Feast or Famine?, by A.B.S.

For those of us that pay attention, the mass media is shouting about a massive locust plague ravaging much of eastern Africa and a wide swath running across to Pakistan. ‘Locust’ is a generalized term for swarms of grasshoppers and similar species that emerge when they reach a high population threshold. Due to more rain than average, the last few years have seen increased vegetation, and thus a peak in the locust population cycle in these areas. While this uptick in locust numbers occurs every 50-to-75 years and has for centuries, the politicians and other “leaders” are debating if “climate change” is to blame. Study your history folks:  It happens regularly. Always has, always will. The politicians should get over themselves and get to work helping those impacted.

Reports state that the food and feed crops in these areas are being devastated as locusts can consume their body weight in vegetation daily. These reports state that nobody knows what to do to help with the problem. A few years ago I wrote several articles in magazines and newspapers about the viability of using insects as an alternative food source in emergencies. The UN even came out with a similar report on the subject, but the information is not being distributed to the people that need it.

A Time-Proven Food Source

If anyone bothered to study history, they would find out that many native peoples throughout the world have used these insects as a very viable food source. Documentation by naturalists in the 19th century found that Native American communities in the Great Plains region formed massive circles and beat the brush to drive thousands of grasshoppers and Mormon Crickets into bodies of water or trenches constructed with precise vertical walls for mass collection. They would then throw burning bundles of grass on bulk catches that killed and cooked the insects. These could then be ground into flour that could be stored for later use. This was a well-established method of food procurement that preceded the bison hunting activities that resulted from the introduction of horses.

Similarly, Australian Aborigines practicing traditional lifestyles have and still consume various grasshoppers, locusts and crickets as a regular part of their diets. They catch and roast a few at a time on coals to eat immediately. This “bush tucker” is a good source of calories and protein, and has made a modern appearance in cook books ‘down under’ rebranded as ‘sky prawn’ in reference to the popular shrimp like shellfish already consumed by Aussies. This came about after an outbreak of swarms in 2004 stimulated some chefs to think outside the box. A similar resurgence is occurring in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. The religious leaders have acknowledged that eating locust is considered okay as they are declared ‘clean’ by religious food inspectors.

Los Chapulines

In Mexico, eating grasshoppers and crickets has a long tradition. Many people don’t realize how many chapulines (as they’re called in Spanish) that they have eaten ground up in salsas and semi-pulverized in micheladas while on vacation. In fact an entire industry of farming insects now exists, both legal and illegal. The legal farms grow the chapulines on alfalfa and other choice plants under controlled conditions. The illegal side of the industry is folks trespassing onto farms without permission and without knowing what chemicals have been used on the farm. Unfortunately, both sources make it to the open market throughout Mexico.

So why is this practice not happening in Africa? Well, in certain areas it is. Some of the peoples that continue with traditional lifestyles do consume locust and other insects. Other African peoples suffer the loss of native culture after the introduction of modern agricultural practices coupled with the western culinary practices being taught to the children in schools. This has contributed to a loss of the wisdom that has been handed down for centuries and could keep them alive until another food source can be secured. In addition, the terrain and weather magnified by the number of wars being fought in this region continues to exacerbate the problem in many areas as well.

The photo below shows a fried chapulines in a guacamole taco.

Locust Guacamole TacoThe nutritional benefits of locusts and other insects can vary, but in general, locusts are 60% protein and 12% fat with many of the vitamins and minerals needed to keep people healthy. The actual amount of the nutrients will often depend on the diet of the insects consumed. But how do we prepare locust as food? Well for a meal, here and now, you can roast or fry them. Make sure you cook them thoroughly as they can have parasites that could be harmful if eaten raw. The big problem is that the crops being eaten by the locust are often the long term food source for the villages. The locusts will be gone when the hot dry season arrives and the food and feed crops will be gone as well. This leaves the local people dependent on outside help if it is available. If help isn’t available, then the true famine begins. So how do we turn these critters into a long term food source?

As previously stated, the American Indians solved this problem centuries ago. I’m sure other societies did as well. Roasting the insects will remove moisture and kill any parasites that may be present. The roasting process also helps develop a more palatable flavor. To me it’s similar to the flavor of almonds. You can add your favorite spices during the cooking process to develop a flavor that you would prefer. In Mexico, dried chili pepper is generously sprinkled into the mix to add a little kick.

After the roasting process, you need to grind the insects into flour. Not only does this make the locust into a more usable form, but it also removes a lot of the gross factor. Just make sure to give them a thorough grind as many folks can’t handle finding a bug leg in their bread or stir-fry. If you don’t have time to grind them up, they can be bagged up and kept dry for use later. In Thailand the locust are salted and bagged, which keeps them edible for a year. They are just one of the critters the Thai people have learned are good to eat, mainly stemming from a major locust outbreak in the 1970s that launched an insect-based food revolution.

Find the Good Ones

The source of your locust should be of high importance. If the local farmers or governments have already been spraying insecticides to eliminate the swarm, do not use them for food!! You will potentially bio-magnify the amount of pesticide you can get dosed with. The best choice for consuming is found by raising your own ‘crop’ of locust. This can be accomplished fairly easily if you had time and equipment to start early. If you don’t have a locust farm pre-established, the next best bet is the younger, pre-flying stage insects found in the wild. Not only are they safer (less chance of pesticide and parasite exposure) than the flying adults, but they are also much easier to capture in significant numbers without large nets. They can be readily driven into the prepared trenches or small ponds and can’t fly back out.

If anyone has chickens or other types of fowl as livestock, these insects also makes excellent forage for them as well. Just turn the birds loose and let them eat their fill. The added protein will not only bulk up the birds, but make for a good supply of nutritious eggs as well. The Bedouin tribes have also used locust as a supplemental food for their livestock. Some of the desert areas the Bedouin travel through are so barren that a swarm of locust flying through may be the only food source for miles. If prepared properly, and with nothing else to eat, horses and other animals will readily eat these insects.

Americans are Spoiled

Most people in the US have become so spoiled that they would balk at the prospect of eating locusts or any other insect unless it was totally covered in chocolate, or it was at the bottom of a tequila bottle. When I went through a military survival course, we had a cursory introduction to insect cuisine. While somewhat informative, I felt that it should have been more in depth. Thanks to many years of instruction by several of my Cherokee relatives, I already had a good background in identifying edible insects. While this led to a lot of harassment in school, it has paid off in many back-country adventures, and led me to obtain a master’s degree in Entomology.

One word of caution: Please avoid the brightly colored grasshoppers, such as the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper common along the Gulf coastal states from Texas to Florida. These red and orange striped grasshoppers have the ability to store toxins from plants they consume that in turn make the grasshopper toxic, though not deadly. The bright colors are a reminder to predators that they won’t taste good. This is similar to the Monarch Butterfly that consumes the toxic milkweed.

I really want to encourage everyone to at least look into the possibility that someday you may need to consume locusts or other insects. Research what species can be used for food in your area. You never know when the defecation will hit the oscillation. If you don’t think you could consume insects you may need to get a copy of the US Food and Drug Administration Food Contaminants Allowance regulations. You may be surprised how many of these insects you have already eaten over the years without knowing it. With a little research and an open mind you will find out that the common grasshopper is one of the most abundant food sources in the world.




31 Comments

  1. I grew up in a area that had regular cicada cycles(3-5-17 years) when cycles coincided it was like locust swarms and it was a fad to fry and eat them(crispy but little flavor),didn’t know about making flour.
    Swarms like the reported ones are signs of a unbalanced ecosystem(too much pesticide,killing insect predators)

  2. Yeah… I’m one of the americans who would balk at eating bugs even with chocolate and I don’t drink tequila (not cuz of the worm just I don’t drink tequila)

    In a pinch if I had to yup I’d wolf em down like a college kid piping Adderall.

    But that would required me being out of food completely.

    A more sensible solution is to continue to stay prepared. Cuz in all reality for my self and others I’m sure long pork is the option above bugs.

  3. When I was teaching in San Antonio, one day in the break room one of our custodians from Mexico was happily chomping away with a delighted smile and relish on a treat from a little baggie. Small and dark, about the size of some type of chip. When I couldn’t figure out what she was eating, I asked.

    She told me grasshoppers, and did I want some? I politely declined. She really tried to get me to eat a few. She then launched into telling where she bought them in the interior of Mexico and they were very popular. She was going back south soon, did I want her to bring me a bag?

    Uh, no thanks. My ick factor was just too high and I was not hungry enough.

    Our farm has massive grasshopper populations, not every year, but frequently. They eat everything, especially stripping our baby fruit trees trees. When we are there full-time, our chickens can have at them.

    I guess it’s possible we could be competing with the chickens for those grasshoppers.

    Thanks for a great article.

  4. To adapt to this new social life, the locusts’ bodies transform, inside and out. They change color from a drab tan to a striking yellow and black, perhaps a signal to their predators that they’re toxic. Indeed, while solitarious locusts avoid eating toxic plants, the gregarious locusts are actually attracted to the odor of hyoscyamine, a toxic alkaloid found in local plants. Sure, by eating those plants and assuming their toxicity and changing color to yellow and black,
    https://www.wired.com/story/the-terrifying-science-behind-the-locust-plagues-of-africa/

  5. In Eugene Oregon, Craft Crickets workshops show participants many ways to grow and use insects for food.
    According to their research, a family of four can easily be fed from a dark bedroom lined with shelves containing growing boxes — plastic storage tubs or plastic shoe boxes with a few layers of cardboard for food.
    And ‘yes’, the fried bugs are delicious.

    Ento Nation echoes health experts about feeding our beneficial gut bacteria — known as ‘probiotics’ — with the indigestible fiber known as ‘prebiotics’.
    Insects contain just the right amount of prebiotics mixed with just the right amount of fat and protein… as though a greater mind was at work during the development of this particular planet.

  6. A.B.S.
    Thank you for the great article. It is so true that we have lost so much wisdom in the new “modern” world. I pray often for the invaluable elder that remembers any of the old ways. I also love and cherish older books. George Orwell saw it coming.

  7. When I was a kid we lived in Asia, before there were tons of Americans around. There were no commissaries, western stores or schools. We bought from the market like everyone else. Asians eat lots of insects, snakes, and other creepy crawly critters but they make them taste good! The older kids would always challenge the younger kids to eat “bugs,” which we did! I have my favorite foods and fried bugs are not high on the list, but I agree with the author that Americans are spoiled and over-look many opportunities for protein that are found in nature.

    1. My wife is from China… I call her my “China Doll”… Long story, has something to do with American Feminism and the 5 year total marriage plan, including kick out 2 babies, and then divorce and rake the man over the coals. I wanted a wife for my entire life, and mother for our children our entire lives and a male spiritual authority in the home just as God prescribed in His word. Singlmomhood is not a family, sorry feminists, it’s breaking God’s spiritual laws. Sorry, long story… but Asian is the way to go for longevity of families and happiness.

      Sooooo…. One morning, I was sitting in my Asian mom’s kitchen in Beijing and the plate came out and set before me. I smiled at my bride and joked…”Can Mom make a meal that doesn’t have eye-balls staring back at me from the plate?”

      I hear you and in agreement…. Chuckle! chuckle!

      1. Sometimes that works. Other times, you get a gentle, compliant Asian woman who has been oppressed for her whole life by Asian culture. Once she finds out that in America, she is no longer expected to be submissive and silent, all the rage can come out, and all hell can break loose.

        One of the saddest stories I ever heard was from a young woman from a wealthy family in Hong Kong, who was in a missionary college in America. She told me about the happiest day in her life, growing up in Hong Kong.

        She was sitting on the sofa in the family living room when her brother walked by. He stopped, turned on the light next to her, and said “You’ll hurt your eyes reading in the dark.” He then walked out of the room.

        That was it. One moment of trivial kindness, one moment of being treated as if her welfare actually mattered. In twenty years.

        We cannot imagine it, not really. Western culture has never treated women as badly as Asian societies do.

        So an Asian bride may be wonderful. Or not.

  8. If you think you will eat bugs in a pinch you are probably wrong. Studies have shown that many people will just give up and starve, rejecting food sources that they have an aversion to. I’m pretty sure I can handle a dried and ground cricket. It’s the appearance of the bug that bothers me. Many of our modern packaged foods have ground bugs in them…natural flavors and natural dyes are often dried insects. however, now is the time to experiment with an insect menu if you think it might be something in your future. Once you’ve eaten one, and gotten over the ick factor, eating them in an emergency won’t be as big a deal. If it turns out you just can’t get it down, you know you better make other plans. I also have chickens, I prefer 3rd party bugs, and they do a delightful job of processing them for me 🙂

  9. As the Bible might be interpreted, “Man does NOT live on Locusts alone.” People need other foods and water.

    SurvivalBlog encourages ~Charitable Giving as part of daily living and the hard-times occurring after a disaster. Under the resource heading is an article about helping others, and the (Judeo)Christian mandate about Charity.

    We can expect information appearing soon, which will be from Charitable Organizations about famine in Africa, because of the plague of locusts. There are ‘Watch Dog’ organizations that check the end results of the charities. Give Wisely.

  10. Don’t eat all the crickets, as I love the symphony of beautiful music that they make on a warm summer evening! Truly, their sound is just another wonder of our Lord and Savior Jesus, who IS the Christ!!

  11. I’m like many who prefer to depend on other foods. However, one pt of this article is that if one’s going to depend on insects to be more than just an occasional snack, u’ll need to be prepared with -nets or equipment to catch many, many insects, & way to roast them &/or grind them into flour, along w/ spices. THus, if u think that one day u may need to depend on insects, u need to prepare for that. I read that when learning to forage, it’s best to try a plant on a small, limited basis first, to see if ur body has any adverse reactions. I’m guessing that that’s best for adjusting to using insects as a significant protein source too – that it’s best to consume a limited amount of insect protein supplementing other foods. This would stretch ur other foods, while ur body adjusts to insect protein. Also, I’m curious what the freeze-dryers among us, think about the possibility of whether it’s possible to freeze-dry them?? For much of N. American, one isn’t likely to be able to catch any/many insects in the colder winter season, which is the same season that gardening has to shift indoors or stop – thus both point toward the need to store insects for a period of months.

    1. There’s a tried & true method for catching Grasshoppers. It’d have to work for Locusts too. From South of the Redoubt Region down in Utah. =

      “Catch your own grasshoppers for bait”
      “To catch them, use a net made of fine netting, like entymologists use, or in a pinch you can use an old shirt or sheet. Look for them in open fields, empty lots, in tall grasses along stream banks, or wherever you see them hopping around. They are abundant in most areas in Utah, and probably are eating the leaves off some plants in your garden right now.”

      “One good method to get them is to lay out a fuzzy flannel or wool blanket in a field where there are lots of grasshoppers. Start at the opposite end of the field, and drive towards the blanket. The hoppers legs will get caught long enough for you to grab them.”
      [From utahfishinginfo site]
      *******
      Herding Grasshoppers is like herding cats. … Anyone watching a flock of Chickens chase after one grasshopper will laugh every time they see it. … A Grasshopper ZigZags along; it doesn’t hop in a straight line. The chickens will all ZigZag after the Grasshopper too, when on the chase. … The chickens don’t understand, a straight line is shorter, when in pursuit.

  12. Stock up while you can. In my experience, most preppers do not have near enough.
    I am dirt poor, yet able to feed others who will not sacrifice now to buy food. Who has the real wealth? The banker or the farmer. Is your treasure here on this earth, or in heaven?

  13. Just the thought of munchin’ a plate of crispy crickets is great for my fasting, took my appetite and hunger pangs away. I’m stocking up on more rice, beans and seasoning. Maui Dan

  14. In survival training [Army],

    We ate a variety of insects, plant life, and filtered water through dirt inside our shirt. I won’t go into the details here, but it can be done. There’s an old saying in Ranger School, “pound for pound insects have 6 times more protein than beef.”

    John The Baptist lived off of Locusts and wild honey… to your comment above “Man can’t live on locusts alone.”

    Have stock in insects for your charitable giving. When the socialist Liberal comes-a-knocking, give them a back of “protein”. When you Christian friends come knocking, kill the fated calf. Remember the USA is for the Christian, founded on Christian principles. It was 100% Christian in the 1600s and largely Christian right to the 1980s.

    1. Jefferson Davis,

      “When the socialist Liberal comes-a-knocking, give them a bag of “protein”.”

      Oh, my gosh. You’re killin’ me, smalls…

      You are hilarious.

      Thank you for sharing the joy of laughter.

    2. All the Indians were Christians? Most of the Christians sent here were too rude,arrogant and overbearing to live with or near(from people who had been in religious wars for a century). Check the propaganda and be factual.

  15. When I was a little girl, home alone, and very hungry, I searched through all the kitchen looking for food to no avail. I climbed up and stood on the countertops, opening every cupboard looking for something to eat. I must have been 5 years old, because I couldn’t read yet. Above the refrigerator I found a tall Tupperware container that had “homemade canned” pickles in it. Jackpot, until I opened the lid, and the foul smell convinced me it was bad and I shouldn’t eat it. Not to be outdone, I crossed over to the other side of the kitchen, climbed up on another countertop, and stood on my tippy toes searching for food. I remember vividly the moment I saw a box on the highest cupboard shelf. Not sure how I reached it, just remember the satisfaction of unwrapping each morsel and eating something.
    The box I found was a gag gift, containing an assortment of chocolate covered grasshoppers, ants and worms. I ate them all, no problem. I had no idea what I was eating. As a hungry child, I found food, ate and felt content. After eating them, I probably just went back outside to play. Later, when my older brother found out, he teased me for the longest time. 🙂

  16. The problem I find with using the argument that native peoples often eat or ate bugs for sustenance, is that in many cases, there was no other choice. Much like the current corona virus pandemic being blamed, rightfully or not, on the consumption of Bat Soup, most non-Asians wonder why they would eat something so distasteful to begin with. The reason would seem to be the lack of alternatives. When you live in a country of more than 1.4 billion people, like the locusts themselves, people are going to have to eat whatever is available. Much to the chagrin of AOC and Greta Thunberg, as long as there are more appealing alternatives to eating all manner of insects and rodents, I would prefer a bacon-cheeseburger any day of the week.

  17. Don’t forget Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories about the effects of locusts in the Dakotas. They consumed two years’ of crops and disrupted life completely. They just happen; always have and probably always will.

    X. Liberal, in the name of my indomitable great-grandmother I resent your remark about “Singlemomhood is not a family” and how God hates anything except a domineering male and a quiescent female. My great-grandmother lost her husband from pneumonia when she was 34; she had 4 children aged 1 through 7. She knew if she remarried, a new husband might mistreat the children and she would have no legal recourse–in part because of laws derived from your “scriptural” view of marriage.

    So GGMom got to work. She grew crops.She taught school. She was the first female postmistress in her county. Alone, she raised 4 children to be decent, law-abiding citizens.

    Your one-size-fits-all idea of marriage fits very few people.

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