Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bushcraft - Central Texas Style - The Land Crustacean - Cylisticus Convexus

The thought of eating bugs in order to survive is often a very distasteful thought to many people. The first thing that comes to mind is there is no way they are going to eat a bug to survive. What if it’s not really a bug but something altogether different from what you perceive it to be? Quite often things are not always what they seem if you take the time and effort to be a little more informed than the average person. What if you could dine on crustaceans instead of bugs?

Pill bugs are often incorrectly thought of as bugs by a majority of people while they are more correctly classified as terrestrial Isopods (land crustaceans). They actually belong to the class known as Crustacea. The more familiar type of crustaceans includes lobsters, crabs and shrimp.

The pill bug familiar to most people is known as Cylisticus convexus. This is the only species that is capable of rolling into a ball and makes it easily recognizable. This is the reason they are often called pill bugs. They resemble a small pill when curled into a ball shape and this action is a part of their natural defense mechanism.

Pill bugs can be easily found amongst debris piles or leaf litter which can have significant and very large numbers of these little creatures. They can also be found in relatively large numbers under rotting logs and other areas that provide a very moist and humid environment.

Pill bugs actually breathe through gills and require a very humid and moist environment to survive. Unlike their marine counterparts (lobsters, crab and shrimp), they can’t survive if they are submerged in water. They also suffer and die if they become severely dehydrated. They can actually be ground up and eaten and are a relatively good source of calcium There are other types but the ones that roll up into a little pill-shaped ball will generally be better tasting. Avoid eating pill bugs if they have a bluish color or tint as this is an indication they have contracted some sort of viral infection which you will probably want to avoid.

Got terrestrial Isopods for lunch?

Staying above the water line!



sel said...

This is gong to be crude...so sorry ahead of time. We find pill bugs on our dogs poop quite often. Not sure I want to go there!

Anonymous said...

Izzat the high fallutin' term for Rollypollys? :^) Thats what we called them as kids.

We still have quite a few of them, what has really been rare is seeing Texas Horned Toads. They'd grow fat around here on fire ants.

Josh said...

They actually belong to the Class "Malacostraca." The belong to the Subphylum "Crustacea." It's tough to see from that picture, but I think it's probably "Armadillidium vulgare," not "Cylisticus convexus." And they're not the only species of "pill bug" that can roll into a ball.

You forgot to mention that they don't urinate, instead emit ammonia from their shells, and eat their own feces... Bon apetit!


John said...

Glad you covered this. It's part of thinking survival.

riverwalker said...

To: sel

They can be found on poop...usually when it's fresh. I'd probably be looking under a rotten log if the need arises.

Thanks sel.


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 12:40

Yep! Rolly pollies. My grandson calls them that also and is forever walking around with a fistful of the little creatures.

Haven't seen any horned toads in my area in the last few years but I still have a large number of the Texas horned lizard around. They good at reducing the ant population as well!

Thanks anon.


riverwalker said...

To: Josh

Without taking a closer look to see which one I had in the picture, it's quite possible it's the a. vulgare type.

Thanks for the correction. I pretty much thought there was only one species that rolled into a ball. I know some of the larger varieties don't always do this.

They also have blue blood and can remove heavy metals from toxic areas of soil that would kill other species.

Most have a very strong and bitter taste but if you dry them out and make a powder....

...and yes they do eat their own poop but they are still edible if it became necessary in order to survive. Not a part of my regular diet at this time though.

Thanks Josh.


riverwalker said...

To: John

With the aversion to bugs that plague so many people, I thought a reminder that not everything you think of as a bug is actually a bug. In this case, a well known "bug" to many people isn't really a bug but a land crustacean.

Thanks John.


Josh said...

Most have a very strong and bitter taste

I read an account somewhere where someone claimed that they tasted like Kerosene! I hope they're just imagining that's what Kerosene tastes like having smelled it!

TMM said...

found this too

Pillbugs are also of importance in sites such as coal spoils and slag heaps, which face heavy metal contamination. They are
capable of taking in heavy metals such as copper, zinc, lead and cadmium and crystallize these out as spherical deposits in
the midgut. In this way, they remove many of the toxic metal ions from the soil.

Wannabemountainman said...

It looks very similar to what is known as a 'wood louse', here in England.
As for being put off them because they eat scat, what do they think those pricey shrimp live off?

PreppingToSurvive said...

Thanks for the information, Riverwalker. I haven't heard that rollipollies are edible. Have you tried one?

You asked about other edibles...I don't have a lot of experience with eating bugs (something I'm looking to expand my knowledge in). But we did try eating snake recently. I shared my experiences with it over on our site today.



riverwalker said...

To: Josh

Yep! Read the same thing in a couple of places. I know what kerosene smells like but never took the chance of "tasting" it. Probably not a good idea.


riverwalker said...


They are actually a very beneficial little creature because of this ability to process heavy metals in the soil...sort of miniature soil re-conditioning machines.



riverwalker said...

To: Wannabemountainman

I think the "wood louse" variety are a lot larger (i.e. make a bigger meal. And yes, there are a bunch of creatures out there that eat their own "poop" and a few other things that also might be unpleasant to think about.



riverwalker said...

To: Prepping to Survive

Haven't had to eat any rollie pollies yet but they will be on the menu if necessary.

My preference is nuts, berries and grapes which are usually easy to find and taste a lot better.

Rattlesnake meat is pretty good and has been on my plate a few times along with a wide variety of other wild game.



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