Witchetty grub

Witchetty grub

A couple of witchetty grubs
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Included groups

Families Cossidae, Hepialidae, and Cerambycidae

Cladistically included but traditionally excluded groups

All other Lepidoptera, Coeloptera, and other Insect species

The witchetty grub (also spelled witchety grub or witjuti grub[1]) 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 (after which the grubs are named) that is found in central Australia.[2] 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.[3]

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 similar to almonds, and when cooked, the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken, while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg.[3]

The Arabana term for the grub is 'mako witjuti' (with emphasis on initial syllables); mako means grub, and witjuti refers to the shrub, not the grub itself [4]. Similarly, Ngalea peoples referred to the grub as 'mako wardaruka', meaning grubs of the wardaruka (acacia ligulata) shrub. It has been suggested that the word witchetty comes from Adynyamathanha wityu, "hooked stick" and vartu, "grub". Traditionally, it is rare for people to dig for them.[3] Witchetty grubs feature as Dreamings in many Aboriginal paintings. When held, as a defense mechanism, the grubs will secrete a brown liquid.[3]

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 fishermen along the Murray River more often apply the term to the hepialid moth larvae of Trictena[5] and Abantiades.[6]

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.

See also


  1. "CSIRO - Witjuti grub".
  2. Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2003). Insects and Spiders of the World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 625. ISBN 978-0-7614-7344-2.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Isaacs, Jennifer (2002). Bush Food: Aboriginal Food and Herbal Medicine. Frenchs Forest, New South Wales: New Holland Publishers (Australia). pp. 190–192. ISBN 978-1-86436-816-1.
  4. Tindale, Norman (1952). "On some Australian Cossidae including the moth of the witjuti (witchety) grub". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 76: 56.
  5. "CSIRO - bardi grub".
  6. "CSIRO - bardi grub".

The dictionary definition of witchetty grub at Wiktionary

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