Siquisapa

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The name siquisapa, which in the Quechua language means ""big butt"", indicates a giant ant species (Atta sexdens) in the Formicidae family.
This giant ant can be found in many areas of the Amazon, and in the Peruvian department of San Martin it is widely used as a food source.
The siquisapa ant lives underground, inside anthills known as lomada, which can be up to 10 meter wide and 6 meter deep.
The ants in the anthill live according to a hierarchic system: the individuals split their tasks according to their features and size. For instance, the ""huasho"" ants are male breeders, the ""curuhuinsi"" dig the soil and look for food, the ""guerreras"" defend the anthill and the ""jardineras nodrizas"" work inside the anthill.
Ants eat the mushrooms that they symbiotically grow themselves inside the anthill.
One of the peculiarities of the siquisapa ants is their coupling ritual, known as ""chamuscada"" (a term that refers to passion). Between September and December, male ants leave the anthill and, after mating and fertilizing the females, they die. The females fly away from the old anthill, lose their wings and, where they drop to the ground, they start to dig a new anthill where they will be the queens.
Edible ants (the females) are harvested during the summer season, in October and November. At this time of the year, people in the region of San Martin usually organize the harvest with rituals and dances. The harvesting of siquisapa ants is complicated by ""curuhuinsi"" ants (the diggers) who pinch the harvesters with their claws to try and protect the females.
Based on some studies on insect eating among the Amazonian people, ants have a high content of proteins, phosphor and vitamins that are useful for brain and sexual functions.
The consumption of siquisapa ants is still rather widespread among the Amazonian tribes in the San Martin region, but the population of these insects is gradually decreasing because of deforestation and climate change, which are reducing the available habitats. Also, the reduction of these individuals negatively impacts on the Amazonian ecosystem, as they have an important role in preserving the fertility of the soil.
Siquisapa ants are eaten fried or roasted. They are also used to make an alcoholic drink with medicinal features by macerating them in aguardiente made from sugar cane.

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Territory

StatePeru
Region

San Martin

Other info

Categories

Insects

Nominated by:Dauro Mattia Zocchi, Doña Elia Garcia Reategui