Ice creams topped with frozen wasp larvae will be the latest wild food treat the Northland Regional Council is hoping will lure visitors to its marquee at next month’s Dargaville field days.
In recent years the Regional Council has successfully used a variety of food made from pests as a fun way of attracting visitors. Previous wild food treats have included possum and goat meat pies, crackers topped with possum pate, wild rabbit sausages and breakfast sausages flavoured with the peppery natives kawakawa and horopito.
Regional Council Events and Partnerships Co-ordinator Katherine Mabbitt says this year the Council will offer ice creams topped with frozen (and crunchy!) German wasp larvae and pupae. The insect toppings have a woody taste, crunchy texture and honey-like smell.
While eating the unusual treats may not be for the faint-hearted, Ms Mabbitt says getting hold of the young wasps requires nerves of steel too.
“They come from giant underground ‘nestcakes’ dug out of beech forests on the South Island’s West Coast. The men who dig them up must wear heavily-protective clothing to safeguard themselves from the enraged adult wasps which tend the nestcakes and their occupants.”
Once it has been dug up, a nestcake is trucked to Christchurch and frozen to kill the young insects within. In a laborious process, the creamy-coloured larvae and charcoal-coloured pupae are then extracted one at a time from tiny individual cells similar to those found in a beehive.
Ms Mabbitt says the adult German wasps are voracious feeders which decimate native insects, so in the words of the supplier “we're doing the ecosystem a favour by digging them up and turning them into tucker”.
She says more than 1000 portions of the free ice cream will be served over the three days of the Thursday 3 to Saturday 5 March Northland Agricultural Field Days from the Council’s usual location – site 251, RD1 Road.
The ice-cream is a light-hearted way to boost visitor numbers to the Council marquee to view displays and speak with staff about the more serious side of the Regional Council’s work.
This year the Council’s marquee will be themed on ‘The Future Farmer’ and actions farmers can take on a variety of issues including pests, soil erosion and conservation and water quality.