The Research Institute of Insect Resources in Yunnan Province, China

Information on the Institute was supplied recently by Chen Xiaoming, assistant professor and deputy department head. Originally called The Lac Research Institute, it was established in 1955 for the study of certain insects that produce industrial materials, i.e., the lac insect (Kerria lacca), Chinese gallnut (Melaphis chinensis) and the white wax insect (Ericenus pela chavanes). The Institute has published a particularly great amount of research on the biology and production of lac (marketed as shellac and formerly used also as a red dye). In 1985 the Institute initiated studies on insects as food and medicine.

The Institute is located at Kunming City in Yunnan Province and is part of the Chinese Academy of Forestry. Xiaoming noted that there are many edible insects in Yunnan Province and that many minority nationalities are accustomed to using these insects as food and for medicinal purposes. Among the insects that are often eaten are a species of ant; locusts of the genera Oxya and Locusta; pupae of the silkworm, Bombyx mori; the termite, Coptotermes formosanus (Rhinotermitidae); larvae and pupae of five species of bees and wasps among the Apidae, Vespidae and Scoliidae; the moth larva, Hepialus armoricanus (Hepialidae); the bug, Tes-

saratoma papillosa a (Pentatomidae); and the weevil larva, Cyrtotruchelus longimanus (Curculionidae).

In addition to studies on the folk edible insects of Yunnan, there is a study of Macroternme barnyi as a health food. The queen termites are steeped in alcohol as a beverage rich in vitamins A and C among other micronutrients of benefit to health. A study that will not sound too appealing to many Westerners is on the presumed health benefits of Chongcha, a special tea made from the feces of Hydrillodes morosa (a noctuid moth larva) and Aglossa dimidiata (a pyralid moth larva). The former eats mainly the leaves of Platycarya stobilacea. the latter the leaves of Malus seiboldii. Chongcha is black in color, freshly fragrant, and has been used for a long time in the mountain areas of Guangxi, Funan and Guixhou by the Zhuan, Tong and Miao nationalities. It is taken to prevent heatstroke, counteract various poisons, and to aid digestion, as well as being considered helpful in alleviating cases of diarrhea, nosebleed and bleeding hemorroids. Whatever the extent of its preventive or curative benefits, Chongcha apparently serves as a good “cooling beverage” having a higher nutritive value than regular tea.