The subject in discussion here is the ‘Stink Bug’ or ‘Marmorated Stink Bug’ locally known as ‘Naa Boo’.
This practice is most predominant among people in the south, who in order to get rid of illnesses eat the bugs believed to be used for treatment in traditional medicines with the potential to cure many ailments.
‘Naa Boo’ is an insect that is found by the river banks, under the stones. People in the South harvest the insect from Taklai khola in Sarpang every year during the dry season, at this time of the year.
It is common practice in the place and despite the foul odor of the insect, people eat it for its supposed medicinal benefits.
People in Umling and Chuzergang gewogs as well as those from Tashiphu, Norbuling and Pemaling under Sershong gewog have access to Taklai khola to harvest the medicinal bug.
Harvest time is usually in the dry seasons when the rivers are dried up and starts during late Octobers or in the early Novembers and lasts till January. It is collected during the day time.
People harvest the bugs with naked hands and place them in jars. Some harvesters prefer to directly put it into a bowl of hot water and ‘have it later’.
Harvesting of these bugs is not entirely a safe venture as it is not free of danger.
If the insect happens to release water which gets into one’s eyes, it may injure the eyes or even cause blindness.
In the course of interview with collectors, Lhazin from Norbuling, said she had seen people especially women harvesting stink bug for self-consumption for medical reasons.
Also people believe it is beneficial for those who suffer from UTI and also it is good for people suffering from piles. The older people eat them since it acts as an appetizer.
“I never tried once because of its foul odor,” said Lhazin.
However it seems eating is not the only way to harvest benefits. There are those enterprising ones who harvest this wonder bug for sale as it is in high demand.
According to a source some people harvest it and sell for Nu 300 a kilo.
‘Naa Boo’ is popular among Khengpas (people of Kheng) and people in the South residing on resettlement lands that are from Kheng.
“Not all Khengpas harvest the insect or eat it, only some parts do that,” said Shingkhar Gup from Kheng, under Zhemgang Dzongkhag.
A Drungtsho (Traditional Medicine Practitioner) from the National Institute of Traditional Medicines (NITM), said use of animal or insects parts in the medicine is not a practice as of now.
“Moreover, the law doesn’t allow doing that and even from a religious point of view, it is considered sinful,” he said.
Earlier such practice was prominent in the traditional medicines but not now. However, those people who practice it as a home remedy might still use the methods.
The Drungtsho explained some benefits of eating such bugs; it is good for ulcer patients, digestion problems, gastritis and UTI as well as people suffering from urinary obstruction. Moreover, it is considered as an appetizer.
It is found good mostly for the lower part of the body.
The Sarpang Divisional Forest Office’s District Forest Officer (DFO) said it is an illegal practice and people know that they have to seek permit to harvest anything related to nature.
The division is aware of harvest of stink bugs at various places but it is not easy to reach every person who is harvesting for self-consumption.
So far nobody ever approached the division but if a person wants to harvest it for business purpose, he/she has to put up a proposal and get a permit from them.
Such practices are not only seen in the South or with Khengpas, in fact it is being practiced at the river banks of various places in the country during dry seasons.
In the east, in Daifam, it is said people eat the bugs fried along with Ara (locally brewed Alcohol). It is also seen in Punakha and Wangduephodrang.
However, the insect is also considered an agricultural pest that causes damage to fruit and crops.