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Open Access Research

Practices of entomophagy and entomotherapy by members of the Nyishi and Galo tribes, two ethnic groups of the state of Arunachal Pradesh (North-East India)

Jharna Chakravorty1, Sampat Ghosh1 and Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow2*

Author Affiliations

1 Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory, Dept. of Zoology, Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh 791112, India

2 School of Engineering and Science, Jacobs University, Research II (rm. 37) D-28759 Bremen, Germany

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2011, 7:5  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-7-5

Published: 14 January 2011

Abstract

We prepared a consolidated list of edible and therapeutic insects used in Arunachal Pradesh (N.E. India) by two tribal societies (i.e., the Nyishi of East Kameng and the Galo of West Siang). The list is based on thorough, semi-structured field-interviews with 20 informants of each tribal group. At least 81 species of local insects, belonging to 26 families and five orders of insects, namely Coleoptera (24 species), Orthoptera (17 species), Hemiptera (16 species), Hymenoptera (15 species) and Odonata (9 species), are being used as food among members of these two indigenous societies. However, Nyishi use overall more species of insects as food than Galo people do and consume mostly Coleoptera and Hemiptera; amongst the Galo, on the other hand, Odonata and Orthoptera dominate. The selection of the food insects amongst the Nyishi and Galo is dictated by traditional tribal beliefs as well as the taste and availability of the insects. Depending on the species, only particular or all developmental stages are consumed. Some food insects may be included in the local diet throughout the year, others only when seasonally available. Commonly specimens are being prepared for consumption by roasting, frying or boiling. Twelve species of insects are deemed therapeutically valuable by the locals and are being used by the tribes investigated to treat a variety of disorders in humans and domestic animals. Members of the Galo use a greater number of insect species for remedial purposes than the Nyishi. With the degradation of natural resources, rapid population growth, and increasing influence of 'westernization', the traditional wisdom of entomophagy and entomotherapy is at risk of being lost. There is thus an urgent need to record the role insects play as components of local diets and folk remedies and to assess insect biodiversity in the light of these uses.