Methods to Gather Wasps and Bees to Eat

Apidae and Vespidae – bees and wasps

Larvae (and pupae) of wild bees (Andrena spp.), yellow jackets (Dolichovespula spp. And Vespula spp.), hornets, and other wasps (Polistes spp.) were eaten by many tribes, often raw, and considered delicacies (Powers 1877, Essig 1931, Heizer and Elsasser 1980). First, nests were smoked to stupify the adults (Essig 1931).

To locate a yellowjacket nest, the Sierra Miwok would set out (presumably in an open sunny place) a grasshopper leg with a (magenta-colored) dry seed pod of a grass (Holcus lanatus) or a white flower attached (Barrett and Gifford 1933, Lightfoot and Parrish). They waited for a yellowjacket to seize the bait, then followed it to the nest by keeping an eye on the easily-visible seed pod or flower (Barrett and Gifford 1933).

In one method for gathering ground-nesting yellowjackets, a nest was located, then early in the morning before the yellowjackets began flying, a fire was built close to the hole and smoke from pine needles forced down the hole with a fan (Heizer and Elsasser 1980, Lightfoot and Parrish 2009), which the Costanoans made with hawk feathers (Levy 1978). Once the yellowjackets were stupefied, the nest was dug out and carried to a prepared bed of coals (Heizer and Elsasser 1980). The nest was roasted, the dead larvae shaken out into a tray, mashed, then boiled with hot stones (Heizer and Elsasser 1980). This was served with manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) berries or acorn meal (Heizer and Elsasser 1980).

The northeastern Yavapai ate yellowjacket nests (i.e. probably the larvae and pupae along with nest material) (Gifford 1936). The Northern Maidu eagerly sought yellowjacket larvae (probably also the pupae, see Taylor 1975) to eat (Dixon 1905), as did many other tribes.

The European honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) was only introduced in the mid-1800’s (Essig 1934) and its honey was collected by the Wiyot and other tribes who also ate the larvae, sometimes smoking out the adult bees with a damp tule smudge (Lightfoot and Parrish 2009). The small quantities of honey which could be found only in the nests of bumblebees (Bombus spp.) and other native wild bees were eaten by the Foothill Yokuts and probably other tribes (Heizer and Elsasser 1980, Jacknis 2004).

Vespidae

Vespula lewisi larvae, pupae, and adults.

Japanese wasp collection method: kill a frog and leave in open, attach a small piece of its meat with a small piece of floss silk. When the wasp arrives and cuts a piece of meat from the frog, people replace this piece with the one having floss-silk attached. When it flies back to the nest the run after by following the floss-silk. The underground nest is smoked with firecrackers and the stunned wasps are collected (FIN 1988 1:2; 2) (FIN 8(3):2).

To find wasp nests, traditional wasp hunters in Japan tie a long silk thread to the waist of a captured adult wasp. Then they follow the silk thread and wasp as it flies back to its nest. Smoke is used to drive the wasp adults from their nests and the larvae are then gathered. (Gordon 1998)

In Java, wasp colonies are cut from branches, enclosed in bag and immersed in hot water to kill adults, larvae and pupae then removed and steamed or fried (Food Insect Newsletter 11(3):3).

Social ground nesting wasps in Japan are colected by placing a small charge of gunpowder into the nest entrance with a long stick and light the fuse. The explosion stuns the wasp and can be collected without stinging. Another method is removing all clothes, quietly approaching the nest, tear it up and remove the larvae. Beekeepers in Sudan are usually naked but for a loincloth and simply flick off bees that land on them. The presence of clothes is said to annoy the bees.

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