The witchetty grub (also spelled witchety grub or witjuti grub) is a term used in Australia for the large, white, wood-eating larvae of several moths. Particularly it applies to the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla, which feeds on the roots of the Witchetty bush (named after the grubs) that is found in central Australia. The term may also apply to larvae of other cossid moths, ghost moths (Hepialidae), and longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae). The term is used mainly when the larvae are being considered as food. The grub is the most important insect food of the desert and has historically been a staple in the diets of Aboriginal Australians.
The different larvae are said to taste similar, probably because they have similar wood-eating habits. Edible either raw or lightly cooked in hot ashes, they are sought out as a high-protein food by Indigenous Australians. The raw witchetty grub tastes like almonds and when cooked the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg.
The word witchetty comes from Adynyamathanha wityu, "hooked stick" and vartu, "grub". Traditionally it is rare for men to dig for them. Witchetty grubs feature as Dreamings in many Aboriginal paintings. In Patrick White's novel, Riders in the Chariot, a young Aboriginal boy thinks a flabby rector looks like he was "made out of old wichetty grubs" (pg. 366 in Avon Press 1975 reprint of 1961 novel). Once caught the grubs leak a brown water juice over fingers when held.
These larvae may also be called Bardi grubs, also spelled Bardy grubs, especially when they are being considered as bait by freshwater fishermen. The term bardi grub appears to have originally been used for larvae of the longhorn beetle (Bardistus cibarius), but fisherman along the Murray River more often apply the term to the hepialid moth larvae of Trictena and Abantiades.
These grubs live about 60 centimetres (24 in) below ground and feed upon the roots of River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). They can also be found under Black Wattle trees, and are attributed as the reason why wattles die within 10 to 15 years. The roots of the Acacia kempeana shrub are another source of the grubs.
- Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2003). Insects and Spiders of the World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 625. ISBN 0-7614-7344-0.
- Isaacs, Jennifer (2002). Bush Food: Aboriginal Food and Herbal Medicine. Frenchs Forest, New South Wales: New Holland Publishers (Australia). pp. 190–192. ISBN 1-86436-816-0.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2008)|
- Witchetty Grub on Australian Insects
The dictionary definition of witchetty grub at Wiktionary