Entomophagy: 21 Edible Insects That You Can Eat (Updated List)

Entomophagy Edible Insects

Meat is meat and man must eat.

This is a phrase that will get stuck in your head while reading this article. Brace yourself.

We live in a civilized world where we can go to the store and buy almost anything fresh. Some countries do not have this luxury. They need to harvest insects to satisfy their daily protein requirements.

Some businesses have also started to breed with insects on a larger scale to produce food and tackle malnutrition.

In some countries such as Asia and Vietnam entomophagy (eating insects) are considered a delicacy.

If you are into prepping, bugging out and survival, then you might want to update your knowledge base on edible insects.

Who knows, maybe one day when you are outside of civilization, you might rely on insects for survival.

Want to know more about which insects to eat?

No problem, because in this article, I am going to cover over 20 edible insects. I am also going to reveal to you the warning signs to look for to identify potentially poisonous insects.

Let’s go.

The Type Of Bugs That You Should Avoid

There are some standard rules that you should follow to avoid poisoning or infecting yourself. Most bugs are edible, but some of them must be avoided.

Stay Away From Hairy Bugs

Most insects with hair on them should be avoided. In some of them, the hair acts as a defense system which will sting you with poison. Some caterpillars will have hair on them such as the following:

  • Eyed-tiger moth caterpillar (woolly bear)
  • Toxic gypsy moths
  • Puss Moth Caterpillar
hairy dangerous worms

I would also avoid most tarantulas that have hair on them. Some of these hairy bugs will give you a nasty rash while others might kill you. Some of them will be brightly colored and look will attractive.

The Puss Moth Caterpillar looks like a wig when it has its hair on and also like a Pokemon without the hair. Here is a list of some of the hairy bugs that are also deadly.

Avoid Brightly Colored Bugs

Most bugs will use bright colors to deter a predator from attacking. It is a sign that says: “Stay Away.” They are easier to spot that most of their duller counterparts and they had to evolve by creating a poison to survive.

poisonous brightly colored bugs

Two examples are the Large Milkweed bug and the Asian lady beetle.

The Milkweed bugs are poisonous because they suck the sap of milkweed which is toxic. The Asian lady beetle or bug may look harmless, but it secretes isopropyl methoxy pyrazine (IPMP) from its joins which is poisonous.

Avoid Bugs With More Than 6 Legs

These bugs will include most of the spiders, centipedes, and millipedes. Overall, I would avoid eating spiders because a vast majority of them are poisonous.

More Than 6 Legs

Centipedes are also, but their bite is not always fatal. The bite will be very painful especially the larger ones.

Millipedes are also not safe to eat. Some of them produce an oily substance that can be irritating to your skin or intestines once consumed.

Never Eat What You Cannot Identify

If you are somewhere in the wilderness and you are out of food, then you should never eat insects that you cannot identify. The majority of insects are safe to eat, but you do not want to gamble with your life.

Bugs That You Can Eat

Below, I will provide information on 21 insects that you can eat. Some of them need to be cleaned appropriately or cooked to get rid of the bacteria and parasites. Some of them are safe enough to consume raw.

Mopane Worms

mopane worms

Mopane worms are mainly eaten in southern Africa. In some area, they are referred to as a delicacy. They are high in protein and also iron. 

These worms are also farmed with the help of mopane trees which houses these worms. They are best eaten when dried when baked in ovens and does not have a prominent taste to it.The dried worms can also be mixed into minced meat to make meatballs and patties. Some people even say it tastes like beef jerky.

In South Africa, you can buy them in large packed bags where they are dried and can be eaten as a snack. The best time to eat them is in their sizable larval state where they are big and juicy.

  • Habitat: Lives in mopane trees in southern Africa.
  • Eating Method: Can be eaten raw and also dried. Can also be cooked and fried.

Commercially Grown Snails

Garden Snails

Snails can be eaten and are not poisonous by themselves. The only problem is that they can eat toxic plants and vegetation which can become poisonous for you.

The snails should also be adequately cooked because they can be infected with Rat Lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis).

This parasite can cause an infection called Angiostrongyliasis which causes meningitis which causes inflammation in the membranes of your brain.

The snails also need to be cleaned appropriately of their insides before consumed. What some snail farmers like to do is to place them in a large container and feed them Oatmeal for a couple of weeks to make them fat and clear them of toxins.

 It is not advised to eat snails in the wilderness raw as they might poison you and give you an infection. There is a reason why I only recommend commercially grown snails.

  • Habitat: Can be found in a garden or vegetation.
  • Eating method: Needs to be properly cleaned and cooked to kill dangerous parasites.

Termites

termites

Termites are also very nutritious and are high and protein and fats. You can eat both genders and also consume all of their larval states. 

They are not dangerous or poisonous and can be eaten raw. They have a nutty flavor and does not have a funny taste. The larger ones with the wings taste like sourdough.

I had the opportunity to eat them once and was not grossed out. Some termites love to live inside the bark of trees where they will eat through the wood to create tunnels.

They can also weaken and damage an entire wooden structure. There are three main categories of termites which include subterranean, damp wood or dry wood.They can also be found underground where they will build a nest which will protrude out of the soil. This nest can be called a Termite mound.

  • Habitat: Termite mounds, old wooden structures and inside dead tree trunks.
  • Eating method: Can be eaten raw, dried and also cooked in a pan or pot.

Dragonflies

dragonfly nymph

Dragonflies are another great source of food if you are into eating bugs. You can eat the dragonfly when it is in both the larval (also called nymph) and the adult stage. 

It might be harder to catch them in their adult stage because they can fly. The larvae are spending most of their time near the surface of the water, which might make them easier to catch.

You can catch the dragonfly with a net when it is in the water or the air. They prefer to be close to water sources during the early and mid-summer. 

  • Habitat: ​Close to water between reeds.
  • Eating method: ​You can eat them by frying them in a pan or a pot. You can also remove the wings of the larger adult dragonflies if you do not like them.

Mealworms

Mealworm

In my previous occupation, I worked in an animal feed mill and also in a corn and flour mill. If some of the meal bags stood on the floor for too long, it got infested with mealworms.

Mealworms are the larval stage of the mealworm beetle. You can always find them close to maize or flour meal.

They have a very high nutritional value and is often compared to that of mammal meat. They are full of protein and all the necessary nutrients the body needs.

They are often seen in the pet industry where they are fed to birds.

  • Habitat: Close to meal such as corn and wheat meal.
  • Eating method: ​​The best way to eat mealworms is by frying, boiling and also roasting them in an oven.

Shea Caterpillar

shea caterpillar

I would avoid eating most caterpillars, but a shea caterpillar is a safe option. If you dry them, they pack a whopping 60% protein which makes them a good source of protein. 

These caterpillars thrive on the shea nut tree. The nuts of this tree contain an excellent fatty acid profile which also feeds the caterpillar. They are mainly available in the middle region of Africa.

The caterpillars also feed on the leaves of this tree.Nowadays the shea caterpillar is also processed and packaged as food in Burkina Faso.

This caterpillar is also a staple for some of the areas in that country.

  • Habitat: They only near and on shea trees in mid-Africa.
  • Eating method: ​​​You can eat this caterpillar raw, dried or you can fry it in oil.

Rhinoceros Beetle

Rhinoceros Beetle

This species is one of the biggest beetles that you will find. They are also powerful for their size and has a rhino-like horn on its head.

It is known that they can move more than 800 times their body weight. This means that there is a lot of meat underneath that exoskeleton.

They are a rich source of protein and can be dried and also cooked using several methods. In Thailand, they love to add some garlic and salt for extra flavor.

They are almost found everywhere in the world where the females will lay their eggs in dung. They also like to hide underneath logs and plant debris.

  • Habitat: They hide in rotten tree trunks and underneath leaf-litter as adults.
  • Eating method: ​​​​Can be eaten raw, dried and also cooked. Add some garlic and salt to taste.

Woodlice

Woodlouse

If you like eating prawn, then you will also love woodlice. This species is a crustacean which is referred to as a marine isopod that evolved on the land instead of the sea. 

It is not advised to eat them raw as they might contain parasites and it is best to cook them. The best way to prepare them is by boiling them in water.

You can find them under rocks and bark lying on the floor. It is also known for them to hide under dead tree stumps and branches. It is best to cook them until their bellies become white.

Often they are seen as a pest but can be a blessing when food is scarce.

  • Habitat: These bugs love moist and cool places, so they tend to hide under objects such as rocks and old tree stumps.
  • Eating method: ​​​​​Only by cooking it thoroughly. 

Silkworms

Silkworms

I can still remember the days in my youth when I used to house silkworms inside of a box to see them create a cocoon. I never thought that in some countries such as in Korea and Vietnam, this worm is being eaten. 

Most silkworms that you can find today are in silk factories.

They will wait for the worm to form a cocoon in its larval stage and then they will drop the cocoon in boiling water to unravel the silk. The larvae will be cooked during the process where it is ready to be eaten.

Silkworms have a very selective feeding habit. They will only feed on the leaves of mulberry trees. Most of the silkworms, you will find in silk factories.

  • Habitat: Mulberry trees.
  • Eating method: ​​​​​​By cooking them or frying them on a pan.

Cockroach

cockroach

Most people believe cockroaches to be the most disgusting insect alive. Never did we know that it is one of the most nutritious insects.

Now, I am not recommending you to catch and cook the first cockroach that you see next time in your kitchen. You want to eat cockroaches that were on a clean diet.

Household cockroaches might also carry disease-causing bacteria. It is best to cook them thoroughly to kill all of the bacteria inside them. It is also said that the giant Madagascar hissing cockroach tastes like chicken when eaten.

  • Habitat: Almost everywhere.
  • Eating method: ​​​​​​​It must thoroughly cooked and then fried to give it a crispy texture.

Ants

Ants

Who has never eaten an ant when you were an infant? These bugs are tiny but also very abundant. You can almost go anywhere in the world, and you will find ants.

They are rich in protein, iron and other nutrients as well. Ants have a slightly sour flavor while their larvae taste normal.

The best place to find them is in an anthill where you can feast on them. Have you ever seen an anteater plunging its tongue into the holes of an anthill?

Why not use the same strategy with but instead of using your tongue, you can use a stick.

  • Habitat: Mainly anthills and around homes.
  • Eating method: ​​​​​​​​Can be eaten raw and make sure they are dead. Can also be cooked by boiling them and frying them on a pan. 

Maggots

Maggots

Thinking of eating maggots are not for the squeamish. In Nigeria, these worms are a delicacy. The fly will lie its eggs in rotting carcasses and flesh where it will transform into maggots. 

Once the maggots are large enough, they will turn into a pupa. Maggots can almost always be found on rotting flesh which is an excellent place to spot them if you are searching for them.

It is never advised to eat maggots raw as you might get an infection called Myiasis and also bacterial poisoning. Because they live in dead carcasses and feces, they might transmit E. Coli and Salmonella.

Maggots are rich in bacteria and other nutrients but must be cooked thoroughly before consuming. It needs to be cooked to get rid of the parasites, bacterial spores, and other microbes.

  • Habitat: Carcasses and rotten meat.
  • Eating method: ​Cannot be eaten raw. It needs to be cooked properly. 

Earthworms

earthworm

Fish love them, and I always take some of them with me when I go fishing. But did you know that you can eat them as well? 

They are also very nutritious and on high supply. I know someone that loves to eat them. If you have a garden with soft and fertile soil, then the chances are very good that they are lurking underground.

The best way to find them is to take a shovel and make a hole in your garden because they live underground. They are also more likely to appear during after heavy rainfall as the soil become saturated with water.

  • Habitat: They live underground in soft and fertile soil.
  • Eating method: ​​Can be eaten raw during an emergency but it is best to cook them to get rid of potential parasites.

Agave Worm

agave worm

Have you ever noticed the worm inside tequila bottles? 

The agave worm is placed inside tequila bottles for preservation to give proof that there is enough alcohol in the tequila.

The Mexicans also love to eat this worm after they finished the bottle or at mealtime. It is not a worm but the larvae of the Hypopta Agavis moth.

The name “Agave” comes from the plant of which tequila is made. The worms live mainly around and in the agave plant where the moths will lie their eggs.

These worms can be dried and eaten if you like them crunchy or you can cook them.

  • Habitat: In and around Agave plants.
  • Eating method: ​​​Can be eaten dry, fried, cooked or preserved in alcohol.

Grasshoppers And Crickets

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers can act as a plague when they fair into a cornfield or any other grain field. Can you remember one of the stories in the Bible when the grasshoppers infested Egypt? 

They were included in one of the ten plagues.

They live in abundance here on earth so why should we not eat them?

They are very nutritious and has a neutral color which only gross a few individuals out. Chapulines is a species in Mexico that is being eaten along with other food. They are also being sold as snacks and also baking powder.

These bugs should also be cooked as they might contain parasitic worms. Most grasshoppers are safe to eat, but you should avoid the brightly colored one such as the Romalea microptera.

Romalea microptera

Grasshoppers prefer to live in open plains with grassy areas.

  • Habitat: If you have a large open yard with grass, then you might find the critters on the ground. They tend to come out early morning and dusk.
  • Eating method: ​​​​​Must be cooked properly. You can also dry them out or fry them on a pan after boiling for a more crunchy effect.

Earwigs

Earwigs

Have you ever heard the stories of the bug that will climb into your ear and lay eggs in it? Whether it is real or not, the story comes from the insect called earwigs.

From the front, they look like an ant, and they have pinchers at the back. They do not have any poison and are safe to eat. The pinchers are also harmless.

They live almost everywhere except Antarctica. They will hide below pots, doormat and also rocks. They do not like the sun and will hide under cool and moist areas.

The often come out at night to prey on other smaller insects and plants.

  • Habitat: They like to hide under pots and rocks.
  • Eating method: ​Boil them, fry them or put them on an open fire.

Palm Grubs

palm grubs

As a kid, I can still remember the good old days of watching Lion King just when it came out.

Can you remember that scene when the little cub swallowed that large white worm? That my friend is called a grub.

These large juicy worms are not a worm but the larvae of the Rhynchophorus ferrugineus beetle. The reason why that is called palm grubs is that once the larvae have matured, it will take up all the space on your palm.

They have a lot of fat on them which makes them an excellent source of energy. I can also remember Bear Grylls eating one on his hit show called Ultimate Survival. He got it from an old tree stump.

  • Habitat: Can be found on large palm leaves and also under the bark of an old tree stump.
  • Eating method: The best way to eat this juicy critter is by frying them on a pan. They have enough fat to make their skin extra crispy.

Bamboo Worm

Bamboo Worm

This worm is a larva from the moth Omphisa fuscidentalis. It lives inside bamboo groves where it is also called the bamboo borer. They are mainly consumed in Asia. 

They are very nutritious and contains a lot of energy in the form of fat.

Almost 50% of their body weight is made up of fat, while nearly 20% of it consists of protein. In Thailand, it is considered a delicacy. They are also commercially bred to maintain their natural population. 

  • Habitat: Lives in bamboo.
  • Eating method: Because of their high-fat content, it is best to fry them. They can also be boiled or roasted on an open fire.

Aphids

aphids

These bugs are tiny and easy to miss. They are easy to find as they can live almost anywhere and lives on the leaves of plants. 

There are also many different types of them which range from white, black, yellow, and even red in color. They will also differ in taste.

Sometimes they will have a sweet taste to them and also a slightly sour one. There is no significant risk of eating them, and they are also too small to be of danger.

You might also want to eat as many as possible because they are tiny.

  • Habitat: Are mostly found on the leaves of plants.
  • Eating method: You can eat them raw, and you can also cook them in other food.

Stink Bugs

Stink Bugs

These bugs have a horrible smell. I, personally would not eat them even if they were the last thing on earth. Once you have its smell on you, it stays there for a long time. 

Most insects that have a terrible odor should not be eaten except for this one. It is very nutritious and has many health benefits. Its distinctive flavor can enhance the flavors of food it is mixed into.

They have a distinctive shape and come in many colors. You can find them under rocks and logs, but they also roam above the ground. It is always best to boil them in water before eating.

The cooking will also help get rid of some of that smell where the water will leash the odor out of them.

  • Habitat: Mainly found in crop fields and also under rocks.
  • Eating method: Must be boiled before consuming.

Scorpions

Scorpions

Scorpions are venomous creatures but can also be eaten if cooked. In Asia, you will always find street vendors preparing scorpion for their customer. 

The scorpions with the larger thicker tail are very venous. They also tend to have smaller pinchers. The scorpions that are less venomous have larger pinchers with a smaller tale.

 I guess the larger pinchers make up for a less potent venom. Before eating them, I would suggest cutting off the tail because that is where the venom is produced and stored.

When I was younger and crazy, I used to catch these critters under rocks. I lived on a farm, and almost every tenth stone that I turned revealed one or two scorpions.

  • Habitat: Mainly under rocks and inside cracks.
  • Eating method: First remove the stinger and brown over a fire. Can also be boiled and fried.

Not For The Squeamish

Now you know which insects to eat and also what types to avoid. They might not be your first choice of food today, but hey, you never know. Someday you might be thankful for them.

Let’s finish off this article on something that I found on google. It is a video of Bear Grylls eating a palm grub.

Hakuna Matata

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