Mopane Worms

Mopane worm caterpillars on mopane leaves (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

8 February 2024

In southern Africa, caterpillars of the emperor moth Gonimbrasia belina (or Imbrasia belina) are commonly called mopane worms because they feast on the leaves of mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane). Their final instar is shown above, adult below.

Adult form of mopane worm: the emperor moth (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

During my trip in southern Africa I did not notice the trees but their oddly shaped leaves caught my attention.

Clump of mopane trees (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I had no idea of their significance as a place to find food.

Mopane leaves (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Mopane worms are prized as human food. When they reach full size women and children avidly pick them from the mopane leaves, squish out their guts and take them home to boil and sun dry. When fully prepared the mopane worms look like this:

Mopane worms to eat (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I had the opportunity to sample mopane worms at Dusty Road Township Experience, an award-winning restaurant in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we ate traditional food.

What did mopane worms taste like to my naive palate? Earthy. Crispy. Very earthy.

Perhaps the flavor was so earthy because I ate the head first. In Zimbabwe this makes no difference but in Botswana they take the heads off before they eat them because the heads change the taste. I wish I’d known so I could have tried it both ways.

Learn more about mopane worms and how to cook them in this video by Emmy @emmymade. She tastes them both ways and describes their flavor at 3.5 minutes into the video.

video embedded from emmymade on YouTube

(credits are in the captions)

2 thoughts on “Mopane Worms

  1. Oh Bless you Kate! I could not have tasted them and I eat most everything including liver. You are a brave soul. I am so happy for you experiencing all that you did on this trip.

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