Bush Tucker and Bush Medicine
around Coober Pedy
Xyleutus biarpiti Witchetty Grub
Maku - Peggy Cullinan holds up a freshly dug up Witchetty Grub
This grub is the larvae of a grey Cossid moth. They live in the roots of the Ilykuwara (Witchetty Bush) (Acacia kempeana) for several years before they emerge as a fully grown moth. They live off the nutrients in the root, becoming fat and juicy, and causing the normally thin root to swell around them.
The swollen roots are close to the ground surface and are broken off using a digging stick. The grubs are removed and either eaten raw or kept for cooking later. Both larvae and pupae are eaten. To cook Maku, coals and ash from a fire are laid out on the sand, the grubs are placed on top of it and more coals are used to cover them. They are quickly cooked while stirring around in the coals. When they are ready, the grubs are put into a hole in the sand and covered so they cool quickly. Cooked in this manner, they taste like scrambled egg, and are very rich in protein and fat.
Maku are also used to treat serious burns. The grubs are crushed and pounded, then spread over the burn. Finally a bandage of bark is used to protect the area for one to two days. This treatment leaves the burn victim with minimal scarring.