Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It Happened on a Dark and Humid Night

It's a dark warm night in mid to late spring.  That's prime bug collecting time.  Turn on a porch light or a fairly bright light near a window in your house.  It shouldn't take long for the guests to arrive.  While you're waiting, take a flashlight out to trees and the garden to collect more stuff.  (Ed K., if you're reading this, I plan on building a big bug trap like you've got! –If it works for me, I'll share it.)

Last night (29 May, 2011), I had my first fruitful night-hunt!  It'd been a really screwy year, so far, for weather.  It'd been unusually cold and rainy.  I guess that's what's been keeping the bugs under cover.  Last night was different!  It was warm and humid, with a little breeze.  I'd been looking, for days, for the big cicada hatch that was supposed to be happening.  I'd also been leaving lights on and checking windows for June bugs and other critters.  All total, over the past couple weeks, I'd only gotten five or six June bugs, and seen only two empty cicada shells and one adult. 

--time passes--

Now 1 June, I gotta get this finished so I can post it in time for folks to do something about it.  Get outside after dark, with a flashlight.  Look just about anywhere you can think –tree trunks, undersides of branches and leaves, fences, flower patches, buildings, and even on the ground.  You'll probably surprise yourself at the stuff you'll find.  Collect your bugs alive, and kill them by freezing.  Store them that way until you're ready to cook them.

I go collecting with a small plastic coffee creamer bottle.  It's got a little shaker lid with a hinged-door on the opening just the right size for June bugs, grasshoppers, cicadas and more.  When I'm done collecting, I put the bottle in the freezer, and about 15 minutes later, the critters are ready to sort into sandwich bags.  At least that's the way I do it. 

I've found lots of June bugs on foliage, and not all on my window screens.  They seem to be rather partial to young leaves from sucker plants that sprout from stumps.  Cicadas are on just about anything, and we should have the annuals start their hatch in a few weeks.  Annual cicadas are bigger than periodicals, but don't hatch in such bulk.  Then there's grasshoppers late in the summer.  Almost all these critters pick quite easily.  They're not nearly so skittish at night –particularly the diurnal insects like grasshoppers.  They pick best on cool nights.  Crickets are probably easiest to acquire by trapping, of from a bait shop, but they're might tasty!  I'm particularly fond of those brown camel crickets so common in many basements.

I seriously don't believe a few entomophagists can put a dent in an insect population, unless the insect is rare to begin with.  So far, in combination, I've gotten about a quarter pound of June bugs and cicadas in the freezer –more cicadas than June bugs.  I've got a little less than that in mealworms I raised in my basement.  Try raising your own ento-treats, but if you pick wild, be respectful.  Never eradicate a population –unless, of course, you're picking pests from your garden.  And if you do pick regularly, you shouldn't need to use pesticides!  Reduced pesticide use will even make the green folks happy. (and an almost off-topic note: Put earthworms in peat for a few days before you boil 'em (20 minutes, with garlic).  It helps purge the fine gritty dirt from their systems.  They have a taste sort of like earthy fish, with a texture similar to squid.  They oughtta go over quite nicely at our fear factor program in October)

So now you've got all this neat stuff you can eat.  How do you do it?  I'll be happy to share my experiences with you, and below, you'll find a bibliography of some of my favorite books on wild edibles and edible critters of many sorts.  They're all good enough that I've added them to my personal library –even though I work at a public library.


Angier, Bradford. Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants.  Stackpole Books.  Harrisburg, PA. 1982. 

Angier, Bradford. How to Stay Alive in the Woods.  Macmillan Publishing Co. New York. 1956.

Brill, "Wildman" Steve and Evelyn Dean.  Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants: in Wild (and Not so Wild) Places.  Harper Collins Publishers.  NY.  2002.

Couplan, Francois, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Keats Publishing, Inc. New Canaan, CT.  1998.

DeFoliart, Gene, Florence Vaccarello Dunkel, David Gracer, Ed. Food Insects Newsletter: Chronicle of a Changing Culture. Aardvark Global Publishing. Salt Lake City. 2009.

Department of the Army.  The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants.  Skyhorse Publishing.  NY.  2009.

Forey, Pamela, and Cecelia Fitzsimmons.  An Instant Guide to Edible Plants.  Grammercy Books.  NY.  2001.

Gordon, David George. The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook. Ten Speed Press.  Berkeley, CA. 1998.

Gordon, David George. The Secret World of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane. Sasquatch Books.  Seattle.  2010.

Herter, George Leonard and Berthe E. How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Live on $10 a Month. Herter's, Inc. Waseca, MN. 1975.

Holt, Vincent M. Why Not Eat Insects? Pryor Publications Whitstable and Walsall.  Whitstable, Kent, UK. 2007 reprint of 1885 publication.

Jaden, Jenna, and the University of Maryland Cicadamaniacs. Cicada-Licious (2nd ed.) University of Maryland. 2004.

Menzel, Peter, and Faith D'Aluisio. Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects. Ten Speed Press. Berkeley, CA. 1998.

Phillips, Jan.  Wild Edibles of Missouri.  Missouri Department of Conservation.  1979.

Rost, Amy, compiler.  Survival Wisdom and Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Subsist in the Wilderness. Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, Inc. NY. 2007.

Taylor, Ronald L. and Barbara J. Carter. Entertaining With Insects. Salutek Publishing Co. Yorba Linda, CA. 1996.

U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force. Survival, Evasion and Recovery. 1999.


June bugs and More

Food Insects Newsletter

And of course, don't forget my two Facebook groups: Missouri Entomophagy and Wild Edibles of Missouri.


Paul said...

Sorry 'bout the duplication of info from the previous post.

rr said...

Very well written and extremely informative!!!

Paul said...

I forgot to list one indispensable resource: Friends and other folks with experience!