How to easily gather ant eggs and larvae for consumption when you are stranded without food and spending the night in the wilderness. Outdoor survival skill lesson.
One cannot predict the conditions of which one might find themselves stranded in the forest alone, perhaps with minimal supplies. You need shelter. Maybe you have a tablecloth or short blanket, a PVC or canvas tarpaulin if you're lucky. You can make a tent with this. You can also use the tarpaulin to obtain a quick high-protein meal if you know how to use it to maximum advantage. This quickie snack won't fill you up but can be part of a larger wild-gathered meal that will keep you from going hungry. It has a lot of protein, and it actually tastes rather good.
This is best done during the day when the sun is hottest. Our chosen ant-hill is in an open field, in direct sun if possible. If you can choose which ant-hill to harvest, go for the one in the sun. Still, what we are about to do can work even in shade.
Find a Suitable Anthill
Basically, we are going to very open-up and expose the ant-hill to direct hot sunshine whereby the worker ants will scurry to hide the exposed eggs as quickly as possible. They do this to hide the vulnerable eggs from the predator they think is assaulting their nest, and also because the eggs and larvae can dry-out very quickly in the hot sun. We can take advantage of this natural protective act to our benefit.
Spread out the tarpaulin, rain jacket, blanket or whatever you have, flat next to the chosen ant hill as demonstrated in the image graphic below.
Next, Lay several sticks parallel to each other (as shown in the image below) on the side farthest from the ant-hill, about 8-12 inches from the edge of the tarpaulin. This will help facilitate the ants decision-making process for what we are about to do.
Fold Flap over Sticks
Fold the tarpaulin over itself (see image below) covering the sticks approximately halfway on their length. This forms corridors and caves that induce the ants into traveling the length of the sticks in their effort to hide their eggs.
Dig Up the Ant-hill
Throw handfuls of the ant-hill nest onto the tarpaulin, uncovering the eggs as you work.
By throwing handfuls of ant-hill soil onto the tarpaulin near the folded flap, you have exposed the precious eggs and larvae to the hot sun. Worker ants that are also transported in this dirt will scurry to hide the eggs and larvae from the direct sunlight. Following the sticks you have laid out, they will temporarily stockpile their eggs under the flap, in the shade. Generally, the ants will move the eggs to the first and fastest safety they find. Once they discover the shady flap, they repeat the process again and again with more eggs. In so doing, they are concentrating their eggs into an easier-to-procure arena saving you a lot of time. If the flap is closer to where the ants and eggs are (and since the anthill nest is wrecked) they almost always choose the protection of the flap, with each ant returning dozens upon dozens of times to rescue more exposed eggs.
Give this process maybe a quarter hour and then take a sneak peek at the progress. Don't expose the covered flap too much or too often or the ants may suspect that they are still in danger and will move the eggs elsewhere instead. You may want to from time to time throw another few handfuls of ant-hill onto the flap and stir-up the dirt that is already there to instill greater urgency and haste in the worker ants.
In this interim as the ants are gathering your meal you should be gathering firewood for the night, and getting your sleeping and protection from the weather arrangement set-up. Branches over which you will throw and secure the tarpaulin after its current use has completed thus forming a tent, you could be gathering your available bedding (leaves, pine boughs, etc.) rocks for a fire-ring in which to build a campfire, and so forth.
When a decent amount of eggs and larvae have accumulated in the dirt-free under-flap area (gathered together and seperated from the dirt courtesy of the panicked worker ants) you may withdraw the flap and with your fingers, quickly gather the eggs and white larvae into your cup or bowl.
Gather the Ant Eggs and Larvae
With this method you can gather a good handful of eggs (several thousand of eggs and immature white larvae, -they are all edible) within a minute or two once the flap is uncovered. Gathering this many eggs manually would take hours. This is time and energy that you cannot spare for such a small reward.
From there, the eggs & larvae can be be eaten as-is, or gently roasted in a metal pan over a fire. Roasted ant eggs has a mild nutty flavor. A flat rock that has been near your campfire will be hot enough to roast the eggs. Just deposit the eggs & larvae directly onto the rock in a convenient shallow and allow them to cook from the heat that the rock has gathered from the campfire. You might only get a mouthful or two in the endeavor but it is food.
An ant-hill such as this can endure several 'egg harvests' per season with no detriment to the nest, if you are at all concerned about this.
(all graphics by author)