Huaytampo Larva

Ark of taste
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Huaytampo is the name given to a species of daily butterflies in the Hesperiidae family. In the department of Cusco the larvae of these insects are an important food source for the native communities who live in this high region of the Andean Sierra.
Huaytampo larvae are searched for and harvested by hand straight from the branches of a tree called chachacomo (Escallonia resinosa), an endemic tree in the Andes.
The consumption of these larvae, as well as the insect, seems to date back to pre-Colombian times, particularly to the time of the Incas. Several archaeological studies have unearthed ceramic ceremonial objects depicting similar butterflies.
Entomophagy studies have identified two variants of the insect and these differences are reflected in their gastronomic use. The first type of huaytampo, found in the areas between 2300 and 3000 m above sea level, is used to make soups or stews. The larvae of the second variant of huaytampo, typical of even higher mountain areas, are roasted.
Huaytampo butterflies reproduce only once a year and when eggs hatch, they produce between 20 and 30 larvae. This behavior, called polyembrony, is a strategy used to improve the survival of the species and a protection against threats. The biological cycle of this insect is rather long and it takes several months to reach the necessary size for the development of the chrysalis. At larval stage, the huaytampo is particularly vulnerable and risks being attacked by wasps who deposit their eggs in the larva itself, causing its death.
Traditionally, the larvae (or pupae) are roasted in a pan together with corn, onions and other condiments with no added fat, as the huaytampo is already fat enough. In some areas of the department of Cusco, a sauce called ocopa is made.
It is now difficult to find this insect, which is only available at some markets in the surroundings of Cusco or nearby villages.
Its numbers have dropped due to the indiscriminate use of this resource as well as of the tree where it grows, which is constantly threatened by deforestation.

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Nominated by:Dauro Mattia Zocchi, Rosa Miranda Almarás