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Eating Insects in a Survival Situation

Edible insects at a market in Southeast Asia.

In Southeast Asia, eating insects is normal. This is at a typical market.

Eating insects isn’t all that popular in the United States, but I’ve eaten a lot of bugs in my travels. It’s interesting that in the US we only think of eating insects in survival situations, but arthropods are served as main dishes or side dishes in many countries.

When I taught high school biology back in Wisconsin, I had one of my classes make mealworm cookies. (I think the Home Economics teacher is still pissed at me for using her ovens.) I got the idea from the Food Insects Newsletter. I can’t say the lesson was a big hit, but some kids really liked them. It opened the kids’ horizons just a little bit. I still get comments about that 15 years later.

I’m fortunate that as a kid out on survival stays I used to eat slugs and worms because I didn’t know what else to eat. I say “fortunate” because after eating chewy, gritty, hair covered earthworms, eating insects seems like a treat. They are delicious! They taste great. And sometimes when you bite into one, you get an explosion of flavor. It’s incredible.

Disadvantages to Eating Insects in a Survival Situation

One drawback to eating insects is that they almost always have to be cooked. I’ve seen people eat grubs raw, and that might be okay. But insects carry diseases and to be on the safe side, it’s better to cook them.

eating insects like this grasshopper while out on a survival stay can really make you feel great. It is amazing how a chewing little food can change your perspective.

This grasshopper, roasted on a grass stem over a tiny fire was incredibly good.

Another thing about eating bugs is that you can’t always find lots of them at once. And the few you find at a time don’t really make a meal. Although I’ve been in situations where a single roasted grasshopper felt like a full meal.

Anyway, regardless of what I’ve read on other people’s websites about how you can “find hordes of grasshoppers or piles of grubs”, I usually find them one-by-one. So, they usually get added to a soup or stew. Sometimes I’ll roast them and eat them alone or power them into a tea for a little extra nutrition.

Regardless of the need to cook insects and the fact that it’s not always possible to find lots of them at once, bugs are GREAT when you’re out on a survival stay.

Great Things about Using Insects for Food

First of all, you don’t need a license to kill and eat them. This seems silly but on a lot of the survival stays I do, I can’t take mammals, fish or birds. I’d love to eat rabbit, raccoon, deer, bass or grouse. But if they aren’t in season or I don’t have a license, I can’t harvest them. That’s not the case with bugs. You can legally harvest and eat as many as you please. That’s a enough of a reason to learn how to gather and prepare insects.

Another advantage to eating insects is that you don’t need special equipment to gather them. No traps. No snares. No knife to build a deadfall. No tools to make a bow and arrows. No fish hooks. No nets. None of that. As long as you can walk, you can harvest insects. Sometimes this fact alone makes it incredibly practical to eat insects on your survival stays!

These grubs are a great to roast over the fire or add to stews in a survival situation.

I like the taste of grubs found in trees better than grubs gathered in the soil. All are delicious though.

Also, insects are incredibly nutritious. They typically have a high fat and protein content. Fat can be especially hard to get in a survival situation. Insects supply a lot of fats, especially grubs and other larvae. In fact, black soldier fly larvae are 35% fat (and 42% protein)! That’s a lifesaver if you’re in a dire situation.

Here are the articles I have done on eating insects. Not all of these are in a survival situation, since it’s kinda fun to make them at home too.

Eating black soldier flies


Here are some more articles I want to write for you. I just need to wait for the right season to get pictures and video before writing them up for you:

Cooking grasshoppers in a survival situation
Gathering and eating insects around lakes, streams and rivers
Gathering and preparing grubs in a survival situation
Catching and eating cockroaches
Back to the main food page with everything you need to eat well in a survival situation

Here are my Wilderness Survival articles.

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