By Titus Kakembo
The Big Five animals in Uganda are destined for stiff competition from the Small Five, going by information from the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
“The menu of attractions in Uganda is growing longer than the Mighty River Nile,” said UTB chief executive officer Lilly Ajarova. “We have been marketing the Pearl of Africa as the home of the Big Five. It is good to add the Small Five.”
This was revealed at an insect exhibition at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel that is running from July 12-23, 2022.
Ajarova added that one can go scouting for millipedes, scorpions, dragonflies, with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and birds being a bonus.
The guest list at the exhibition had diplomats, bloggers and the tourism fraternity discussing everything to do with insects.
“Besides nsenene and white ants being a delicacy in Uganda,” revealed Usui Tekaaka from Thailand, “The giant water bug is a delicacy in Thailand. They are eaten whole, ground or added to chilli paste. It is called nam phrik.”
In some parts of Africa, it is estimated that 9.5 billion caterpillars are harvested each year. They are an important source of protein.
“They are popular in Asia and Mexico, where one of the most common ways to serve them is braised, seasoned with a spicy sauce and wrapped in a tortilla. They also can be found at the bottom of a bottle of mescal, a Mexican spirit,” said Tekaaki.
Regular Sheraton Hotel patrons have munched nsenene (grasshoppers) during cocktails when the finest wines in the world are swigged.
Another popular insect delicacy expected to make its way on the menu are white ants as a sauce or snacks.
“Most tribes in Uganda eat their grasshoppers with an enormous appetite,” said Perpetua Akite. “Some eat them fresh, others fry and salt them. In Gulu, they are sun-dried and kept in granaries as a reserve for famine.”
Tekaaki said the goal of the insect exhibition is to bring to the knowledge of people the importance of insects in conservation.
“I have toured all the nine national parks in Uganda,” confided Tekaaki. “I am amazed about the variety of insects the parks are endowed with. I found eight different species of beetles and numerous dragonflies.”
Beaming with smiles of satisfaction, Tekaaki wonders what the world would be like without insects to pollinate plants, make honey and enable the waste matter to decay.
There are children keeping insects as pets. They are advised, if interested, in keeping scorpions to learn about them.
“They are cheap to feed. They eat foods like crickets and mealworms and can live up to three years,” said Akite from Makerere University’s department of zoology. “They are nocturnal, so expect to see them more active at night.”
She noted that not all species of scorpions sting, but the severity of the reaction varies from mild irritation to death.
Guests were shocked to learn that a bee’s life is so complicated. In the hive, there is a queen that lays 2,000 eggs every day. And the bees have five eyes.
“If you have ever been stung by a bee,” narrated Akite, “Be rest assured that the bee will never live to tell the story. It dies after delivering a sting.”