Zambian Edible Insects

by PS

Dried Ifinkubala

Dried Ifinkubala

Insects are a popular food in many Zambian households. They are a well-balanced source of nutrients and also vitamins. It’s not rare to find insect delicacies of Cicada (Nyenye), Termites (Inswa), Caterpillars (Ifinkubala) or Grasshoppers (Inshonkonono). The following are some of the most commonly eaten insects in Zambia.

Cicada (Nyenye)

Cicadas are a treat for most locals. Commonly known locally as Nyenye, they are usually roasted and salted. Their shrill sound is a reminder for a meal to most Zambians.

Mopani caterpillars (Ifishimu/Ifinkubala)

The caterpillars, known as ‘Mopani caterpillars’, are named after the tree on which they habitat. These are a favorite food throughout Zambia. In local language, they are commonly known as ‘Ifishimu’ or ‘Ifinkubala’ .They are an important source of protein for the rural folks whose diet is somewhat constrained. Studies have shown that they compare effectively with meat or fish, supplying approximately three quarters of an adults daily requirements of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

‘Ifinkubala’ (Mopani) are harvested twice yearly. Every rainy season, during early November, the land or bush comes alive with these little worms. They feed on vegetation and within their short six week’s existence they devour and hence convert sometimes toxic leaves into valuable food.

Rural communities take part in harvesting ‘Ifinkubala’ by hand. And after collecting, the Mopani worms are gutted, boiled and laid out to dry. Once processed and dried,
they are eaten as snacks or they are stored and kept for future use.

‘Ifinkubala’ represent an important source of high protein and are a supplementary source of income for many rural Zambian families.

Though other tribes have started eating caterpillars, this was originally a Bemba dish from the Northern Province.


This is another of Zambian delicacies. ‘Inswa’ are winged Insects belonging to the termite family. They come out of their hiding which is usually on or near an anti-hill, towards the rainy season. They are attracted towards light and people take advantage of this fact.

After the people have harvested (collected) enough ‘Inswa’; they take some straight to the pot while others are salted and dried for preservation. Alternatively, they are spread out to dry in the sun. In a dried state, they remain preserved for a long time. This is necessary to avoid wastage because ‘Inswa’ have got a very short shelf-life. To enjoy this delicacy any time, just visit any local Zambian market and get yourself dried ‘Inswa’ or even fresh ones if they in the season.

Grasshoppers (Inshonkonono);

Grasshoppers are also a popular food source. Note that not any type of grasshoppers is edible. The most widely consumed species are Inshonkonono. Driven from fields using fire, they are plucked from plants and fried or roasted with salt. They are usually fried in own fat.

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