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Project: Edible


Subfamilies: 5
Genera: 17
Species/Subspecies: 48

Joost Van Itterbeeck & Brian Fisher


Contents:

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Ants are used as human food in many parts of the world. Plentiful and easy to locate, both brood and adult ants are sought after for traditional meals. Among the most favored edible insects in Thailand and Laos, for example, is the Asian weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina. One of the most popular ant dishes in this part of the world is a salad of queen brood mixed with some worker ants, mint leaves, spring onion, chili, and fish sauce. Both brood and worker ants are sold in local and urban markets, where they fetch a higher price than meat. In Thailand, this ant species is even canned.

Halfway across the globe, in Mexico, the brood of Liometopum spp., are harvested from the roots of agave plants and eaten as the delicacy escamoles. The Spanish conquistadores dubbed this food Mexican caviar.

Throughout Latin America, the winged virgin queens of the leaf-cutter ants Acromyrmex spp. and Atta spp. are widely consumed throughout Latin America. These are called hormigas culonas, the "big-butt ants." When seeking a sweet treat, Australian Aborigines dig out nests of honey pot ants such as Camponotus inflatus to eat repletes swollen with sugary plant juices.

These are just a few of the ways in which human cultures use ants in their cuisine. From China to Central Africa, Latin America to India, the abundant and ubiquitous ants continue to serve as a tasty nutritional resource for people around the world.

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Author:

Joost Van Itterbeeck & Brian Fisher