Believe it or not, insects are actually the most abundant protein source on the planet, with many of them boasting dense concentrations of nutrients like omega 3s.
Entomophagy – describes the practice of eating insects by humans.
It is estimated that 2 billion people eat insects as part of their traditional diet worldwide, according to a report by the United Nations. According to the same report, over 1,900 different species of insects have been used for food.
This by no means, means that you can just head out and chow down on the first bug that grabs your attention.
During this guide we are going to look at some of those bugs that make for good eating. We will be looking at the following:
- Wax moth larvae
- Bee larvae
Wax Moth Larvae
The wax worm larvae or “waxworm” are a parasite of bee hives due to their love of wax and honey.
You can actually buy these at pet stores as feed for other animals or at fishing tackle suppliers but they come packaged in sawdust and as they have a kind of sticky residue to them, they can take forever to clean up properly. However, the effort is worth it as they are most probably one of the better tasting bugs that you may come across.
They are very high in fat, which makes them an appealing food supplement in resource-limited areas where people are malnourished and underfed.
There are so many options out there when it comes to eating waxworms but why not try a waxworm taco by following the recipe below.
You will need the following ingredients:
- 1 cup frozen waxworms
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tbs olive oil
- pinch salt
- fresh salsa
- corn tortillas
Start by sautéing your onions in olive oil until golden and then turn the heat to medium-high.
Add the frozen waxworms, stirring quickly to keep them moving, while adding a pinch of salt. As they hit the heat, the waxworms will start to straighten out which means they are becoming firm. When you start to see a little bit of transparency around their edges, they are ready.
Remove the waxworms and the onions from the pan and use the remaining oil to heat the corn tortillas. Flip each tortilla when bubbles appear on the tortilla.
Add the sautéed waxworms and onions to the tortilla and top with fresh chopped tomato, salsa and cilantro. Enjoy!
Crickets are extraordinarily protein-rich, you can collect them pretty much anywhere and most types of crickets are edible. They are also full of iron, B12 and more.
The New York Times reports research shows crickets even provide nearly as much calcium as milk.
You can enjoy crickets whole or, pulverized into a powder, you can use it as a baking mix known as cricket flour. If you slow roast them it brings out their nutty, toasted flavor. Why not try some Bitty Cookies?
Cricket cookies? Yep and they come in three varieties: chocolate chip, chocolate cardamom and orange ginger. Based in San Francisco, Bitty’s mission is to “popularize edible insects in the Western diet by incorporating them into delectable, healthy treats.”
You should never eat centipedes raw (I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you that, right?)
You can however, dry them, grill them, deep fry them, or even oven roast them until crispy among other ways to enjoy them. Once the head and pincers have been removed, they’re actually not too bad either. They can be enjoyed as a snack on their own or dipped into a sweet chili sauce.
Most ant species are edible and their flavor is very difficult to describe. Ants secrete an acid when they feel threatened which gives them a vinegar-like flavor. Ant larvae can also be eaten but don’t have the sour flavor and can be found in clumps under rocks, or on top of anthills when they are being moved or kept warm.
To harvest ants, you can put a stick on an anthill, wait for it to get covered with ants, then shake it off into a container. Pretty simple as long as you watch you don’t get bit right? A lid on the container will suffocate them, but this death may allow them to secrete more acid. Roasting them right away will kill them more quickly and prevent this.
Carpenter ants get their name from New England in the 1700s, carpenters would eat those ants because they thought they were warding off scurvy—they thought they were getting citric acid.
Once you have harvested your ants, you can freeze them, spread them on a cookie sheet on very low heat and dry them, at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
David George Gordon of the Eat-a-Bug Cookbook likes to do what his wife named “Ants on a Log.” If you’re feeding little kids, you take celery stalks and fill them with peanut butter and put ants on top. Instead of using peanut butter you can also try it with marzipan for something completely new.
Dragonflies can be boiled or fried as a special treat, these mosquito-eaters are caught by brandishing a slender strip of palm-wood dipped in the sticky white sap of the jackfruit tree. The pole is then extended up and as the dragonflies dart around, the sticky pole is flicked out which usually catches the wing. These apparently have a taste similar to soft-shell crab although I haven’t tried them myself.
Mealworms are very high in protein and fat and are not just good for reptiles and small animals, they are good for people too. These can actually be eaten raw and alive without problem or pan-fried. the tastiest option however is to dry-roast them.
Dry-roasting is also the best method in terms of retaining much of their protein and nutritional value. Dry roasted mealworms can be salted or dipped in chocolate and eaten as a snack, sprinkled on salads, and added to soup. They taste a lot like peanuts and can replace nuts in cookies, cakes, and other desserts. They are also brittle which makes it easy to grind them and mix with flour when you bake muffins, pancakes, or bread. If you want to try dry-roasting your own mealworms, follow the steps below:
- Place live mealworms in a colander and toss and rinse them under cool water. Remove any dead ones or pupae at this point.
- Pat dry with paper towels, place them in a container or plastic bag, and put them in the freezer for about fifteen minutes. This will quickly kill the worms.
- Spread the mealworms out on a cookie sheet.
- Place the worms in an oven at 200 degrees and bake them for one to two hours until they are dry and crispy.
Emperor moth caterpillars (from the Saturniidae family) are actually quite a common edible insect in food throughout the African continent. They have a number of genera and can be found in most African markets. Unsurprisingly, they are also eaten in Mexico.
Some other caterpillars are edible – such as the mopane worm, a species found in South Africa. What might sound like a rare delicacy is actually a popular food in South Africa, where approximately 9.5 billion mopane worms are harvested a year. Shea caterpillars contain high levels of protein and micronutrients like iron and zinc.
All species of earthworms are edible by humans. In the Philippines, the Perionyx excavatus species is bred in vegetable waste and then processed with herbs and seasoning to make steaklets for humans to eat. If you were to chew them properly, the earthworm, pound for pound, is packed with protein, at 82% of the body weight of the worm.
You’ll also be eating the decaying organic matter inside them. They eat soil, which is ground in a gizzard, and then the waste is ejected as a casting out their rear end. These castings are used to line the burrow or are deposited at the entrance. Remember though, that anything in the soil, including pesticides and parasites, could be inside the worm.
Why not try out the following recipe for earthworm chow:
- 1 cup earthworms
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 bouillon cube
- 1 cup yogurt or sour cream
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 cup mushrooms
- Whole wheat flour
Wash earthworms thoroughly and place in boiling water for three minutes. Pour off water and repeat the boiling process twice. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Roll the worms in flour, brown in butter, add salt to taste. Add bouillon and simmer for 30 minutes. Saute onions and mushrooms in butter. Add onions and mushrooms to the worms. Stir in sour cream or yogurt. Serve over rice or noodles.
Now, don’t go chowing down on any cockroaches you find milling around your property. These can actually be very clean and tasty insects, especially if they are fed on fresh fruits and vegetables. They can be eaten toasted, fried, sauteed, or boiled. Apparently Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches have a taste and texture like greasy chicken though this is another bug I haven’t yet tried myself.
The real challenge if your on a mission to try some bee larvae is to separate the larvae from the honeycomb. It isn’t as easy as you may think and takes a lot of picking and sieving. Freezing and hand-shucking will get you there but if you have liquid nitrogen you can get it done even faster.
How about this Honeybee Granola recipe that I found over at bugsfeed.com
- Heat oven to 160°.
- Thaw out your frozen honeybee larvae, and then blend them thoroughly using a blender. The liquid comes out pale yellow and just a little thicker than milk.
- Add honey to this larvae liquid to sweeten it. Then stir it into a seed and nut mix. You can add some extra sweetness at this point if you like with birch syrup or whatever you prefer.
- Now this mix of nuts, seeds, blended larvae and honey is salted and baked in the oven: 160° for 15-20 minutes. It should brown as it cooks; stir a few times to keep it even. The fat and protein in the larvae make it caramelise more quickly.
- Once cool your granola should be ready to go.
Grasshoppers are extraordinarily protein-rich, and most types are edible. They are easiest to catch in the early mornings when they move more slowly. You should look in areas where it is damp and dark first like under rocks, logs, and other large objects. Also check in tall grasses, shrubs and trees. Try shaking branches above a shirt, sleeping bag or other piece of fabric, and see if any edibles fall onto it.
To prepare crickets and grasshoppers, pull off their heads and the entrails should come with; discard both as these will not make for good eating. The entrails are edible, but removing them reduces the risk of parasite transmission. For this reason, always cook the bugs before eating them. Remove the wings and legs. Dry roast them if you have a pan, or skewer them and roast over flame if you don’t. You can char them if you prefer.
Scorpions are a common street food in China and apparently taste a little like crab. You should always remember to cut the stinger off first before showing down. Usually the venom is produced and stored in the top two or so segments of the tail. And make sure you cook them! Cooking generally negates the venom’s poisonous properties, but you can still have an allergic reaction to it.
To eat them, you can just roast them over a fire or coals until they’re well browned.
Termites are a great source of protein, and due to how they live (buried in wood) they are less likely to carry parasites than other insects. Mature adults have wings and can fly but none of the other stages (larvae, workers, soldiers, nymphs, queens, etc) fly. This makes them much easier to catch in a survival situation.
You want to roast these until they are nice and crispy. Getting them is fairly easy, just crack open a cold log, and collect your dinner. Enjoy!
In many African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, locusts are considered a delicacy and eaten in abundance. They are an excellent source of protein and contain a variety of fatty acids and minerals. They are an important food source in many countries.
Like many insects, locusts are an excellent source of protein. Species of locusts vary in protein content from about 50 percent of dry weight to almost 60 percent, making them denser in protein than cows. However, the protein of some species of locust is not considered complete because it is missing the essential amino acid methionine, which cannot be made by human beings. Overall, the protein nutritional value of locust is considered inferior to casein, which is the primary protein of dairy products.
The percentage of fat in desert locusts is lower than their percentage of protein, but still a reasonable source, at almost 12 percent. The percentages of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids are 44 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Palmiteic, oleic and linolenic acids are the most abundant fatty acids.
Locusts also contain adequate amounts of iodine, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, as well as traces of calcium, magnesium and selenium. Some people describe cooked locust as similar to smoky flavored bacon and reasonably tasty.
Worldwide, beetles are the most commonly consumed of all insect species, which makes sense because 40 percent of all insects out there are beetles. Typically, only beetle larvae—and not fully developed—beetles are eaten by people. In Cameroon, women who harvest the palm weevil put their ears to the trunk of a palm tree in an attempt to listen for larvae. The women are listening for beetles in instar, the most delectable developmental phase for dining.
In addition to the palm weevil, several other species of beetle are eaten worldwide, including aquatic beetles, wood-boring larvae, and dung beetles. In the Netherlands, species of mealworm—specifically, the lesser mealworm, yellow mealworm, and superworm—are used to feed reptiles and fish. People in the Netherlands are also encouraged to eat such insects because of their nutritional value.
Although wasps are edible, they are much harder to catch and you risk getting stung, A LOT!
If you want to go ahead and give it a go, cut off the stingers and legs and cook them well.
Before you cook with your cicadas, you’ll need to boil them the same as you would a lobster. It will take around five minutes to leech out the ickiness from the soil they’ve been living in. Following that, dump them into an ice water bath and pick out the legs and wings. (Note: You don’t actually need to do this as they are completely edible but it is personal choice.)
Then check out a couple of recipes I found online.
I have to admit, I never really knew that you could eat woodlice (pillbugs) until I was researching for this article. However, as we get lots of these during the summer, it may be something I at least give a go. Technically these are not actually a bug, they’re a terrestrial crustacean and have a flavor that’s similar to shrimp (apparently!).
I do know that these are incredibly easy to collect, just turn over a rock or sift through some dead leaves and you’re pretty much bound to find some lurking around.
Once you have collected a good amount, add them to boiling water and leave for a while. They can carry nematodes (better known as parasitic roundworms—things you don’t want freeloading in your intestines), so be sure they’re thoroughly cooked. When they’re done, strain the water out and eat.
I actually tried tarantula for the first time maybe around 3 years ago after I was sent some for review for another website that I used to own and actually quite liked it once I finally decided to put it in my mouth. You want to remove as much of the hair as you can, and you definately don’t want to eat the fangs. If you cook them, curled legs are an indicator of how done they are and how well cooked the insides are.
There are over 344 grub species consumed around the globe, including the famous witchetty grub in Australia, palm weevil grubs in some Asian countries, giant water bugs in North America, and mopane worms in Africa. Some of them are small and crunchy, like mealworms, and some are fat and juicy, like rhinoceros beetle larva.
To find them all you really need to do is head out and find a rotting log. Strip the bark from the log and harvest. Smashing the log may produce more grubs that were hidden inside. To eat them you can skewer them lengthwise with a long stick and then cook them over an open flame until the skin is nice and crispy.