Edible insects have been a fixture in Asian diets for centuries. The particular types of insects consumed in Asia vary from culture to culture, but grasshoppers and termites are popular in most Asian regions today. In Japan, the activity of capturing, preparing and consuming wild insects had been a cultural pastime up until the end of World War II. Since then, insect consumption in Japan has been declining, but capturing, cooking and consuming venomous wasps and hornets is still widely practiced in the country’s mountainous regions today.
Many people find the idea of consuming venomous wasps to be unthinkable, but the process of capturing and consuming wasps has been perfected through centuries of Japanese tradition. Upon witnessing Japanese farmers collecting wasps directly from their arboreal nests, one Australian entomologist was, understandably, shocked at their ability to avoid sustaining stings during the process.
Upon locating a nest, one individual team member proceeds to blow smoke into the entrance of the wasp nest in order to pacify the wasp inhabitants. When it comes to collecting giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia), which is Japan’s largest wasp species, protective suits are ordered, as these wasps are extremely dangerous. Most of the time, giant hornets are collected the same way all other wasp species are collected, but some hunters prefer to search for giant hornet nests at night when the wasps are less aggressive.
Once the wasp nests are transported back to the hunter’s home base, each individual wasp is removed one-by-one before being boiled with soy sauce or fried with salt. As you can imagine, this process is time consuming, but well worth it for the delicious taste. The wasps are prepared in a variety of ways. For example, Hebo-gohei-mochi is a sauce that is made from mashed up wasps, and wasps are used to make different types of sushi. Since hornets are relatively large for wasps, they are prepared differently. Hornet intestines are removed before they are cooked and they are often used for creating a type of liquor that is reported to have medical benefits.
Would you be willing to consume a properly prepared wasp?