and drop overripe fruit inside. Drop in leaves for crickets to hide under. Leave the trap overnight and check it for edible bugs in the morning. No bottle, no problem, just dig a hole.

How to Cook and Eat Grasshoppers and Crickets:

To eat grasshoppers and crickets, pull off the heads. Likely, the entrails will come out too. Remove the wings and the legs, dry roast them in a pan or skewer, and roast them over a fire. For a fancier dish, roast them with chile powder and lime for “grasshopper bacon bits.”

Bonus: Bakers Crickets and grasshoppers are commonly made into a flour substitute with similar baking properties to regular flour. Simply roast the bugs, then use something like a mortar to crush them into powder.

Can grasshoppers and crickets be poisonous?

Most crickets and grasshoppers are safe to eat but avoid any brightly-colored ones just to be safe.

 


#2

Ants

Ants are probably the most common edible insect you can find in most landscapes; there are over 12,000 different ant species and they live on every continent except for Antarctica. Even though they’re small, a single colony of ants contains hundreds to thousands of ants: plenty for an emergency meal.

How to Catch Ants

When: Any time

Where: Anywhere

How: Scan the ground and look for ants marching in straight lines. They’ll lead you home to the anthill. Hit the anthill or log with a stick, then put the stick in the opening. After the ants rush to bite the stick, put the stick in a container of water. Repeat until you have enough ants for a meal.

How to Cook and Eat Ants

Boil your ant haul for 6 minutes to neutralize the acid in their bodies. If you have to eat them raw, make sure they’re dead first, so they don’t bite you as you bite them.

For best flavor, saute ants in butter and add a little garlic. Yum!

 


#3

Termites

Like most edible insects, termites are excellent sources of protein. Since they live hidden away in the wood, they’re less likely than other bugs to carry parasites. While mature adult termites can fly, larvae, workers, soldiers, nymphs, and queens are easy to grab.

How to Catch Termites

When: Any time

Where: Inside wood (their main food source)

How: Crack open a decaying log and grab the termites by hand. Alternatively, shake them out into a shirt or container. Do it fast, though: they’ll crawl deeper into the wood as soon as they see the light.

How to Cook and Eat Termites

Roast termites in a pan or on a hot surface until crispy. If you’ve got it, add a pinch each of salt and chile powder for a delectable treat.

 


#4

Grubs

Grubs are typically the larval stage of a beetle. Some are small and crunchy, while others are fat and juicy. Bees have a grub stage too, but to collect them, you have to smoke out an active hive to calm the adults first.

How to Catch Grubs

When: Any time

Where: In dark, covered places such as in rotting logs, the bark of trees, or under rocks and leaves.

How: First, find a rotting log. Then, strip off the bark or smash the log open. Lastly, grab and collect the grubs with your fingers.

How to Cook and Eat Grubs

Skewer grubs lengthwise on a long stick and cook over a fire. For a fancier grub meal, marinate them with Cholula and roast them on a spit until the outside is crispy.

 


#5

Roly-Polies (Woodlice)

Have you ever seen woodlice? Perhaps you know them by one of their many other names: sowbugs, roly-polies, and pillbugs are just a few. Woodlice aren’t technically a bug but rather a terrestrial crustacean. They taste similar to shrimp, which is how they earned yet another name: the land shrimp.

How to Catch Roly-Polies

When: Any time

Where: Check places that are dark and damp. Try turning over rocks or logs, or sifting through dead leaves. Woodlice are commonly found throughout North America.

How: Check the likely places and collect the pillbugs by hand.

How to Cook and Eat Roly-Polies

Cook the woodlice in boiling water. Woodlice can carry parasitic nematodes, also known as roundworms, so boiling for several minutes is essential to kill any present. You should cook them long enough that their bellies turn white. Strain the water and eat.

 


#6

Stinkbugs

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea not to eat any insect that is brightly colored, hairy, slimy, or smells bad. Stinkbugs, however, are the exception to the latter.

While it might sound counterintuitive, stinkbugs are a delicacy in Mexico. There’s even an annual festival in Taxco dedicated to this unique insect.

You can identify stinkbugs by their shell: it’s shaped like a medieval shield, straight across at the top and pointed at the bottom.

How to Catch Stinkbugs

When: Any time

Where: Stinkbugs spend winter under rocks, logs, etc. and other times of the year in open ground.

How: Check the locations listed above and pick them up by hand.

How to Cook and Eat Stinkbugs

You can eat them raw, but as you might imagine, they stink. Soak your stinkbugs in warm water for 5-10 minutes to remove the smell, then roast them in a pan or on a hot surface for a while. Many say stinkbugs taste like iodine. A fancier version of stinkbugs involves marinating them in a cajun sauce for simmering.

 


#7

Scorpions

Scorpions are typical street food in China and states such as California, Arizona, and New Mexico. If they’re good enough to sell as food, they’re good enough to eat in a survival situation.

How to Catch Scorpions

When: Any time

Where: Scorpions live in dens, which are burrows found low to the ground under rocks and logs.

How: To catch a scorpion, you need a jar with a lid, a stick or a knife, and preferably something to dig with. First, find a den*, then dig a hole in front of it to place the jar in. When the scorpion emerges at night, it will fall into the jar. Kill the scorpion with a stick or knife.

*Note: the only real way to reliably find a scorpion den is to witness the insect entering or leaving. Search near piles of brush, under rocks, and in any secluded piles of organic material.

How to Cook and Eat Scorpions

Venom is produced in the top 2 segments of the tail. Though cooking negates the venom, remove them anyway just to be safe. Skewer the scorpion on a stick and roast it over a fire until well-browned. Some say they taste like crab.

 


#8

Earwigs

Earwigs are edible, safe to eat, and have no stinger. These creatures do have a pincer that they might use to attack when agitated, but they usually don’t even break the skin. Earwigs look like a creepy cross between an ant and a scorpion, and they’re about the size of a flattened penny.

How to Catch Earwigs

When: Any time

Where: Earwigs are easy to find. Look under logs and other things on the floor that have been stationary for a while. Look especially in dark, wet places.

How: Displace the rock or log and pick up the bugs by hand. Toss bugs into a container until you’re ready to cook them.

How to Cook and Eat Earwigs

Dry roast the earwigs in a pan or on a hot, flat rock until they get crispy.

 


#9

Aphids

Aphids are tiny, usually green or black bugs. How tiny? You could probably fit 50 of them on a penny. Aphids are a favorite food of ladybugs, but you can eat them too!

How to Catch Aphids

When: Any time

Where: Aphids love sweet sap and live on plants. Different species of aphids live on different plants and taste slightly different based on what plants they eat; some taste slightly bitter while others are sweet.

How: Brush the aphids off the plants into a container of water; otherwise, they’ll escape.

How to Cook and Eat Aphids

Boil the aphids in the water you collected them in and drink them down in soupy aphid goodness.

 


#10

Maggots

You might be thinking, what’s the difference between a grub and a maggot? Grubs are fat, juicy, and usually white. They are the larval stage of many insects, but most often beetles.

Maggots, however, are the larval stage of flies. They are thin and yellow-brown. Like grubs, maggots are edible as well as high in protein and other nutrients.

How to Catch Maggots

When: Any time

Where: When and where to catch maggots depends on the kind. Some live in rotting meat and flesh. You can’t eat rotting meat for obvious reasons, but you can eat the grubs contained within. Other kinds of maggots live in rotting fruits and veggies, while others still live in water.

How: If you find yourself in a survival situation for several days, set out spoiled food until flies lay their eggs and larvae collect inside. Alternatively, you could look for rotting food nearby and collect any maggots you find.

How to Cook and Eat Maggots

Boil or saute the maggots to kill any potential germs. For an added flavor, sprinkle with salt before cooking.

 


#11

Dragonflies

Dragonflies have two life cycles: nymph and adult. You’re probably familiar with the adult dragonfly; they are beautifully colored winged insects that live around bodies of water.

Dragonfly nymphs are more petite, green, and live in water. Nymphs are easier to catch than adult dragonflies due to the latter’s ability to fly, but both life stages are edible.

How to Catch Dragonflies

When: Any time

Where: You can find Dragonflies and dragonfly nymphs in and near bodies of water.

How: If you have a net, it’s pretty easy to catch the nymphs. If not, it is possible to catch them by hand. To find nymphs, look under the leaves of aquatic plants. Adults are challenging to catch without a net.

How to Cook and Eat Dragonflies

Remove any wings or legs from the dragonflies and saute them on a hot surface for a few seconds.

 


#12

Earthworms (Honorable Mention)

Earthworms aren’t bugs, but they're so good we had to include them. In a survival situation, earthworms can provide the calories you need to survive.

How to Catch Earthworms

When: After a rain, they’ll be everywhere.

Where: If it hasn’t rained recently, check for earthworms in damp soil, decomposing wood or leaves, and under rocks.

How: Find a damp location likely to house earthworms, search, and collect.

Tip: stimulate rainfall using two sticks using a method called “worm grunting.” Jam one stick into the ground and use another stick to rub up and down along the erect stick’s length. The vibrations mirror the sound of rain hitting the ground, which invites the earthworms to the surface.

How to Cook and Eat Earthworms

You can eat raw earthworms in an emergency, but cooking is safer since they can potentially carry parasites. Squeeze the poop out of their intestinal tract before you boil them for several minutes.

 


In Summary

Know Your Bugs and Survive

None of us want to imagine the horror scenario where we are stuck in the wilderness without food for several days. The harsh reality, though, is that you never know what may happen in the backcountry, and if you do end up stuck somewhere with no food, you need to know how to find it.

Insects are high in protein and other essential nutrients to keep us going. Knowing where and how to find edible bugs could very well save your life.

Edible Bugs Cheat Sheet

CRITTER WHERE TO FIND PEAK SEASON HOW TO EAT

Grasshoppers & Crickets

Grass

Summer

Pull off head and legs, then cook

Ants

Any time

Anywhere

Dry roast

Termites

Wood

Spring

Saute or boil

Grubs

Rotting logs, under rocks

Late summer, early fall

Pull off head and legs, then cook

Roly-Polies

Rotting logs, under rocks

Spring, fall, winter

Saute or boil

Stinkbugs

Around crops

Spring, summer, fall

Soak to remove stink, then saute or boil

Scorpions

In dens

Summer

Cut off stinger, then roast

Earwigs

Rotting logs, under rocks

Fall

Saute or boil

Aphids

On plants

Spring

Saute or boil

Maggots

Rotting logs, under rocks

Spring

Saute or boil

Dragonflies

Near water

Spring, summer

Pull of wings and legs, then saute or boil

Earthworms

In dirt, rotting logs, under rocks

Spring, summer after rain

Saute or boil

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published