In an TEOTWAWKI scenario, securing a renewable source of protein and fat is vital. While previous postings have discussed how family chicken farms have kept people alive during the last depression and the viability of rabbits, I’d like to add my two cents in. It started with my learning about hydroponics. Hydroponics is the growing of plants in nutrient enriched water without soil. Then I learned about aquaponics. In this instance fish are raised in tanks (aquaculture) and plants are raised hydroponically and the systems are merged. In this way, the nitrogen rich excrement of the fish feeds the plants and the plants filter the water for the fish. This system now provides both protein and plants, but you still need to feed the fish. My feverishly inventive mind (FIM) thought ‘why not keep the tanks outdoors (I live in Hawaii) and put modified bug zappers over the fish tanks so that rather than collecting the insects, they would drop into the fish tank directly thus feeding my fish for free’. Add solar-powered water pumps and a battery powered bug zapper and viola!
Then I thought that for every pound of fish, I would have to go through many more pounds of insects, and it seemed a waste of protein so I bought some books on entomophagy (insect eating). Man Eating Bugs (best), Creepy Crawly Cuisine and the Eat-A-Bug Cookbook are all good reads.
Here’s some of what I learned. There are 1,417 known edible species of insects. The most popular insects for eating are Beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, termites, locusts, flies, mosquitoes, water boatmen, backswimmers, worms, spiders and stink bugs. Flavors include: nutty, sweet, herring, corn, apples, pumpkin, bread, pine nut, avocado to whatever the insects have been recently eating.
Most edible insects range from 30 to 85% high-quality protein and many are excellent sources of fat (See butterworms and waxworms for fat content. Note, these are not really worms but larvae). As long as you do not have an allergy to seafood (the chitin in the seafood is the same as in the exoskeleton of many insects, eating insects, as long as they are cooked presents little health risk. (Assuming that the insects are not being exposed to insecticides…).
When cleaning and preparing them.
1) Remove any dead insects
2) Do not feed them for four hours before eating them
3) Put them in a bag in the fridge for 15 minutes if they are mobile like grasshoppers to slow them down.
4) Avoid freezing as this reduces flavor, but you can store them for a long time in the fridge and they will stay alive.
5) Remove wings and legs if present
6) Cook at over 410 degrees F to kill any germs
All in all, I think earthworms the best to raise and eat and here’s why:
1) No crunchy exoskeleton to get in your teeth
2) Easy to dehydrate, powder and add to breads or soups
3) Flavor not bad
4) Lumbrokinase enzyme in worms cleans plaque out of the arteries
5) Not picky eaters, no specialized food requirements so they are easy to raise
6) Double in size in 60-90 days
7) Can’t fly away
8) Only one stage (no pupae/larvae) so they can all raised together at any growth stage without eating each other
9) You can get them from the ground, no starter kit required
10) 70% protein
I’ve forgotten my higher math, but I think that you should be able to harvest about 1% a day (under optimal conditions) without losing your ‘worm capital’. Let’s say .5% to be on the safe side. If a person needs a minimum of 40 grams of protein a day, a family of four would need 160 grams a day. That’s 228 grams of worm a day. At .5% you would need about 100 pounds (45,600 grams) growing at any one time (please check my math).
100 pounds could easily be grown (either building up over time or getting 100 pounds to start) in an apartment in the city. There are compost kits you can buy or you can make your own. Most are designed for composting foods and harvesting the worm castings for the garden rather than mass worm production so you’ll have to dig in with your hands to get the worms out and clean them off (no big deal).
I think this the optimal covert city ‘livestock’ farm. You can feed them your leftovers and collect remains from restaurants and grow them silently and vertically in a closet. If someone broke into your apartment seeing how well fed you appeared and searched for your ‘food’ all they would find would be worms…
Another hint. Before eating them, put them in flour for a few hours. This will purge their intestines and fill them with flour (nice for baking).
While I think worms the best for many reasons, if you are outdoors, consider the black light Thai cricket farm: Two fluorescent UV black lights are suspended high above a clear plastic sheet that glows blue from their reflection. Crickets are attracted to the lights, hit the plastic and slide down into a bucket placed below it and drown. You may have to empty the bucket every few hours as this is very effective at catching them. The setup is shown on page 50 of Man Eating Bugs.
Consider insects in your cache of survival knowledge.
Hatari Invertebrates 520-558-2418
There are scientific supply houses that carry a large variety of insects but they are more expensive so use them only for you initial breeding stock, not for bulk purchases…
JWR Adds: For those readers that feel bound by Levitical law, consider: “All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.” – Leviticus 11