Masiinya

Ark of taste
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Masiinya

Masiinya are the larval stage of Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, a species of snout beetle more commonly known as the red palm weevil. The adult beetles are relatively large, ranging between two and five centimeters long, and are usually a rusty red color. The neonate larvae are yellowish-white, segmented, legless, and have a chitinous head capsule that is a darker brown than the rest of the body. They have powerful, horizontal conical jaws which they use to burrow into the trunks of palm trees, where they feed voraciously.   The larvae are prepared fried and roasted, served as desserts and breakfast snacks.  Masiinya have been described as creamy tasting when raw, and like bacon or meat when cooked. Masiinya, as they are called in plural form (and ssiinya in singular), were documented in Uganda as far back as the 17th century, when they were common. They still inhabit the thick, wild palm trees found in the forests on Kalangala Island. They are known to be an insect eaten by the Ssesse people who live in Ssesse Islands of Lake Victoria in southern Uganda. For many years, before the resettlement in 1945, masiinya were used in traditional marriage functions as dowry. In addition to being eaten at the subsistence level, they were also exchanged with people and communities near the islands for goods like chicken, goats, salt and clothing.   Today, masiinya are also sold in local tourist hotels, small markets and exchanged for other goods. However, with the introduction of monoculture plantations for the production of palm oil on Kalangala Island by the government, private companies with international funding have cleared the native forests and eliminated wild palm trees that used to house the insects. The insects now find refugee in the planted oil palm fields while researchers with the private oil companies are working hard to find an effective insecticide to eliminate these stem borers. Their population has seen rapid decline as evidenced by the testimony of local harvesters.

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Territory

StateUganda
Region

Kalangala

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Insects

Indigenous community:Ssesse fishermen of Lake Victoria