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Eating Bugs for Survival

Although the thought may disgust you, eating bugs may mean the difference between life and death in an extended survival situation.

Sure, you can go for weeks without food, but you will be weak and have difficulties thinking and staying alert. It would be much better to set aside your disgust and take advantage of protein, fat, and vitamins that bugs can provide.

Edible Bugs

Not all bugs are safe to eat so be careful in your selection. The following is a list of six edible bugs along with some tips on how to find them. As you’ll see, you’ll have the most luck surviving in forests which provide the necessary cover, food, and moisture that many bugs seek out.

  1. Insect larvae, also known as grubs, are not only easy to find, but they’re easy to collect. They favor cool, damp places so some good spots to look include in rotten logs, under the bark of dead trees, under rocks, and in the ground. Grubs are safe to eat raw, but of course you might find them more palatable cooked.
  2. Grasshoppers are also quite readily found, but they’ll be a little more difficult to catch. Start by looking in open fields for the familiar chirping sound. Or just walk through a field and observe the kinds of insects that jump away from your feet. You can increase your chances of by collecting them in the cool morning. Before eating a grasshopper, remove its legs because they are barbed and have the potential to get stuck in your throat. Grasshoppers should be cooked because they carry parasites.
  3. Ants can be found in just about all locations throughout the world. Their nests are generally in the ground and that is where you want to attempt to collect them. To start, disturb the nest with a stick. Instinctively, the ants will climb on to the stick to defend their home. As they do, dip the stick into a container of water so that the ants fall off the stick. Continue this process until you have collected an adequate supply of ants. Ants can be safely eaten raw or cooked. One caveat, if you are going to eat the ants raw, be sure they are dead first otherwise they may bite you.
  4. If there is a damp meadow or forest close to your location, you may have some luck finding slugs. Some slugs are particularly big and so collecting sufficient numbers is much easier than with other bugs. Like grubs, slugs can be eaten raw or cooked with the cooked option making them far more appealing.
  5. You probably won’t be able to distinguish maggots, which are the larvae of flies, from grubs, but they too are safe to eat raw or cooked. They favor damp places where decaying matter is abundant.
  6. Earthworms thrive in moist, warm soil, but you’ll need to do a little digging to find them unless they’ve been forced out of the ground by rain. They can be eaten raw or cooked.

Bugs to Avoid

Unfortunately, many of the bugs you come across shouldn’t be eaten even in a survival situation. Here are some guidelines for what to avoid.

  1. Bugs that are generally associated with carrying diseases should not be eaten. This includes flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.
  2. Some bugs use poison for capturing prey and for defense making them inedible so avoid centipedes, scorpions, and spiders.
  3. As a general rule, bugs with fine hairs, bright colors, or eight or more legs are off limits.

You can actually sustain yourself quite well with bugs so give them serious consideration when you’re otherwise without food and trying to survive in the wilderness. They have the additional benefits over animals and fish of being plentiful, not requiring traps, and needing little preparation before they can be consumed.

Wilderness Survival by Gregory J. Davenport