Food Against the Ecosystem- Hornet Harvesting

Hornets and wasps larvae are considered very rare delicacy and are sort after by rich and elite in the cities, however the following Kuensel story warns about the danger of damaging the insects ecosystem which could lead to invasion of pests like army worm:
Hornet Larvae 
 Collection and harvesting of Bjam Bji Ngyem (hornets) and potom (wasps) are on the rise, according to the park services department.

The department, through a public notification, recently warned people against collection and consumption of the insects.
“The increase in the illegal collection or harvesting of different species of hornets for consumption and sale in the country is having an adverse impact on the population of this species in the wild,” the notification stated.
Hornets and wasps play an important ecological role as natural pollinators and biological control agents for natural pests.  And as apex predators, the department says removal of this species could have “serious consequences on the fragile eco-system”.
The insects prey on other large insects, such as bees, other hornet species, and mantises.
Any individual or group, caught in the act of hunting, possession and trade of hornets, will be penalised, as per the forest and nature conservation rules of Bhutan, 2006, it has said.
“Hornets and wasps are at the top of the insect food chain and, if they’re destroyed in a large scale, we could face a consequence, like the armyworm infestation epidemic Bhutan saw in the spring of 2012,” a senior forest and wildlife protection official in Thimphu, who requested anonymity, said.
Some believe that consumption of hornets can treat impotency and enhance overall health.  However, the official said, while people may get protein, the belief the insects carry medicinal value is a misconception.
“Excessive hunting of these insects can only lead to ecological imbalance,” he said.
According to the official, collection of the insects is rampant in Dagana, Tsirang and Wangduephodrang districts, and are most sought after in Thimphu.  According to him, a kilogram of hornets costs Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,500 in the capital.
“When they go commercial, there’s a big risk to our ecosystem,” he said.
Ideally, the insects are harvested from the beginning of September to the end of November.
Hornets make nests underground, while wasps raise their offspring on tree branches and in bushes.  According to him, digging the ground and felling the trees to collect the insects could have adverse impacts on ecosystem.
He believes that awareness has to be created about the importance of the insects to the fragile eco-system. “Though we have rules, people are unaware of the penalties for hunting these insects,” he said.
The official informed that the forest and park services department is in the process of reviewing the forest and nature conservation rules to effectively control collection and hunting of these insects.
Hunting of hornets and wasps is an “unlisted offense” as they were not particularly specified as protected species when the rules were framed. “Now we want to include these insects as protected species in the act so that we can implement the rule effectively,” he said.
Passang, a resident of Dagana, said villagers hunt the insects under cover of darkness, when the insects are not able to attack humans.  This, he said, also made it difficult for officials to catch the culprits.
“People dig ground and fell trees to collect the insects. So the hunters contribute to illegal felling of trees and deforestation,” he said.
“While most of the villagers hunt them for their own consumption, some of them send them to their relatives and high officials in Thimphu as gifts or for cash,” he said.
By MB Subba, Kuensel, Nov 17, 2014

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