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Metrics details. Edible insects are a natural renewable resource that provides food to many ethnic groups in Mexico. Some of these species are overexploited because of increased consumption, caused by the huge human population growth in the area and because of the large demand of these insects from many restaurants in Mexico and in other countries. In Tulancalco, a small arid village in the State of Hidalgo, I carried out studies on edible insects over 25 years.
The inhabitants of this village have a natural economy and use some 30 species of insects as food. At present, we have noticed a decrease in the population of several species due to overexploitation, which is carried by non-qualified independent workers who are not natives of the town. These gatherers sell their catch to make a living, thus contributing to the socioeconomic factors associated with this issue.
These actions have degraded the ecosystems of this area, and consequently the prevention of these measures is critical. The study species in this paper include 14 threatened species and we discuss some pragmatic measures that could implemented to avoid their extinction. In addition, some actions for the preservation of the ethnoentomobiodiversity in the area are proposed.
A great part of the Mexican territory is covered by mountains which are home to a variety of habitats, ecological niches and communities [ 1 ] Fig. People living in these areas have relied on gathering resources from their surroundings, and have maintained their ecosystem, not only for the source of food and medicine but also for the spiritual values that they conferred to the different resources [ 2 — 6 ].
As the access into these sites increased, inhabitants gained access to all kinds of different products, many of which are processed products; consequently, the lifestyle and diet of these people have been modified. Traditions and beliefs have been kept in some aspects of their lives [ 8 ], but resources which urban inhabitants demand are often found in rural areas.
The purchase of these resources provides an income that the natural or subsistence economy of the countryside cannot supply. Thus, this trade not only allows residents to consume processed products but advertisements for different products also makes them think that they are enjoying a better life style because they consume what they consider prestigious food.
We suggest that this is a social type of pollution that has modified their feeding patterns. Migration to the country's capital or abroad is a common phenomenon which must be considered in the present study [ 6 ]. Mainly young, male residents constitute the human capital of the community and abandon rural areas, leaving behind the elderly and children.
This creates a new paradigm of concepts and values in the rural communities, which consequently drifts further away from tradition, and finally leads to a loss of traditional knowledge [ 6 ]. As rural workers grow older and try to satisfy their new psychological needs they abandon the fields in search of jobs in the city and forget their origins, their autochthonous food, and, consequently, their means of acquiring resources.
This lack of interest and jobs in rural areas allowed unqualified people to capitalize on the demand and lack of supply for edible insects for the market. Consequently, they exploit the resources in an irrational way, deteriorating the environment and depleting the resources. The situation is exacerbated by the desire for certain insect species from the middlemen or from monopolies of this industry.
Originally, indigenous people gathered edible insects for consumption, sharing it among their families, and only selling the surplus on certain occasions. Due to pressure and the hope of satisfying other needs clothing, footwear, dishes, nails, etc. Generally, indigenous people who migrate to Mexico City return on the weekends to spend time with their families. Since they know about the demand and the price paid for edible insects from being in the city, they quickly harvest large quantities of these resources without respecting the conditions required by these species to thrive.
This, together with the demographic explosion of the country and the economic crisis in which it is submerged, has increased this immoderate exploitation.
Nowadays, insects are considered to be a non-domesticated resource since few species are cultivated. According to research, 40 species of edible insects in Mexico are presently in danger Ramos-Elorduy, personal observation.
Ethnobiology has a great social responsibility, not only through the study of humans and their relationship with nature, but also through the responsibility of denouncing the deterioration that humans inflict on resources in order to prevent such damage in the future. Ethnobiological studies are multidisciplinary and inter-institutional since these studies link many disciplines, including Entomology, Ecology, Biology, Anthropology, Sociology, Economy, History, Geography and Ethnobiology. The latter was the first science to join man and the environment in a pragmatic way, mostly focusing on the preservation of species, and is based on the interests of the local population.
Here, we will discuss the case of a town in the State of Hidalgo Fig. We will evaluate how the pressure of exploitation has finally created an "alert" in various species and the possibilities of avoiding further resource depletion. The nutritional status of the inhabitants is classified as bad and very bad, and symptoms of endemic malnutrition are found throughout over the state.
Hunger and malnutrition prevail because of the very low caloric-protein intake [ 13 ]. The ecosystem is classified as Xerophytic bush [ 1 ] and is mainly composed of "mezquites" Prosopis juliflora Sw. DC , "pirul" Schinus molle L. Besides shrubs like the "barredero" Baccharis conferta HBK , there are many herbaceous plants of Eupatorium , Vigueira and Zaluzania genus and various gramineous during the rainy season. We have frequently visited this town during many years. Its inhabitants were workers of an old Hacienda producing "pulque" fermented drink of water-honey agave , which after the Mexican Revolution became their property.
Initially, the land was divided among the families that worked there, but the land was continually divided further when children reached adulthood, and now each property is so small that it cannot provide enough to live on. This situation, together with the decreased popularity of Mexican "pulque", caused the replacement of agave plants with corn or other crops, and modifying their environment further.
This study is based on 25 years of field work carried out in different states of the Mexican Republic. We went to Tulancalco every month for three years, to determine which insect species the inhabitants ate, and how they preserved these species. Later, we went back twice a year to evaluate the status of some species of edible insects. These stays consisted of visits to the nests of the recorded Liometopum apiculatum M. We also measured the number of organisms of white and red agave or "botija" worms Aegiale hesperiaris W.
In Tulancalco, five main orders of insects are consumed. Together, these species comprise Both univoltine and polivoltine species are consumed. It is possible to find the latter throughout the year, but univoltines vary depending on the season. Hence, the capture of these insects depends on their life cycle, and on their presence and abundance throughout the year Fig.
Qualified gatherers used to gather these species only when they were most abundant, and this allowed for reproduction during the less abundant periods. However, present over-exploitation has caused these species to be in danger of extinction in this region. Among the most prominent of the threatened species, are the "escamoles", "gusanos blanco y rojo del agave", the "botija", the "xamues", the "ahuahutle" and "axayacatl", the "vinitos" and the avispa negra, which has been available as a resource for more than years.
There is a huge gap between the knowledge of the gatherers and that of the scientists, because many of gatherers do not know how to maintain these resources at a sustainable level. The "escamoles" Dolichoderinae ants of the genus Liometopum were part of the tributes for the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma [ 16 ], and their exploitation has persisted throughout time. Presently, its abundance in the area has decreased substantially.
A long time ago, this resource was exploited in specific sites in Mexico during certain periods of the year because of its abundance and popularity. At this time, nests were exploited only by the "escamoleros", groups of trained men who knew where to find them and, after opening the nests and retrieving the insects, were careful enough not to harm the nest so that the ants could continue to be exploited during future seasons [ 17 ].
Gatherers with no knowledge of the species look for and collect these insects in large numbers for sale. They look for new nests in many sites and exploit them carelessly. This has decreased the productivity of the "escamoles", because the ants must work much more.
Some nests have disappeared due to extreme modification of conditions, a particular misfortune because a nest could continue to produce and be lucrative for 40 years even when exploited up to three times during the harvesting season [ 18 ]. Assuming that every larvae or pupae in its reproductive stage weighs around 0.
Nowadays, not only "real" escamoles are exploited the immature stage of the reproductive breed , but also the working cast. This leaves the colony without enough workers to preserve the nest. Without the critical biomass, these nests will not produce more "escamoles" until this balance is reestablished or the nest dies. Recently at San Juan market in Mexico City, monopolizers informed us that small airplanes loaded with tons of the product arrived from the United States and sold it to the highest bidders.
This is no surprise because the species is also found in the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. It is unclear whether these insects are exploited in the U. The larval stage of this insect has a great demand in Mexico because it is a traditional dish and because of its refined and exquisite taste, peculiar and difficult to characterize.
It shelters in the fleshy leaves of 1 m to 1. Due to the significant decrease of this species, agaves remain only as a natural fence around maize or barley crops. These crops are continuously sprayed with insecticides, and those substances reaching agaves kill most of the larvae. In addition, a polyembryonic wasp Telonomus sp. Diverse predators like woodpeckers Melanoterpes sp. Afterwards a mealybug Pseudococcus sp. So, in addition to anthropogenic depredation, this species is also attacked by different predators.
Hence, nowadays these larvae are found in smaller quantities and in sites that are farther from rural activity, and consequently gatherers have to travel greater distances to obtain only few specimens [ 19 , 3 ]. Due to its life cycle, 3 generations overlap and small, medium and large larvae are found concurrently.
The latter stage provides the greatest profit but is found in the smallest amount. Gatherers do not understand that because of their harvesting techniques, the insects cannot reach an adult stage and reproduce. The larvae of the Opuntia worm Laniifera cyclades D. The corn worm Helicoverpa zea B.
However, someone familiar with the species can easily detect the fraud, but restaurant owners or household members often do not notice it. Most of the young of the red agave worm are also found in the agave that produces pulque, but they are also found in several other species e.
Because of the lifestyle of the red agave worm and because of the way in which it is gathered, the agave is killed during the harvest of this species. This is because the worms live together 40 to 60 larvae in the center of the stem, called "mezontete", located at the union with the fleshy leaf, so all of the stem and leaves must be removed during the gathering of these worms, causing the death of the agave.
The larvae found are in the same stage and are about the same size, since they come from the same oviposition. These larvae are also used for a Mexican alcoholic traditional drink called "mezcal" which has quite a large demand, even at an international level.
The container holds a large worm, and if the worm is not included people do not buy it. These larvae are also part of the "worm salt" which is taken with the "mezcal". This is why the "mezcal" companies monopolize them, and they demand a large number of worms. The domestic market demand for these worms has also increased, thus decreasing their numbers. The weevil Scyphophorus acupunctatus is also found in the agave "mezontete", but only in those that have already been scraped for "agua miel" water-honey , which, once fermented, produces "pulque".
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Metrics details. Edible insects are a natural renewable resource that provides food to many ethnic groups in Mexico. Some of these species are overexploited because of increased consumption, caused by the huge human population growth in the area and because of the large demand of these insects from many restaurants in Mexico and in other countries. In Tulancalco, a small arid village in the State of Hidalgo, I carried out studies on edible insects over 25 years. The inhabitants of this village have a natural economy and use some 30 species of insects as food. At present, we have noticed a decrease in the population of several species due to overexploitation, which is carried by non-qualified independent workers who are not natives of the town.
I was very interested in insects because as a group it is the reigning kingdom of the planet, having overcome all geological phenomena. I lived in France for a few years and I saw that my countrymen were regarded as ragged, sandal-wearing, malnourished, lazy Indians. I wanted to know what insects contributed to the alleviation of this problem. Very few of us are working on this. Yet insects, despite the fact that they are not very visible, are quite abundant, but just very small. But, humans have thought that insects are bad, harmful, and dirty, that they must be expelled and killed. And this has been so at least since , when synthesized insecticides appeared.
JULIETA RAMOS ELORDUY BLASQUEZ