The East African longhorn grasshoppers (R. differens) are a cone-headed species commonly known as Ensenene in Luganda which belong to the family Tettigoniidae, suborder Ensifera and order Orthoptera. The Ensenene swam twice a year and come in different colors and behaviors with the common colors being green (Kulumbisi), green with purple stripes (Kibazzi) and brown (Kulunkalu) the hardest to trap as well as signifier of the end of the season (April-June and November-December). The rarest is the purple colored Nsenene known as Mwebe in the local language.
Easily confused with related species, the Nsenene in Uganda belong to Ruspolia differens species (the ones which swarm). They have different local names as seen above mostly because of their morphological variations; however, they all begin green and then change colors over the course of the season and according to the surrounding vegetation. This is a polymorphism among the same species. In the wild, longhorn grasshoppers eat grass and leaves and occasionally rice and sorghum and they swam in the months of April to June being the longest season and November to December being characterized by high numbers of Ensenene.
Ensenene are widely harvested, toasted or fried and consumed as a traditional snack to those living in the central Uganda and around Lake Victoria. The traditional people customarily consider Ensenene to be highly nutritious and with a higher nutrient’s bioavailability compared to most plants. This edible insect has a high fat content, 44% protein and a good amount of essential amino acids.
Despite the rising acceptance and prominence of this esteemed delicacy, we do not know how much longer the Ensenene’s wild populations will stay due to the excessive use of herbicides, deforestation, and mono cultivation. In most communities the Ensenene do not meet minimum food processing standards thereby discouraging commercialization, yet they are essential for food sovereignty and hold a great economic potential and can improve the income and livelihoods of women and smallholder farmers harvesting them.