Catso blanco is the local name for Platyicoelia lutescens, a kind of beetle found on the high Andean plateaus. These insects are considered a traditional, very important food source around Quito, especially among the Kayambi people.
Male beetles reach a length or 2.5 centimeters long, and females can be slightly longer. They are a creamy white color.
The elderly remember that catso could be found for sale along with the fruits and vegetables in local markets that took place in towns such as Sangolquí.
Catso are collected in October and November; this is the ideal time because the temperature drops, the rains get very heavy, and the insects are more visible. Catso hunting involves the entire family and starts early in the morning. The insects are sought among the fields, in green areas in towns, or even in home gardens. Once caught, they are put in sacks or in glass jars.
Before being cooked and eaten, catsos require a long preparation: First they are submerged for a whole day in wheat or corn meal. Then the wings and feet are removed and they are left to soak in salted water to reduce their bitterness. It is said that they have a sweet smell, like milk, that persists even after they are cooked. Catsos are fried normally or in pork fat with onions and tomatoes.
It is rare today to find catsos on the market even though they were a source of income for the poorest peasants until just a few years ago. One of the main reasons for their decline is intensive urban development that has reduced the green areas where catso hunting took place, obliging the few remaining hunters to head towards the Andean valleys. It also has to be said that young people are no longer very interested in this product.