What Are Witchetty Grubs? 11 Interesting Facts About the Grubs

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. Here are 10 interesting facts about this native grub.

what are witchetty grubs

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

What Are Wichetty Grubs?

Wichetty grubs are the larva of a moth that is native to Australia. They can be found in both trees, as well as on the ground. The larvae have a brownish color with dark stripes, which makes them easy to spot!

In particular, the larvae of the cossid moth Endoxyla leucomochla feeds on and is typically found in the witchetty bush which is 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 various types 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 important insect food of the desert and has historically been a staple in the diets of Aboriginal Australians.

What Is Wichetty Grub Aboriginal Name?

There are several Aboriginal names for the grub, 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 in it.

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

The  Pitjantjatjara name for the grub is “maku“.

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

What Does Wichetty Grub Turn Into?

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

Where Are Wichetty Grubs Found?

Wichetty grubs are found all over Australia, but they’re most commonly found in the country’s 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 tree, gum tree, the roots of Acacia kempeana shrubs, and other sources. When held, as a defense mechanism, the grubs will secrete a brown liquid.

Wichetty Grubs Life Cycle

The female moth lays eggs near a food source (usually moist soil) that will provide for its larva’s needs as it grows.

The female moth lays eggs near a food source (usually moist soil) that will provide for 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 where they feed on roots, decaying organic matter, or other sources of food 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 adult moths. 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?

witchetty grub

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. They are a quick and easy meal and are rich in protein.

Witchetty Grubs Nutritional Value

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

These grubs are also nutritious snack 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 grubs as bait for fishing, which some birds will then take back to their nests.

The Witchetty Grub is also used to treat wounds and burns, 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 Witchetty Grubs?

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 just try to find and buy them online. There are several online stores that sell these grubs.

How to Cook Witchetty Grubs?

For most people, the idea of eating witchetty grubs is quite off-putting, due to the appearance and the idea of eating disgusting grubs. However, some adventurous eaters, especially those who need to learn 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 witchetty 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 own 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 Garden?

Witchetty 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 grubs in gardens.

An easy way to stop wichetty grubs is to catch and remove the adults from the woods. 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 effective. Use a formula in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and water it into the ground so that the chemical can get to the roots.

See also: Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?