Caterpillars on the menu
Location: 200km East of Kinshasa
July 29, 2011 12:19 am
Here in Congo there are a few species of caterpillars which are harvested, smoked and sold for food in the local markets. The ones in the photo were taken on the Bateke plateau about 200km east of Kinshasa in mid June when they are in season. Can you help us ID the species or at least the genus ? Thanks !
We are still working on a species or genus identification for you, but we did locate an image online that looked very similar on the African Moths website. It is the caterpillar of the Pallid Emperor, Cirina forda, and we have found several references to the caterpillar being edible and eaten. On the World’s Largest Saturniidae website, we learned: “In Nigeria the larvae are picked from Sheabutter trees, are called ‘Kanni’, and are widely eaten after being boiled and sun dried. In the Congo the larvae are eaten in “Vegetable Soup”, a valuable human food source.” We also located this pdf of a technical paper entitled The Protein Quality of Cirina forda … Caterpillar. We are not confident that the identification is correct, and we are contacting Bill Oehlke to see if he can provide any information. We will copy him on this response as well.
Bill Oehlke responds
They are either Cirina forda or one of the Imbrasia or Gonimbrasia species. I am pretty sure they are Cirina forda
Request from David Gracer
I’d be most grateful if you’d be willing to either send me Nick’s email or forward this inquiry to Nick, who’d submitted the image from Congo. I’d love to learn what he’s been seeing and if his interest is research-based. In any case I’m starting to draw material for the next issue of the Food Insects Newsletter and if Nick would be willing to share his images and notes I think that the community of people involved would be most appreciative. Data on this kind of food resource is always scant at best.
Thanks a lot,
Thanks much for the information on the caterpillars.
I would be happy to help with images and research. I am actually an Oceanographer by training and amateur naturalist. I am located in Kinshasa and have work sites in Bandundu where the caterpillar pictures were taken. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late 80’s in Bandundu, smoked caterpillars were the most affordable animal protein available to us on our modest stipends. On our last trip to Bukanga Lonzo, last month, we stayed at the mission there and the good fathers there prepared a nice dish of caterpillars and stewed cassava greens. Do tell me what kind of data you need and I will try to get it here in Kinshasa and if not too late, in september-october when I plan to go back to Bandundu to monitor our programs there.