Eating Bugs....

EATING BUGS

Raspberry glazed cicadas, marinated dehydrated stink bugs, sweet pickled dehydrated grasshoppers, marinated dehydrated June bugs and mealworms.

For those brave souls who never back down from a challenge, read on.

Can you be an Entomophagian?  Entomophagy (en-toe-MOFF-ah-jee) is a cool word. It comes from “ento” meaning insect, and “phagy” meaning to eat. Thus, Entomophagy = eating bugs.  Most Americans find the idea of eating bugs revolting. In other countries they are considered delicacies. Human insect-eating is common to cultures in most parts of the world, including North, Central and South America; and Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. However, in some societies insect-eating is uncommon or even taboo. Unfortunately, in America, we’ve been raised to be afraid of bugs. For our purposes in this article, we broaden the ento-part to include other critters under the blanket term, “bugs”, any little insect, arachnid, terrestrial crustacean, earthworm, slug, or other similar invertebrate.  Some of the more popular insects and arachnids eaten around the world include crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs, the larvae of the darkling beetle or rhinoceros beetle, various species of caterpillar, scorpions and tarantulas. Did you know…there are FDA guidelines for amount of bug parts allowed in foods?

Why Eat Bugs?  Top ten answers:

  1. Many insects provide 65 to 80 percent protein 
    compared to 20 percent for beef. This fact makes insects an important, if not overly appetizing, food source.
  2. The most abundant and easily caught life-form on earth are insects.
  3. Over 1,000 species of insects are known to be eaten in 80% of the world's nations.  I ate bugs in Afghanistan, Africa, Korea and Kuwait.
  4. Many insects are tasty: some larvae taste like bacon. Who doesn't like bacon?
  5. There are 1,417 known species of arthropods, including arachnids that are edible to humans.
  6. This is a great way to avoid death from hunger
  7. Entomophagy is a groovy skill to show your family and friends
  8. Eating insects can help the environment by helping cut back on pesticide
  9. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a study in May, 2013, showing how entomophagy might help save Earth’s environment by reducing greenhouse gases
  10. Bug-eating could solve world starvation Studies have shown that almost half the food produced in the world is wasted, so we should be able to feed everyone.

How can I know Bugs are Safe to Eat?  Well, you can play it safe with the store bought stuff.  Chocolate-covered stuff, exotics like emperor scorpions, witchiti grubs, mopane worms or Thai waterbugs. You’ll hear of scorpions and crickets embedded in candy suckers or tiny bags of spiced dried crickets or mealworms. These are fine to eat, but expensive, heavy on packaging, and shipped from around the world. You've got a wealth of edible bugs all around us, free for picking. The biggest obstacle to our exploiting them as a food source is the lack of documentation on those familiar backyard critters.  How do I know what's edible and what’s not?  Don’t just eat a handful of collected bugs because you’ve heard you can eat them. There are lots of reasons to be informed before diving into entomophagy.  Insects to avoid include all adults that sting or bite.  Some insects, like wasps and bees, can cause allergic reactions that kill. Some can cause skin irritations. Some cause delayed severe upset of digestive tracts or convulsions.   Hairy or brightly colored insects, and caterpillars and insects that have a pungent odor should be AVOIDED. Also avoid spiders and common disease carriers such as ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.  Notice this ‘old saying’, “Red, orange, yellow, avoid that fellow. Green black or brown, wolf it down.”  Notice it is not true in every instance.  If we wolfed down green black or brown, we might just go into a coma over a black blister beetle or our throats could swell up to the point of suffocation due to the stinging spines on a green and brown saddleback caterpillar.  The best way to find what bugs are safe to eat and what ones might be unsafe is to study.  Read accounts on-line, in books and talk to people who have experience.  I have yet to find or hear about a dangerous species to eat from the following bug families:

  • grasshoppers
  • katydids
  • crickets
  • roaches
  • termites
  • scarab beetles (like June bugs)
  • shield bugs
  • dragon flies
  • damsel flies
  • May flies
  • Cicadas
  • Crane flies
  • Tomato and tobacco hornworms
  • Carolina and Chinese mantids
  • Stick bugs
  • Squash bugs
  • Box elder bugs
  • Mealworms
  • Some scorpions
  • Wasp and bee larvae and pupae  (notice this is the larvae not the adult)
  • Many ants
  • Hover fly larvae
  • Pill bugs or roly-polys
  • Many slugs, snails, and earthworms

How to Catch Bugs?   Rotting logs lying on the ground are excellent places t

o look for a variety of insects including ants, termites, beetles, and grubs, which are beetle larvae.  Do not overlook insect nests on or in the ground. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because the insects are easily seen. Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground provide the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites.  To get you started, we'll cover some easy-to-acquire bugs like June bugs, stink bugs, tomato worms and grasshoppers.

Stink bugs can be easily collected in the winter when they take shelter in homes or under leaf litter in the woods. During the summer they are feasting on top of plants while they’re in-season. The rather plentiful ones are green and brown shield bugs and squash bugs.  June bugs are easy to collect on warm spring or early summer nights. Simply turn on a light at night and wait. Please get creative and make a reflector funnel trap. Japanese beetles can be collected while they cluster on and munch foliage by holding a funnel trap (made by cutting the top off a 2-liter soda bottle and inverting it into the base) beneath a cluster and tap them into it.  Tomato and tobacco hornworms are easy to collect off tomato and pepper plants.  Grasshoppers and katydids and crickets are the classic edible bug. They’re featured in the Bible as eaten by John the Baptist, and most people think of fried or chocolate-covered grasshoppers when they consider eating bugs. Grasshoppers are most easily collected on cool nights in the late summer or fall. Otherwise you can play spot-and-pounce, which could be a source of significant entertainment and exercise.

How to Cook Bugs?  You can eat most soft shelled insects raw. Insect larvae are also edible. Insects that have a hard outer shell such as beetles and grasshoppers will have parasites. Cook them before eating. Remove any wings and barbed legs also. The taste varies from one species to another. Wood grubs are bland, but some species of ants store honey in their bodies, giving them a sweet taste. 

You can grind a collection of insects into a paste. You can mix them with vegetation and cook them to improve their taste.

First, kill the bugs painlessly by freezing for about 10-15 minutes. (You can store small quantities in the freezer until you get enough to process.)

Second, boil for 15 minutes,

Third, marinate in a favorite sauce overnight.

Fourth, dehydrate them to a crispy crunch.

Try placing a tray full of stink bugs in cranberry marinade into a dehydrator.  Yummy.  

Hornworms are a bit too juicy to cook this way.  So instead, after the pre-boiling, add them to most any soup or stew recipe. Or skip the boiling and throw them into a stir fry until they significantly turn color.  Once you've fixed the bugs for eating, the best part is sharing them! Enjoy!  Try freeze dried mealworms in rice krispy treats. You can really cheat if you use roughly have rice krispies and marshmallows and half mealworms.