Land Shrimp, A Small Relative Of Our Favorite Seafood


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Pill bug
Pill bug, Armadillidium vulgare  (Photo By: Franco Folini / Wikimedia Commons)

Pillbugs, also known as woodlice, roly-polies, or land shrimp are a very common arthropod in the same taxonomic class as Shrimp and lobster.  These small arthropods, are very recognizable, they have 11 body segments, and can be seen curling up in a ball for defense.  They can easily be found under rotting logs or bark, they love moist places with lots of rotting organic matter. Pill bugs can be found worldwide and very abundantly in the United States. All woodlice are in a taxonomic suborder called Oniscidea, therefore they could be in a number of different genus, some of the common ones are Armadillidium, Oniscus, and Porcellio.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Many people do not know that pill bugs are edible.  Not only are they edible but from my experience some of them do in fact taste similar to shrimp.  Any bug should be cooked before eaten, but some people eat them raw.  They make a great sauce, or they can be added to soup.  There are a lot of other ways to cook them including, mixed with, dough, egg, or rice.

Health Benefits

Porcellio scaber and Oniscus asellus
Porcellio scaber and Oniscus asellus

The high protein content of bugs is a known benefit, but there is one more known benefit to eating these little guys.  There shells are high in calcium carbonate which is the primary component used in antacids, so pill bugs may be helpful for heartburn and calming upset stomachs.

Cautions

There are thousands of species of pill bugs around the world, most of them are edible. To determine if they are edible first of all make sure it is not a pill millipede, which looks similar but is smaller, smoother and rounder.  Next determine that it has no bad smell, and finally, you should not continue eating if it has a bad taste.  In general the pill bug species that curl into a ball (Genus: Armadillidium) are more likely to be edible and tasty, but many of the others are as well.

Conclusion

The pill bug is one more thing to add to the list of forgotten edibles that makes me wonder, “why aren’t more people eating these”.  Even in the realm of entomophagy, you don’t often hear about this one, but it is delicious and very accessible.  The taboos of eating bugs in western culture are illogically strong, and this is one taboo that we would benefit to change.


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