7 Edible Bugs That Taste Great

Insects, arachnids and other creepy-crawlies are some of the most underappreciated sources of food in the United States. It’s a shame, because so many bugs are packed full of nutrients, and they taste great too. Many can be harvested straight from a garden or nearby park, meaning consumers totally bypass the food industry’s preservatives, processing and general lack of freshness.

The potential value of bugs as a source of food was even recognized in a 2013 report from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. According to the report, insects are among the world’s most environmentally-friendly sources of food. After all, consuming snails from your garden can save your plants, and eating locusts during a plague means they can’t possibly harm the natural environment.

Of course, before eating anything unusual, make sure you do extensive research. Some bugs need to be properly cleaned before eating, and others aren’t edible at all. Anything sporting bright colors might be poisonous, so never eat anything unless you’re 100 percent sure you know what you’re doing.

There are nearly 2,000 known edible bugs worldwide. Here’s just a taster of some of the best ones you should try.

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers, crickets and locusts are collectively some of the most eaten insects in the world. In Japan, locusts are cooked in a thick soy sauce, making for a salty, crunchy snack. Elsewhere in Asia, they’re fried and sometimes put in stir fry. In Mexico, a local type of grasshopper, chapulines, can be toasted. They’re particularly good when served enchilado, or encrusted, in chili.

During a locust plague that hit Israel in 2013, locals got creative. Israelis fought back against the hordes of crop-destroying insects by boiling, breading and even coating locusts in chocolate and caramel. Still not convinced? Check out this tasty meal in Zambia:

Locusts need to be thoroughly cleaned before eating, which is often achieved by boiling and draining the bugs.

Ants

Ants may not initially seem like much of a meal, but you’d be surprised. They’re among the richest sources of protein in the world, but have very few carbohydrates. For example, just 100 grams of red ants has more protein than a single egg. Ants are also relatively easy to procure, and can be found in stunning diversity the world over.

In South America, the meaty leaf cutter ant has a flavor reminiscent of bacon. Australia’s honeypot ants have huge abdomens full of a sweet, nectar-like fluid. They can be eaten raw, and taste great. In India, ants can even be made into a unique kind of chutney. It can’t be that bad; after all, ants got a thumbs up from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

Beetles

Another extremely common bug, beetles can also offer a world of flavor. June bugs of North America were supposedly cooked over coals by some indigenous peoples, and eaten like popcorn. They’re easy to catch when they come out during the evening, since they don’t move very fast.

Even beetle larvae make great meals. For example, larvae of the African palm weevil can be comprised of almost 70 percent fat, making these little guys a surprisingly filling snack. They can be eaten raw, or fried in their own fat. Check out this video instructional on how to properly cook them.

Scorpion

Easily the least consumed creepy-crawly listed so far, scorpions can be a great source of sustenance, especially in arid regions. Some species can be eaten raw, roasted over a fire or grilled. In some parts of China, they’re deep fried for a particularly crunchy treat. The taste isn’t much to write home about, but it’s an exciting experience nonetheless.

Catching scorpions can be a little tedious. Keep an eye out for their burrows, which normally look like small holes near trees or rocks. One time-tested method of catching these bugs is to dig a ditch at the entrance of the scorpion burrow. Place a glass jar in the ditch, positioned so the scorpion will walk straight into it when it exits the burrow to hunt. If done right, the scorpion shouldn’t be able to escape the jar. Don’t forget to remove the stinger before eating!

Bees

Bees are also edible and taste a little better than scorpions. In some parts of southwest China, bees are pan fried and can be served as part of a feast with other dishes. Wasps are also edible, though they seem to end up on plates far less often than bees.

Both bee and wasp larvae can also be eaten, though finding hives can be a challenge. According to some stories, an old Japanese technique involved tying a long silk leash to a captured bee, then following the insect back to its hive when released. Good luck trying to tie a silk string to a bee.

Snails

Good quality escargot can fetch top dollar in fine French restaurants, but you probably have a close competitor available near your own home for free. The common garden snail is smaller, and much less meaty than actual escargot, but the taste isn’t too different. They’re best gathered at night or after rain, and French tradition dictates they’re tastiest during autumn.

After collection, live snails must be cleansed for around 10 days. Traditionally, this is done with grape leaves, though other alternatives include lettuce, bran or cornmeal. Try experimenting with herbs to see how it changes the snail’s flavor. They also need water, though the ancient Romans hydrated their snails with wine. Three days before eating, they must be de-slimed in water, then deprived of food, before finally being boiled alive shortly before consumption. It’s a lot of effort, but the ordinary garden snail can make a great meal. In Morocco, they’re boiled by the dozen, and sold on street corners for pennies.

Check out more tips on preparing snails in the video below.

Witchetty grubs

A personal favorite, the witchetty grub provides arguably the most satisfying meal of any bug on this list. Found only in Australia, these huge white grubs can be found clustered around the roots of the witchetty bush. These bushes mostly grow in the arid center of the continent, making the grubs a great source of food in an otherwise unforgiving corner of the world.

To find the grubs, simply dig around the roots of the bush, and keep an eye out for the writhing creatures attached to the subterranean part of the plant. Witchetty grubs are traditionally eaten by Indigenous Australians in raw form, and today this is still the best way to enjoy them. They have a mild flavor, and should be consumed live, with the entire body eaten in one bite up to the inedible head. They aren’t too bad cooked, as the skin becomes quite crispy.

Here’s a video showing how to collect and eat these delicious treats.

Have you tried any of these bugs? Are there any we left out? Tell us in the comments below!

-Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

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