Tag Archives: moths

The Diet of Worms

Dried Mopane worms (Gonimbrasia belina) sold by the mugfull on the sidewalk

Right… so from this photo you must realise that these Worms have nothing to do with the Diet of Worms (the reichstag in the town of Worms, Germany) which issued the Edict of Worms in 1521, declaring Martin Luther to be a heretic and banning the reading or possession of his writings.

Gonimbrasia belina is a species of moth found in much of southern Africa, whose large edible caterpillar, the mopani or mopane worm, is an important source of protein for millions of indigenous southern Africans.

And I just managed to avoid eating them during a visit to Tzaneen Country Lodge.

The principle producers are Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.  It is estimated that South Africa alone trades 1.6 million kilogrammes of mopane worm annually, while in Botswana this industry nets about US$8 million annually.

Although the mopane worm feeds chiefly on the mopane tree, it also feed on many other trees indigenous to the same regions, including the leaves of the mango tree.

You find basins of worms for sale at street markets and on sidewalks, like in the BlackBerry photo above taken in Limpopo.

The traditional method of preserving them is to dry them in the sun, or smoke them for extra flavour.  They can also be canned in brine.

Dried mopane worms can be eaten raw as a crisp snack or soaked (to rehydrate) before frying until crunchy, or cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices.  Dried mopane worm has very little flavour.

But they are a very good source of protein — just 3kg of leaves yields 1 kilogramme of mopane worms.  In cattle farming, 10kg of feed generates 1kg of beef.   Going to switch to worms?