Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 115–130

Traditional Regulation of Edible Caterpillar Exploitation in the Kopa Area of Mpika District in Northern Zambia



The Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the Bisa people of northern Zambia on species, life cycles and host plants of the caterpillars they exploit for food and for household income generation, and the traditional control of caterpillar harvesting, were investigated through a household survey. The accessed indigenous knowledge on caterpillar biology was validated through a forest survey, caterpillar collections and identifications. Eight species of caterpillars were harvested from the surrounding miombo woodlands. Their life systems and host plants were well understood by members of local communities and this knoweldge was communicated amongst them orally. Popular commercial species were Gynanisa maya Strand and Gonimbrasia zambesina Walker. Over 20 miombo tree species hosted the two species but the mean numbers of the caterpillars on Julbernadia paniculata Troupin were significantly larger than those on other host plants (p < 0.05), indicating that J. paniculata was probably the main host plant of the two species. Traditional regulation of caterpillar harvesting involved: (i) monitoring for edible caterpillar development and abundance and for changes in caterpillar habitats, (ii) protection of host plants and moth eggs against late bush fires, through use of traditional fire technology, and (iii) temporal restriction of edible caterpillar harvesting. The possibility of the Zambian Government promoting caterpillar harvesting as an economic incentive to the Bisa people to conserve both this renewable edible caterpillar natural resource and their environment is discussed.

Edible insects Household survey Lepidoptera Miombo woodlands Monitoring Saturniidae Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ZambiaLusakaZambia
  2. 2.Care InternationalMporokosoZambia

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