What are Witchetty Grubs? 11 Interesting Facts

They can be found in both trees and on the ground. The larvae have a brownish color with dark stripes, which makes them easy to spot!

What are witchetty grubs? And why are they very famous in Australia? Wichetty grubs are the larva of a moth that is native to Australia. The larvae have a brownish color with dark stripes, which makes them easy to spot!

Here are ten exciting witchetty grub facts.

what are witchetty grubs
credit: canva

What Are Wichetty Grubs?

In particular, the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla feeds on and is typically found in the witchetty bush, widespread throughout Northern Territory and Western Australia, although it may also be located elsewhere throughout Australia.

The term ‘witchetty grubs’ may apply to the larvae of clothing moths, ghost moths, or longhorn beetles. The term is used mainly when the larvae are being considered as food.

The grub is the most crucial insect food of the desert and has historically been a staple in the diets of Aboriginal Australians.

witchetty grub
credit: canva

What Is Wichetty Grub Aboriginal Name?

The grub has several Aboriginal names, depending on the Aboriginal tribes and languages.

The Arabana people call the grub “mako witjuti,” meaning “grub of the bush.” The word witjuti comes from their name for the shrub, not for what is living there.

Like Ngalea people, Wardaruka peoples refer to the grub as “mako wardaruka.”

The  Pitjantjatjara name for the grub is “maku.”

It is also suggested that the word witchetty comes from Adynyamathanha wityu, “hooked stick,” and vartu, “grub.”

What are Witchetty Grubs? 11 Interesting Facts
Photo by Alain Wong on Unsplash

What do witchetty grubs turn into?

The grub will turn into a moth, and its time in this larva form depends on where they live. In Western Australia, for example, the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla is found underground, covered at night during its pupal stage.

Where Are Wichetty Grubs Found?

They are found all over Australia but most commonly in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Sometimes known as “tree worms,” these grubs live in trees and feed on decaying organic matter. They can be found in black wattle trees, gum trees, the roots of Acacia kempeana shrubs, and other sources. The grubs will secrete a brown liquid when held as a defense mechanism.

Witchetty Grub Life Cycle

The female moth lays eggs near a food source (usually moist soil) to feed its larva’s needs as it grows.

The female moth lays eggs near a food source (usually moist soil) to feed its larva’s needs as it grows. She can lay up to 300 eggs in her lifetime. The grubs hatch and burrow into the earth, feeding on roots, decaying organic matter, or other food sources until their pupa stage.

The grubs’ purpose in life is to turn into moths. In a few weeks, the larvae of moths will enter their pupal stage underground cover and emerge as adult moths!

The cossid moth will live for about five days as a grub until it matures into an adult moth. A female cossid might lay up to 300 eggs in her lifetime and can emerge from the pupa stage after only 20 days. It’s not uncommon for these adults to mate while still in the pupa stage.

The life span of a cossid moth depends on where they live, such as in Western Australia or Northern Territory.

What Do Witchetty Grubs Taste Like?

The different white larvae, despite having similarities in their wood-eating habits, are said to taste pretty similar. They’re best eaten raw or lightly cooked by using hot ashes for a cooking method. Indigenous people have been eating them as high-protein food forever because they’re just that good.

These raw edible insects taste like almonds, and when cooked, the outside becomes crisp and golden brown like a roast chicken while the inside remains light yellow.

For those who enjoy the taste, these cooked grubs will taste either like chicken or prawns with peanut sauce.

Nutritional Value

They are ideal survival food, being rich in protein (15% by weight), fat (20%), and energy (~1170 kilojoules per 100 grams).

These grubs are also nutritious snacks and a valuable source of vitamin B1 and contain the essential nutrients potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

What Are Witchetty Grubs Used For?

The grubs are often eaten raw with traditional bush tucker and cooked in hot ashes. They’re also used to make a type of flour, which can be made from the remains after they’ve been roasted or boiled.

Besides being a staple food and rich source of protein, there are other usages for the grubs.

Aboriginal tribes across Australia use witchetty grub moth as bait for fishing, which some birds will then take back to their nests.

The wiggity grub is also used to treat wounds and burns and is among the top 10 aboriginal bush medicines. It’s crushed into a paste, spread over the wound or rake, and covered with a bandage.

Where to Buy?

If you’re interested in trying them, the best place to buy witchetty grubs is from a local Aboriginal bush tucker store.

Or nowadays you can try to find and buy them online. Several online stores sell these grubs.

How to Cook

Some adventurous eaters, especially those who need survival food, will want to try and learn how to eat them.

Witchetty grubs should be lightly boiled or fried to remove the outer layer of bark. The fatty acids in the raw wiggity grub make it taste like almonds, so if you fry them, they’ll have a nutty flavor and crispy texture on each side.

To boil these larvae, cover about two dozen with water and boil for about 30 minutes. Serve with a sauce or dip; they’ll taste similar to boiled shrimp at this stage!

Aboriginal people across Australia have developed their methods of cooking witchetty grubs. The best way is by roasting them over hot coals so that the outside becomes crisp and golden brown like a roast chicken while the inside remains light yellow.

How to Control Grubs in Vegetable Gardens?

Widgety grubs are insect larvae that feed on the woody roots of plants. In their hatching season, they can damage and destroy the root systems of their host plant, reducing its vigor or death.

Control of the larvae is necessary if you have large groups of witchetty grub moth in gardens.

These are enormous moths, so traditional sticky traps will not work; either use an insect zapper or place netting around the tree for a long-term solution.

Controlling the grubs may be done with insecticides. Any insecticide formula created to combat root-eating insects should be adequate. Use a formula following the manufacturer’s instructions and water it into the ground so the chemical can get to the roots.

See also: Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?

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