Comparative ethnoentomology of edible stinkbugs in southern Africa and sustainable management considerations

Catherine Maria Dzerefos, C.M.
Witkowski, E.T.F.
Toms, R.
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BioMed Central
Insects, such as stinkbugs, are able to produce noxious defence chemicals to ward off predators, nevertheless, some ethnic groups have recipes to render them delicious. We provide an example of edible stinkbugs (Encosternum delegorguei) used by two locally separate ethnic groups in South Africa, the Vhavenda and Mapulana, with a third group, the Bolobedu using them for commercial purposes. Structured interview schedules and observations with 106 harvesters were conducted to determine differences in use, nomenclature and oral history, methods of collection and preparation as well as perceptions pertaining to availability. The stinkbugs’ foul defence chemical and flight response necessitates nocturnal harvesting when the insect is immobilised by cold. The defence chemical stains the skin and affects vision yet protective gear is not worn. Damage to host trees was recorded when harvesters poached from plantations or private land, whereas, in communal-lands, sustainable methods were preferred. The legitimisation of stinkbug harvesting and introduction of a collection funnel could reduce conflicts with managers of plantations and private land. Two methods to remove the defence chemical for increased palatability were used. Preparation methods differed in whether or not water was used and also whether the head was left intact or removed. Stinkbugs have numerous medicinal uses, in particular as a hangover cure. Awareness and optimal use of beneficial insects, such as stinkbugs, in rural areas could lead to a reconsideration of current environmental management strategies, where harvesters act as habitat stewards and clearing, grazing or burning indigenous vegetation is kept to a minimum.
Edible insects , Entomophagy , Ethnomedicine , Sustainable harvesting , Traditional food , Hexapoda , Southern , Defence chemical , Animals , Conservation of Natural Resources , Ecosystem , Food , Heteroptera , Medicine , Traditional , Terminology as Topic , Africa
Dzerefos, C.M., Witkowski, E.T.F., Toms, R. 2013. Comparative ethnoentomology of edible stinkbugs in southern Africa and sustainable management considerations. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9(1)