We’re not the only ones enjoying this warm weather. The dreaded stink bug is surfacing in our region – coating the walls of some homes with a living, breathing carpet of foul-smelling insects. Some people predict that the stink-bug invasion this year could be much worse than 2010’s, with billions of the reeking creatures taxing the upper limits of our vacuum cleaners.
Billions? Man, I hope so. Those things are tasty.
Or so some cultures think. Near Taxco in Mexico, people celebrate an annual Dia de Jumil festival where they trek out into the woods to pluck stink bugs off of logs and scoop them out from under rocks. They're searching for the pentatomoidea family that we see around D.C., which they call chumiles, as well as a larger, meaner cousin called Atizies taxcoensis (“jumiles”) that makes for a wicked taco filling. (See the above video. Or rather, please don't.)
Bags brimming with bugs, the searchers then celebrate with a massive feast of crunchy exoskeletons, sucking mouthparts and compound eyes. A Jumil Queen is even crowned.
Here’s a visitor’s take on the event:
Jumiles, they say, [is] “pica,” a pun, as the word both means, “they’re spicy,” and “they bite.” They don’t bite, but while they are not hot like chilies, the insects taste heavily of iodine. The taste is so intense, in fact, that they do taste somewhat picante. Jumiles lack the potency of chilies, however. When ground into salsa, they don’t infuse the sauce with fire, so much as they add a strange, slightly sweet chemical taste.
Smacking your lips yet? Then you’ll definitely also want to know about thongolifha, what folks in the Venda region of southern Africa call what’s known in science literature as Encosternum delegorguei.
People collect these “edible stink bugs” by the droves in winter, choosing to hunt at dawn when the insects are chilled and sluggish. At the end of the hunt, a collector’s hands might be stained with all the skunky chemicals the bugs release when handled.
The live bugs are then dumped into a bucket of warm water and agitated gently with a wooden spoon, causing them to release clouds of chemicals so rancid the chefs have to squint or look away. Then they’re boiled, dried and enjoyed with a fine glass of Sauvignon Blanc. (Just my suggestion there.)
There’s a whole different way of processing dead Venda stink bugs. I’m going to leave it to online magazine Science in Africa to describe what happens, because I doubt I can do any better:
The heads of the dead bugs are removed and the thorax and abdomen are squeezed between the thumb and index finger. This causes a translucent pale green gland to be exuded through the neck of the dead insect, and this is wiped off on a rock. The bugs are then boiled and sun-dried as in the previous procedure. The dried bugs may be eaten as snacks or sold at the markets.