Don't eat marula worms
The agriculture ministry has warned residents of northern Namibia to avoid eating caterpillars found on marula trees.
25 March 2020 | Local News
The ministry made this announcement following a story published by Namibian Sun in February about the appearance of these caterpillars in the four central-northern regions, ruining the marula fruit used to brew a traditional beer called omagongo.
The ministry's executive director, Percy Misika, told Ewi lyaNooli that they are aware of the large saturniid caterpillars that feed on marula tree leaves. He said the presence of the caterpillars was reported to the ministry and a team was sent to assess the situation.
“Farmers are experiencing outbreaks of plant pests and diseases after a prolonged dry spell across the country. Upon receiving good rainfall it prompted the emergence of many different pests of economic importance. This one is the large saturniid caterpillar that feeds on marula trees. The ministry established the ecology of the caterpillars and the nature of damage they can cause,” Misika said.
“The large saturniid survives one generation per year. The adult female emerges with a full complement of mature ova, and then lays eggs that are large, smooth and somehow flattened. It has four stages from egg to larva, pupa and adult.”
Misika said the eggs can stay in a dormant state for two or three months, waiting for ideal conditions to hatch. The caterpillars feed and rest hanging upside down, forming colonies on the leaves.
He said if there is heavy rainfall the caterpillars fall and disappear.
“They feed on tree leaves, causing defoliation, resulting in the interruption of the photosynthesis process. The trees may not be able to bear enough fruit due to the defoliation caused by those worms.
“People must not eat them because they do not fall under the family group of edible worms,” he said.
Hileni Kalumbu from Oshikashika village near Eheke, who sells omagongo (marula beer) at the Ondangwa open market, says it has been hard for vendors to get enough omagongo this year.
“We buy marula juice from those who produce it for us to sell, but this year it was very hard to get it because everyone is only talking about the worm. “The few who have juice are selling it at high prices. We also have to adjust our price so we can make a bit of profit. Luckily people are still buying,” Kalumbu said.