Traditional method of hunting edible termite, Odontotermes formosanus Shiraki by the Irulars of Gingee hills, South India

Muruganandam S, Ravikumar S, Dhamotharan R, Muniappan Ayyanar


BackgroundInsects, especially termites are considered as one of the nutritious foods widely used by various ethnic communities throughout the world. Present study was undertaken among rural people in Gingee hills of Eastern Ghats, India to know about traditional hunting method for edible termites (Odontotermes formosanus Shiraki) practiced by them to fulfill their protein requirement and as a source of revenue. 

Methods: Traditional method of hunting edible termites by Irulars of Periyamalai was observed for a couple of years. Preparation of herbal mixture, trapping method and other information were documented through direct observation in the field and by interviewing the individuals involved in termite hunting. 

Results: A total of 11 plant species were found to be used in termite hunting process and to treat diseases or allergies occurred (if any) after consumption of termites. Powdered roots of Aristolochia indica L., seeds of Canavalia cathartica Thouars and leaves of Glycosmis mauritiana (Lam.) Tanaka, are used to harvest termites from their mounds and to treat poisonous bites. Acalypha fruticosa Forssk., Leucas aspera (Willd.) Link.,  Madhuca longifolia (J. Koenig ex L.) J.F. Macbr. Pavetta indica L. and Premna tomentosa Willd. are used by Irulars in treating skin allergic conditions after consuming termites.

Conclusions: Traditional method of hunting edible termites with medicinal plants shows the rich traditional knowledge of the Irulars. There should be initiatives to identify and quantify the nutritional and nutraceutical value of termite species used by ethnic people for value addition, which in turn improve their livelihood. Also, it is essential to study the plants employed in termite hunting for their wound healing potential.

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