15 Insects You Can Eat

From beetles to butterflies, you can eat bugs from the following orders.

Plate of fried grasshoppers with a pair of chopsticks

stockphototrends / Getty Images

Not being much of an eater of things with legs in the first place, partaking of those from the creepy-crawly family of edibles doesn’t hold much appeal to me personally. But I might be in the minority there, especially when considering entomophagy from an international perspective.

We may be squeamish here in the United States when it comes to bingeing on bugs, but people all over the world smartly consume insects. In fact, some two billion people across the globe eat a wide variety of insects regularly. National Geographic reports that "36 African countries are 'entomophagous' [meaning they eat insects], as are 23 in the Americas, 29 in Asia, and even 11 in Europe," so this is more than just a passing trend.

Why Eat Insects?

Bugs are a fantastic source of protein and don’t require intensive resources to produce. A cricket can produce the protein equivalent of cows with six times less feed, as well as good amounts of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and other nutrients. They have little environmental impact, especially when compared to the livestock that the Western diet relies on so heavily.

They lack nociceptors, also known as pain receptors, which eliminates one of the common ethical issues relating to eating animals. And some, like crickets, enjoy living in cramped, crowded conditions, which is perfect for intensive farming.

Given the food crunch the globe is in, all I can say is this: Bring on the cricket skewers and roasted water bugs, the smoked tarantulas and candied ants. If you’re an eater of creatures already, get on this!

How to Eat Insects

There are more than 1,900 edible insect species on this planet. Some are more popular than others. Below is a list of the main 15 orders of insects suitable for eating.

Realize that not all bugs are safe for eating. Brightly colored insects usually indicate a warning: "Back off, buddy, I’m toxic." Pungent bugs, hairy bugs, bugs that bite or sting, and common disease carriers like flies, ticks, and mosquitoes are also on the very generalized do-not-eat list, although there are exceptions.

But this is a general starting point to know what bugs you can eat:

1. Anoplura: Lice
2. Orthoptera: Grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches
3. Hemiptera: True bugs
4. Homoptera: Cicadas and treehoppers
5. Hymenoptera: Bees, ants and wasps (particularly stingless varieties or during immature stages)
6. Diptera: Flies and mosquitoes
7. Coleoptera: Beetles (most commonly, long-horned, june, dung, and rhinoceros varieties)
8. Lepidoptera: Butterflies and moths (particularly during larval and pupal stages)
9. Megaloptera: Alderflies and dobsonflies
10. Odonata: Dragonflies and damselflies
11. Ephemetoptera: Mayflies
12. Trichoptera: Caddisflies
13. Plecoptera: Stoneflies
14. Neuroptera: Lacewings and antlions
15. Isoptera: Termites

Not all are created equal. Grasshoppers and crickets have a neutral flavor that makes them great for strong-tasting sauces (think curry)—and they're fairly easy to collect. Ants are incredibly high in protein, packing an impressive 14 grams of protein in 100 grams of red ants (higher than eggs). Beetles, also high in protein, are a popular nutritional supplement for many African communities, and are "efficient at turning cellulose from trees (indigestible to humans) into digestible fat."

A few things to consider: Cooking will improve flavor and texture and kill parasites. Even if a bug has harmful toxins in its body, a lengthy boiling will usually negate that effect and make it edible. Wings and legs do not contain much protein, so remove them if they make you want to gag (heads, too).

You'll likely want to order edible insects from a reputable vendor, but if you wish to forage for wild insects, seek out a good guidebook to make sure that you're getting bugs you can actually eat. Be brave, and bon appétit!


Do not eat insects that you find dead. These may have been killed by pesticides, which can be harmful for human consumption. Kill them yourself by cooking or freezing.

View Article Sources
  1. Holland, Jennifer S. "U.N. Urges Eating Insects: 8 Popular Bugs to Try." National Geographic.

  2. Bryant, Charles W. "How can I tell if a bug is edible?" How Stuff Works.